Have you heard of brown butter before? I’ve only found out about its existence a year plus back. Brown butter is known as beurre noisette in French. Beurre is butter and noisette actually means hazelnut. As to why hazelnut is involved, you need to read on to find out why.
When I read the process of making brown butter, it makes me excited and giddy with excitement. Can something be this good as the steps are so simple? I was also afraid. Afraid that I will turn it into burnt butter. Haha Now that I’ve made it twice with success, it’s actually not that scary after all. I can only &(#*$ my imagination.
What is brown butter?
It’s a butter sauce with weird-yucky smell during the cooking process but will turn into this magically nutty aroma that you will go ga-ga over once it’s done cooking.
What can I use brown butter for?
In French pastry, it’s very common to use brown butter in making financier and madeleines. For cakes, cookies, etc recipes calling for melted butter, you can substitute with brown butter. In the culinary world, you can use it for salad dressing or sauce to accompany pasta, chicken, fish, etc.
Simply explain the process of making brown butter.
Cook butter in low heat until the butterfat and milk solids separate. Continue cooking until the sunken milk solids turned into toasty hazelnut color and you get what it’s called brown butter aka beurre noisette aka hazelnut colored butter.
The making of brown butter
What you need:
Heavy-bottomed light-colored saucepan
Fast hands & keen eyes
Place cubed unsalted butter in a saucepan. Cubed butter will melt faster and more evenly (compared to one large slab of butter). Butter quantity depends on what the recipe calls for. Have a heat-resistant bowl ready on the kitchen counter.
Note: Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan for even cooking and you want a light-colored one to help you judge the color during cooking.
Once the butter is melted, you’ll start to see white foams on the surface and some light brrrr sound (splattering). Some milk solids will rise to the top to form foams but most will sink to the bottom of the pan later.
The butter starts to bubble and you can hear more splattering sound now. You’ll also start smelling some weird-quirky aroma and wonder why it’s not the heavenly smell that many has described. You just wait.
Sorry no photos (except for one) in the last stage as I need to watch this golden pot like a hawk! There will be photos of the brown butter (scroll bottom).
After this stage, lots of bubbles will cover the surface. Stir with spatula so that you can view the bottom because milk solid will start to sink. Starting here you need to start monitoring the butter very carefully. You will also need to scrap the side and bottom to prevent milk solids from sticking to the pan.
To make clarified butter: When there is no more splattering sound and there is only small foams on top and the milk solids has sunk to the bottom. Remove from heat and strain into a glass container.
To make brown butter, continue on… Milk solids will start browning and soon you’ll smell the perfume-y ghee aroma.
To judge if it has browned properly, remove saucepan from heat (because you don’t want to burn the milk solids while judging the color; bear in mind that the milk solids will still continue cooking off-heat). Then scoop some sunken milk solids to judge the color. You can either check the color of the milk solid from your spatula or scoop it on a white plate.
I call this the golden stage. Not quite there yet. But do you want to know a secret? If you skim off the foam (milk solids that rise to the top) and strain this (the milk solids at the bottom must be caramelized/light brown color) at this stage, you get ghee!
When the milk solids are at golden stage, you’ll start smelling the nutty aroma and it’ll only get deeper as its color changes to toasty brown. Remove the saucepan off heat once milk solids turn dark golden. The milk solids will still continue cooking off-heat. As soon as it turns toasty brown (hazelnut colored), pour it into the heat-resistant bowl. If it doesn’t turn into toasty brown, you can return the saucepan to the heat for few seconds. Remember to act fast.
Note: It takes seconds for the milk solids to turn from dark golden to toasty brown (hazelnut colored). And from toasty brown to black!
Here’s a really important note:
When you are using brown butter in your baking or cooking, INCLUDE the toasty brown solids. It’s where the magic is!
So far I used up all my brown butter for making financier (they are really excellent by the way). However if you have leftover, you can keep brown butter in an air-tight container in the fridge or even freeze it. I believe the brown butter will solidify in cold temperature and the milk solids will stay at the bottom. You will need to lightly heat it up to use it again. Careful not to burn the milk solids.
Happy brown butter-ing!