Whether you are making a sweet treat or something savory, knowing how to brown your butter is a great skill to have, whether you are a beginner or expert in the kitchen. Also known as beurre noisette, read on why should you brown butter for your dishes.
Take your regular butter to the next level by browning your butter. Better known as beurre noisette, brown butter has its long history in France. Some would refer brown butter as liquid gold, and we can attest to that as this one-ingredient wonder is the secret weapon for baking and cooking.
While browning butter is no foreign skill done in restaurants and pastry shops, it is not often practised and done at home—surprising, you would think that something which only involves in knowing when to turn off the heat would be done plenty at home, but it’s not. It’s something we intend to change and hope that you will start browning your butter.
When the milk solids of the butter are caramelised, that’s where the brown butter’s character comes through. As butter melts, its solids will rise to the surface in a frothy layer. Eventually, it sinks to the bottom of the pan and it is at this stage, we call the liquid on top as clarified butter. There, they come into a greater contact with the heat, cooking and taking on a nice brown color.
To make a quick comparison, take a piece of white bread and a piece of toast. While both are bread, there is a clear and incredible difference between those two where you get lots of flavor from the caramelized sugars in a brown toast. Kind of similar to when you compare them to a melted and brown butter. It is such a simple technique that anyone could master with enough practice. And once you learn in making your own brown butter, the things you could do with it are limitless.
Why Should You Brown Butter
What you have learned is that brown butter is the process of browning a butter’s milk solids. And depending on the type of butter you have in hand; the average content of butter is usually made up of 80% fat to 20% milk solids and water. So, what you are really doing with beurre noisette, is just browning a small amount of the butter.
By browning butter, it turns into a profound savory counterpoint to a butter’s sweet simplicity. You don’t have to take our word for it, but it feels so wonderful to brown butter each time—feels like a guilty pleasure. Because it is such an effortless one-ingredient sauce, knowing what it can contribute to your dishes, you can add a touch of magic to transform recipes of all sorts (savory and sweet) into something astounding.
In just a matter of minutes, a stick of butter that was tossed into a pan melt. You hear it simmer and sputter, and eventually, it is transformed into a fragrant and impossibly silky brown sauce. Then the foam subsides, you see the milk solids darken and they have fallen to the bottom pan. Yes, with the unmistakeable nutty aroma wafting in the air, you know you have done your butter justice.
To Make Your Own Brown Butter
What you would need is unsalted butter and a pot or pan to melt it in.
- Get your unsalted butter and have it cut into small and even pieces. Cutting the butter into small pieces helps to make the melting and cooking process to go smoothly. Then place the butter pieces in a pan. We would recommend using a pot or pan with a light-colored base on the inside so you can see how dark the butter gets as it cooks in it.
- To let the butter melt, turn the heat to a medium. Do note that you can vary the temperature from high to medium, whichever it is, your butter will still melt and turn brown in minutes. The darker the color, the stronger the taste, but be careful as the butter can burn in seconds. Burnt butter is bitter and unappetizing, a far cry from decadent browned butter.
- Keep a close eye on the bits at the bottom of the pan. And with your ears, use them to listen. At first, the moisture will boil away, and it sounds like sizzling. When it gets quiet, it browns quickly. Until you have practised enough of this and are confident in your skill, it is much safer for you to use a moderate heat so you can watch the butter turn brown in the process and control it better.
- You can swirl or stir the pan constantly until the butter turns light tan and the milk solids getting darker. Then take the pan off the stove because the residual heat will continue to cook the butter. You will notice some changes in the butter gaining a delicious nutlike intensity and toasty aroma. To prevent the brown butter from cooking further, pour it into a bowl.
And there you have it, brown butter that gives you endless possibilities.
Why Do Some People Strain Brown Butter?
There are certain recipes that call for brown butter to be strained—where you should strain the flecks of browned milk solids out of the butter before storing. Some people would much prefer to leave them as it is in the butter as they add flavor to the stored butter. However, if you notice that your browned butter is slightly burned, you can strain it to save it. Ideally, strained brown butter is also great for sautéing food.
To Brown Butter in the Microwave
You have learned how to brown butter in a pan or pot. There’s also another sure way to brown your butter without you doing much, that is using a microwave. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it can be done.
- Simply place your butter in a microwavable bowl and cover it with a parchment paper. Also, place a microwave-safe plate over the parchment paper to hold it down.
- Place it in the microwave and let it heat for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Your butter should turn golden brown by then. Of course, the time will depend on how powerful your microwave is. If you are unsure, you can always reduce the minutes to be safe. Continue to microwave in 30 second intervals if needed, until butter is golden brown and has released a nutty aroma.
- Brown butter is normally made on the stovetop. With this recipe you can make it in the microwave. Couldn’t get any easier.
Making Ahead and Freezing Brown Butter
Brown butter can be prepared ahead of time. Since butter is solid in room temperature, the browned butter will solidify. You can cover up your brown butter and have it stored in your refrigerator (which lasts up to 5 days) and in the freezer (which lasts up to 3 months). Whenever you feel like using it for your recipe, just melt of bring it to room temperature before doing so.
Note: In a previous article, we wrote on how you can soften butter in 10 minutes. Give that a read to know how.
Using Brown Butter in Recipes
The browned butter can be use in both its liquid state and solid state (when cooled). You may substitute it in recipes that call for regular unsalted butter. Note: The brown butter will reduce in volume as the water content cooks off. One cup (2 sticks or 226gm of butter) will yield ¾ cup of brown butter. Here are some of the flavor combinations you can consider using brown butter.
- Lightly browned butter: Pairs beautifully with vegetables, especially bitter vegetables, because its nutty richness counterbalances the bitterness.
- Medium browned butter: Excellent for pasta and fish dishes, and in baked goods and frostings. In dessert making, the brown butter can lend the flavor of nuts when there are none or heighten the flavor of those already present.
- Dark (but not blackened) butter: This one will have a more bitter taste, yet it’s still used in some traditional French dishes; in this very dark state, it’s called black butter, or beurre noir. This is ideal with fresh or smoked fish, chicken, vegetables and eggs.
Using Brown Butter over Regular Butter: Any Pitfalls?
Yes, we know, we have hyped brown butter quite a bit (and for all the right reasons too)! But naturally, when it comes down to anything in life, there is never a ‘one size fits all’. There will be some dishes that are much better with regular butter.
For example, the brown butter isn’t necessarily what you would go for in baking purposes where you need the steam from the milk solids to create pockets of fluffiness. And depending on the recipe you are following too, the brown butter may need to cool down before using it so if you have time constraints, imparting flavor with brown butter may not be the best option in that situation. Still, brown your butter. What can we say? We are still adamant about browning your butter (because it’s that easy). If you can make your butter even more delicious than it is, why don’t you do just that?
More on Food and Inspirations from Us
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