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My inspiration for cooking is spurred by many things, one of them being curiosity. That’s what led me to make my own butter almost five years ago. My intention was not to start whipping batches of homemade butter for cooking or baking; that would be a far too expensive endeavor. I simply wanted to know if it was as easy as it sounded, and how different it would taste compared with what I could easily buy at the supermarket.
Inevitably, making butter from scratch brings out the kid inside of us all too. Imagine pouring a container of heavy cream into a food processor and watching it magically transform from one ingredient into another. There’s no magic, of course; it’s all science, but that doesn’t take away from the wonder of it all.
What about the taste? I’ll never be able to 100 percent replicate the butter I gorge on in France, simply because the cream here in the U.S. is different in flavor. I can get pretty darn close, though. All I need are two key ingredients: good-quality heavy cream from a local farmers market and fleur de sel. The result is a rich, yellow-hued fresh butter, laced with crunchy bits of salt. It’s the perfect companion to a crusty baguette and it even elevates ordinary toasted white bread.
Makes about 8 ounces (224 grams)
Don’t be fooled by the length of these directions. It’s quite easy, and if summed up in a few sentences, the recipe would read: “Add the cream to a food processor. Turn on and let process until you have buttermilk puddled in the bottom of the bowl, and a ball of fresh butter.” Really, it’s that easy.
The reason for the detailed explanation here is so that you can visualize the stages the cream will go through in order to produce the butter. The first time I made it, I was sure I did something wrong, until that magic moment when it all came together. I’m still amazed, five years and quite a few pounds of homemade butter later.
The resulting buttermilk will be thinner than what you normally buy in the supermarket. This is because it is not cultured. You can use it as you would the store-bought kind in muffins and biscuits, but it produces a denser (heavier) baked good. I find it works well in pancakes. Frankly, it tastes so good that sometimes drinking it is the best way to enjoy it.
16 ounces (.5 liters) very cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon (4 grams) fleur de sel
Fine-mesh metal strainer
Bowl of ice water
Glass jar, for storing buttermilk
1. Pour the cream into the bowl of a food processor, making sure to fill the bowl no more than halfway or it will overflow. Press the “on” button. Within 1 to 2 minutes, the cream will thicken to whipped cream consistency. Continue to let the food processor run.
2. The cream will “break,” separating into a slushy consistency. This is the point where you’ll think something when went wrong — don’t worry! In about 3 to 4 minutes (time is approximate based on the size and power of your food processor), you’ll have a pale yellow ball and liquid at the bottom of the bowl. The ball is your butter and the liquid is buttermilk. Depending on the temperature of the cream when you started, the butter may form into little bits instead of one big chunk — that’s OK.
3. Once the butter has formed, transfer it to a strainer and place over a bowl, reserving the buttermilk in a jar for use later on. Using a rubber spatula, gently press the butter to squeeze out any excess buttermilk. Transfer the fresh butter to a bowl of ice water and knead it gently until the water is cloudy. Rinse once more under cold water. This rinsing step is only if you’d like to store the butter for more than a few days; it helps prevent it from going sour. If you plan to eat it right away, you can skip it.
4. Place the butter in a bowl and sprinkle the salt on top. Using a rubber spatula, gently knead the salt into the butter. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.