Bakeology: On Browned Butter

Sorry for the delay in posting!  Between Thanksgiving travels and work travels, I’ve been very preoccupied for the past week!  But enough excuses.  Without further ado, my next lesson…

Today’s lesson is in browning butter.  Many recipes call for browned butter, but, what does that mean, and, more importantly, why should I take the extra time to brown my butter?

The browning of butter gives it an extra layer of richness and a deep nutty flavor you simply cannot achieve without browning.  It is also called beurre noisette, meaning hazelnut butter, which is exactly what it tastes like.   It is a step most recipes can do without, but, once you try it, why would you want to?  Let’s start with the basics: What is butter?

Butter is a combination of butterfat, milk proteins, and water.  It is an oil-in-water emulsion* of water and fat with milk protein solids suspended inside.

*An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible, meaning they do not mix. Butter’s predecessor, cream, is a water-in-oil emulsion. The milk proteins are the emulsifiers, meaning they stabilize the mixture.

So, what happens when you brown butter?

As the butter heats up and melts, the water evaporates and the milk proteins and butterfat separate. The milk proteins sink to the bottom of the pan, where they begin to cook and turn brown. (Think about any other kind if frying – if you put something in hot oil, it will cook and brown, but too long and it will burn and turn black…no one wants black butter.)  It is important to stir continuously to prevent some proteins to cook faster than other proteins. 

Simple enough, right?

Now that we know what happens when we brown butter, how do we do it correctly?  It is more difficult than it sounds to get it right.  But, with a little help from the internet, I have found a pretty foolproof method.

Foolproof method to making browned butter:

  1. Cut your butter into even pieces (going by the tablespoon marks on the package is an easy way). You want even pieces so it all melts at the same rate.
  2. Place the butter in a light-colored pan on medium heat. The light-colored pan is not a requirement, but will make it much easier to tell when the butter is starting to brown.
  3. After about 30 seconds, it will start to bubble and foam as the water evaporates. Continue stirring constantly until your butter is light brown, a little lighter than you want the final product to be.
  4. At this point, quickly remove the butter from the heat and pour it out of your hot saucepan.  It will cook for a few more seconds and achieve that perfect shade of brown, and there you have it.  Perfect browned butter.

Be very careful with timing because butter can go from brown to burnt in a matter of seconds.  Once done, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or used immediately, as I always do.


Related Articles:

How To Make Perfect Browned Butter – BuzzFeed

On Browned Butter – Joy the Baker


Try out your new knowledge with these tasty treats!

Nutella-Stuffed Browned-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Brown Butter Milky Way Oatmeal Cookies – Sally’s Baking Addiction

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles – The Recipe Critic

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting – Eat.Bake.Battement

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Pancakes – Bake Me Away!

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