Making Compound Butter, Recipes and Tips
About Compound Butter
Compound butter is a simple culinary creation that will impress dinner guests and restaurant customers alike. Simply, compound butter is just incorporating herbs, fruits, or flavorings into a butter. Such butters are not only an easy way to ad flavor to table side bread but create a unique visual experience. Compound butters can also be used to enhance savory dishes by adding a silky aromatic touch before they reach the table.
Creating compound butter is an easy task but does require some basic technical knowledge. Once you have a grasp on the process creating unique butters for any dish will be easy and enjoyable.
Creating Compound Butter
Creating compound butter is done in a few easy steps. First you soften the butter warming it to room temperature. Then you whip the butter by hand, in a mixer (with the paddle attachment), or food processor and incorporate your flavoring ingredients and whip again. The soft butter can them be spread on to wax or parchment paper, and then formed into a roll and put into the refrigerator or freezer. From here, you can slice the butter and serve as individual pats, or put it atop an appropriate dish. Another option for a more visual effect is to put the soft butter into a pastry bag and pipe out florets onto a piece of parchment or wax paper.
When creating compound butter, make sure to not microwave or heat the butter so that it begins to separate. The butter should simply be left out for an hour or two to reach room temperature. When adding herbs to compound butter it is important to use fresh herbs. Most importantly, fresh herbs are more flavorful but also, butter does not have an excessive amount of moisture available to allow dry herbs to soften. When other ingredients into compound butters be sure to make sure they are not frozen, or contain excessive moisture as well.
The amount of butter you choose to make will obviously depend upon your intent. However, whether you make a quarter pound or a whole pound of butter, the excess can be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer until you need it again. Just make sure that if you plan to keep it out of use for more than two weeks that it does get stored in the freezer.
Compound Butter Recipes
When making compound butter I always use unsalted butter, with the highest fat content I can find. Higher fat means more flavor and less chance of having a butter that crumbles when you try to spread it. With unsalted butter you can add salt appropriately without overpowering the flavors of herbs or fruits. When you combine different types of butter such as an herb with a spiced butter (ex. cilantro and coriander) keep the ratios the same, and do not adjust one addition for another.
Herb Butters - These are great for topping savory dishes such as steak, chicken, or pork.
The general rule for herb butter is to use fresh herbs, just the leafy parts, try to avoid stems or seeds when incorporating herbs. I use about a tablespoon of fresh herbs per each quarter pound of butter. For white butters that show herbs suspended inside don't over chop your herbs or put them in a food processor. On the other hand, thoroughly chopping or processing will lead to a colored butter.
Some options for herb butters - Thyme, sage, tarragon, rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, mint, marjoram, dill, and lavender
Spice Butters - Spiced butters can be used to compliment or contrast just about any dish. When using spices with butter remember that if you plan to cook the butter or use it over a hot dish such as steak or chicken the spice flavors will be enhanced by heat. Likewise, the longer a spiced butter is kept the more potent its flavors become. I tend to use 2 tsp of a ground spice in a butter for a base and then incorporate more if it is needed. If a spice is exceedingly bitter you may choose to add a tsp of sugar per quarter pound to your butter to contrast the flavor.
Some options for spiced butters - Coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, celery seed, chili pepper (or powder), paprika, tahini, cocoa, anise (ground), cinnamon, nutmeg, caraway (ground), file, cloves (ground), pepper, saffron.....and you get the idea.
Fruit and Vegetable additions - These make a great addition to top seafood, risotto, and pastas.
When making such butters make sure to cook, and put vegetables into a food processor to puree them as large chunks will make the butter crumble. With fruits you can usually add them straight in, but the more you puree the frui,t the more color you will impart into the butter. Make sure to remove any seeds from fruits such as raspberries unless you want a gritty texture. The amount you add is a very subjective issue here, as you will need to make sure you get a butter that is colorful and flavorful but not too watery, each fruit will vary wildly regarding the amount you can add.
Some ideas for colorful fruit and vegetable butters - Beet, carrot, roasted red pepper, butternut squash, spinach, arugula, blueberry, raspberry... any berry!, roasted tomato, mango, peach and so on.
Miscellaneous ideas - Adding liquids and other flavorings can give you some great results, for liquors I recommend about 2 oz per pound of butter, and don't cook out the alcohol beforehand. You can add fruit zests with juices, such as limes or oranges, and really any flavorings you can find. Food coloring can be used to dye butter just about any color, but many chefs find this method a bit like cheating and tend to avoid it.
Other butters - Whiskey or bourbon (great for steak), rum, tequila, lime, liquid smoke, espresso, pesto, any hot sauce, peanut butter, or even soy.