You’ve probably noticed we make a lot of bread in these parts. I’ll often eat my slices plain (especially on the first day, when the crust is at its crackliest), but I do also enjoy making things to top my toasts. One of the simplest, but most fun, is cultured butter.
Cultured butter is one of those snooty sounding things that is actually dead easy to make. All it requires is adding live bacteria to cream before churning it into butter. This can be done a number of ways, but one of the most straightforward is just adding a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt to cream and letting it sit at room temperature for a bit. This simple step enhances the flavor of butter, giving it a slight tang (the exact flavor profile will depend on how long you culture the cream as well as the quality of ingredients you use). Some people would say there are health benefits as well, but I just think it tastes good. Plus, it’s a fun little party trick!
Once you’ve churned your butter, you can flavor it as desired. I usually just add a little salt, but there’s nothing stopping you from making any range of fancy compound butters (think herbs, citrus, honey…). Serve with your next loaf of homemade sourdough!
- Just as there are several ways you can culture the butter, there are different methods of churning as well. The food processor is hands-down my favorite because it’s quick and clean. You could also use a handheld or stand mixer, but make sure you cover the bowl with a splash guard or plastic wrap because trust me — the buttermilk will splatter once it separates from the butterfat. If you’re feeling especially old school, you could also try the old shake-it-in-a jar method. I’m far too lazy so I’ve never tried…
- I have a story highlight of this whole process on Instagram (“Cultured Butter”), so check that out for some extra visual cues.
- I haven’t tried using cultured butter in baking, first because I think it’s better appreciated serve straight up and second because I don’t know the final fat content compared to “normal” butter. The buttermilk, on the other hand, I definitely use in any recipes called for buttermilk. Here are a few to get you started:
Makes ~1/2 lb butter (1 c), plus a cup of buttermilk
Ingredients and materials:
- 2 c heavy cream (at least 35%; not ultra-pasteurized)
- 60g / 1/4 c plain whole milk yogurt (not Greek-style)
- Salt to taste (if desired)
- Ice water
- Food processor (see note above)
- Fine-mesh strainer double-lined with cheesecloth, set over a jar or bowl
- Small spatula
- Clean bowl
- In a glass measuring cup or jar, whisk together the cream and yogurt to combine. Cover and leave at warmish room temperature for 18-36 hours (in especially warm climates/seasons, this may take less time; check at 12 hours).
- When your mixture is thickened and tastes delightfully tangy, congratulations — you’ve made creme fraiche! You could stop here, or continue on to make some cultured butter.
- Refrigerate the creme fraiche for 1-2 hours. (This is especially important if you’re churning in a food processor to keep the butter from melting.)
- When creme fraiche is cold, transfer to a food processor. Process until the the butterfat clumps and separates from the buttermilk (this takes a few minutes).
- Strain the butter mixture through the cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeezing to extract as much buttermilk as possible from the butter. Reserve buttermilk for another use.
- Transfer butter to a clean bowl. Pour about 1/4 c ice water over the butter and use a spatula to press the butter against the side of the bowl. You’re “washing” the butter of all the buttermilk, which will keep your butter fresh for longer. Drain the cloudy water, and repeat the process until the water looks clear. (This may take 5-6 washings.)
- Season with salt to taste if desired (you can knead this in with your hands). Roll into a wax paper log or transfer to another container. Keeps for a couple weeks in the fridge; freeze for longer storage. Serve at room temperature.