You'll notice that many sauce recipes (like hollandaise) call for clarified butter. Why bother? Well, in sauce making, the process of clarifying can deepen the butter to a beautiful and flavorful nutty brown, which adds exquisite flavor and gourmet color to brown sauces. In addition, when the easily scorchable milk solids and the water are removed from butter during the clarifying process, all that remains is the butterfat. The butterfat has a much higher heating point over regular butter, making it useful for flavorful sautéing and frying of foods.
Adding clarified butter to batters, tossing with steamed vegetables, or brushing over meats or fish can add a buttery taste (or a nutty flavor) that you just can't get from a vegetable oil. As an extra plus, clarified butter can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. Imagine that! Just be sure it is well sealed, as it easily absorbs odors.
To clarify butter, follow these basic steps:
1. Use only unsalted butter. Salt lowers the heating point, so if you use salted butter, it will defeat the purpose of clarifying it.
2. Clarify at least 25% more butter than needed in your recipe. The butter will be strained, so you'll lose about a fourth of what you began with. Since it stores so well, why not make a lot at once and save yourself time in the future.
3. Melt the unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat until you see three layers. The top layer is the whey proteins or white foam. Skim the foam off with a spoon. The middle layer is the yellow butterfat (what you're going to keep). At the bottom of the pan, you'll see the milk solids.
4. Gently remove the pan from the heat, being careful not to disturb the layers. Let it set for a few minutes to further allow the milk solids to drop to the bottom of the pan.
5. Carefully strain the yellow butterfat through a fine sieve or a cheesecloth lined strainer, catching the golden liquid into a container and collecting the milk solids in the sieve. Discard the milk solids.
You can intensify the flavor of your clarified butter by allowing the butter to cook longer after it has separated into the three layers. As the butter continues to cook, the milk solids will turn golden and then brown. The deeper their color, the more intense and nutty the butterfat flavor will become. Be careful to heat the butter slowly as you deepen its color, as overheated butter becomes bitter.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *