baking

Brown Butter or Beurre Noisette

By: Kate Davies

The first time I had a financier in a French bakery, I was smitten. The petite butter and almond cakes had such purity and richness, a lovely chewy texture and just the right amount of sweetness. The magical flavor component in these little beauties is the brown butter, or beurre noisette (also used to make madeleines).

While more commonly found dressing pasta or vegetables, browned butter can be prepared in batches, cooled, and used in many of your favorite baking recipes. Italian buttercream made with brown butter will blow your mind, I promise. Use it next time you make a vanilla cake or chocolate chip cookies, and then try to understand why you would ever bake those things without it again.

When making brown butter, you are cooking butter over medium/low heat, essentially breaking the emulsion of water, fat, and milk solids. As the water evaporates, the milk solids form little curds that continue to cook in the clarified butterfat. Thanks to the Maillard reaction, the milk protein turns toasty brown, taking on a beautifully complex nutty flavor. Once cooled, brown butter can be used in cake and cookie recipes much as you would use the unaltered version. This does require a bit of extra planning; once the butter is browned it requires an hour or two in the fridge to solidify for baking projects.

Waffles, pancakes, and Dutch Baby pancakes (a favorite around our house) don’t require the cooling step you might encounter with a baking recipe, since you can add the butter while its still warm. My family’s favorite Apple Dutch Baby calls for apple chunks sautéed in brown butter, lemon, sugar, and cinnamon which ends up tasting better than most apple pies you’ll try.

Brown Butter

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 cups Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb /450g unsalted butter

Instructions

1

Melt the butter over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.

2

The butter will sputter and foam as the water evaporates.

3

When the water has cooked off, watch the butter carefully for signs of browning.

4

The coagulated milk proteins will start to brown and smell toasty and delicious.

5

Remove the butter from heat once the milk proteins are browned, but not black.

6

Pour the butter into a heat-proof bowl to cool, or use immediately according to your recipe.

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