The simple process by which solid butterfat is separated from the liquid buttermilk produces the most scrumptious and one of the most important details when it comes to cooking and making delicious, mouth-wateringly good food: Butter.
Butter, as TSLL readers know, is not all the same, and the difference makes a différence!
So I decided to give myself the excruciatingly difficult task of tasting butters for the final post of the 4th annual TSLL French Week. I know, hard work, but somebody has to step up to the plate and take one for the team. 😉
On a serious note, I highly recommend participating in a butter tasting occasion. Whether at home by yourself (in my case with my dogs watching me wondering why I was so studiously studying the butters on the dining room table – don’t worry, they tasted a few too) or with a couple of friends and family, or a group of dinner party guests who love food deeply – how fun would that be!!!
I enjoyed my first butter tasting with Susan Hermann-Loomis this past July as I shared earlier this week while attending her cooking class. And while I was not able to source all of the French butters we tasted in France (all seven shown in the picture from class below were found in the local grocery market) for today’s tasting here in Oregon, I have special ordered the French butter that was my favorite and the majority of those tasting the butters in France – Isigny Ste. Mère. I think it is important to note that Jean-Yves Bordier butter which many place at the top of their list (at least years ago) as the best butter, was not placed at the top of anyone’s at the cooking class. Hermann-Loomis explained that the company has changed hands slightly and the butter is made a bit differently than it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was still scrumptious, but not my favorite.
Before we get to the seven butters I tasted for my butter tasting, just a bit of history about butter and France. There are laws about butter, even here in the United States, but the French and European butters have a slightly higher standard when it comes to butterfat percentage. By law, Americans do have to contain a minimum of 80 percent butterfat, while the minimum in France is 82 percent (unless it is demi-sel, or salted butter, which can check in at 80 percent and include up to 2 percent salt).
What is butterfat? The more butter fat you have, the less water content you have, and thus more flavor. As Taste Cooking shared, if you have “80 percent milk fat, [it] means it’s about 16 to 18 percent water and 1 to 2 percent milk solids other than fat (sometimes referred to as curd)”. What does that mean when it comes to baking?
Taste Cooking again shares, “Lower moisture [in other words higher butterfat percentage] helps you create cakes that rise higher, cookies that crisp more evenly, and flakier pastries. It’s the difference between cookies that are good and cookies that keep you awake at night wondering when you might have a chance at eating more of them.”
Now because of this legal distinctive difference, as that two percent actually does makes a significant difference, some American butter companies have been making butter with a higher butterfat percentage. Why? Primarily because shoppers and bakers and cooks are more savvy and the market is there for butters containing a higher butterfat percentage. So when you see the phrase “European Style” what they are referring to is the increase in butterfat.
Also, one butter that I was not able to include in my tasting but wanted to is France’s Beurre Echire AOC Butter. It comes highly recommended and I highly recommend giving it a try. With that being said, as you peruse through articles, many from the links I have shared, you will find more than a few additional butters that were not part of my tasting. This is exciting! That means you are even more of a reason to have your very own butter tasting! I chose the butters that were available in my markets so that I could feel confident about what I was shopping.
Now to the butter tasting!
I have included only unsalted butters (however, one was not available in unsalted), and each of the seven has been left out so they are at room temperature. Unsalted is highly recommend when it comes to baking, as you can always add the salt at your discretion as you make your way through your recipe.
All but one of the seven butters were found in my local grocery stores here in Bend. The French butter Isigny Ste. Mère was ordered through Amazon (and shipping was part of the price; otherwise, it’s not a bad price). Most Whole Food stores carry this brand, but after four phone calls to our local WF store here in Bend, they did not have it and could not source it in the store – recommending that I buy it online from a gourmet shop.
UPDATE (11/2/2019): I now pick up my go-to favorite French butter Isigny Ste. Mère at Portland, Oregon’s gourmet grocery store Zupans for $7.99 a cube. This saves me the shipping and since I visit Portland about 4-6 times a year, it is a quick stop to stock up.
I have included the country of orgin for each of the brands, as well as the butterfat count (the minimum) and my tasting notes. The good news is, I would happily cook with all of these butters, but when it comes to spreading them on bread, the ones with the richest depth of flavor will be my go-to.
7. Tillamook (made in Oregon)
- 82% butterfat
- Taste: Not as creamy as the rest of the butters tasted, lacking in depth of flavor
6. Plugra (European Style, made in Kansas City)
- 82% butterfat
- Taste: lacking a depth of flavor seen in some of the other butters, lighter
5. Sèvre & Belle Laiterie pasteurised unsalted butter (France)
- 84% butterfat
- Taste: good to the palette, lacking a depth of flavor similar to Isgny St. Mère, but still good
4. Open Nature Super Premium European Style (California)
- 84% butterfat
- Taste: creamy, not as rich in flavor as Isigny Ste. Mère, a slight, subtle sweetness
3. Kerrygold (Ireland)
- 82% butterfat
- Taste: creamy, mid-to-full richness with moderate depth of flavor
2. Les Prés Salés (Belgium)
- minimum 82% butterfat
- Taste: accidentially picked up the Coarse Sea Salt, but there was not an unsalted available, a dream of creaminess and scrumptious. Perfect for spreading on fresh bread.
1. Isigny Ste. Mère Beurre de Baratte (France)
- minimum 82% butterfat
- Taste: richer in depth, creamy, luscious
If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it’s hard to beat bread and butter. Jacques Pepin
TASTING NOTE: If you are choosing to spread butter on bread, choose a salted butter with coarse sea salt. The high quality butter with the quality salt spread on a deliciously fresh slice of bread will knock your socks off.
A random point about butter to share. Did you know that Julia Child has a rose named in her honor (in the UK, the same flower is called Absolutely Fabulous after the British television series)? And guess what color it is? You probably guessed yellow, right? Yep, or “butter” color. 😉 Sure enough the rose named Julia Child is a brilliant yellow and why wouldn’t it be? After all, while Julia was forever an advocate of moderation in all food, she never deprived herself of butter.
“With enough butter, anything is good.”—Julia Child
WHERE TO SHOP:
- Shop French butters at iGourmet here
- Ask your local grocer to see if they can order for you to save you the shipping cost
- Amazon or any online food shop – simply search the brand you are looking for.
TSLL’s 4th Annual French Week posts thus far . . .
SUNDAY August 11th
- Welcome to TSLL’s 4th Annual French Week!
- 7 French Candles I Love & A Giveaway! – giveaway
- Visiting Musée d’Orsay and Impressionist Berthe Morisot’s Exhibit
MONDAY August 12th
- NEW podcast episode – #257: An American Being Everyday French – My Interview with author & writer John von Sothen
- The World, Large & Small, Illustrated for Your Home, Kitchen and Life: A Modvin Paris Illustrated Giveaway – giveaway
- 5 New-in-2019 French Lifestyle Books I Have Enjoyed
TUESDAY August 13th
- Q & A with Heidi Wynne on Scarves, Effortless Style and Classic Films
- 11 Helpful Tips for Visiting and Shopping at Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen in Paris
- A Simple Everyday Luxury: A Gien Mug, giveaway, — giveaway
WEDNESDAY August 14th
- Attending Susan Hermann Loomis’ Cooking Class in Louviers, Normandy
- 9 Places in Paris I Recommend for Dining, Sleeping, Exploring and Finding the Perfect Croissant
THURSDAY August 15th
- 22 French Beauty Secrets Worth the Investment in either Time or Money, episode #258
- Outfit of the Week: Walking into Fall
- An Olive & Branch French Market Tote Exclusive Giveaway for TSLL Ad-Free Subscribers — giveaway
FRIDAY August 16th
- This & That: August 16, 2019 – a French-Themed edition
- A Year’s Subscription to My French Country Home magazine, — giveaway
SATURDAY August 17th