forms of butter and their effects? any food chemists who can tell me?

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by siduri, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. siduri

    siduri

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    A couple of cake recipes from Julia Child use a technique of adding SOFT, but NOT melted, butter to a cake batter at the end, folding it in.  One of these I particularly like was called Biscuit au beurre.  I believe also the reine de saba (or another one, not sure) had melted chocolate with cold butter beaten into it to the consistency of mayonnaise, and that added at the end to the batter.  Both had a particular texture.  While i don't like genoise, i did like this biscuit au beurre.  Made me wonder what is the effect, if there is any and it's not in my head, of SOFT butter added AT THE END of the mixing (as opposed to melted butter added then, or the other methods below).

    I've applied this adding of soft butter to pancake batter - i soften the butter in the microwave on low, so it's like room temperature, and then add it at the end and just mix it in quickly.  I THINK it makes a better pancake, but then i have never made two batters at the same time to test that.  Same for muffins, adding soft room temp butter at the end.  I think it makes for a moister butterier result. 

    My understanding of butter-containing batters is that these are the main ways:
    1. all ingredients including melted butter mixed together (not impressed with the result, ok for muffins and quick breads, but not outstanding)
    2. cream room temp or cold butter and sugar, beat in eggs, add dry and wet alternately.  The usual cake, usually good
    3. mix all dry including sugar, add soft butter and part of wet + all eggs, beat well, add rest of wet in a couple of times and beat.  (Beranbaum's cake bible method, makes moist, kind of solid cakes that cut nicely)
    4. beat eggs and sugar, fold in flour and melted butter (genoise method) (stays spongy, i don;t like it, needs syrup to be moist)
    5. mix flour and room-temperature butter, add rest of ingredients and mix (i've seen some cakes and quick breads described like this, haven't been impressed)
    6. beat eggs and sugar, fold in flour and soft, room-temperature butter (biscuit au beurre)
    7. mix briefly all ingredients except butter, add soft room-temperature butter and fold in (pancakes, muffins)
    It's this last two i'm curious to understand, but really also would like to know what is the effect of each, if anyone is generous enough to explain.  thanks. 
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    The problem with mixing melted butter into a batter or dough is usually about keeping the butter liquid so it mixes evenly in to everything else. In pancakes or muffins it often congeals with the cooler ingredients and is not ideal. Cook's Illustrated introduced a method to combat this but I think it's a hassle. They beat the WARM, not hot, butter with  the egg yolks of the recipe to use their emulsification power. And then into the rest of the liquid--hopefully room temp-- so it all mixes evenly.  It does seem to work. How much better it is, I'm a little skeptical personally. 

    I think in your biscuit au buerre example, you'll get sheets and pockets of butter in the style of laminated doughs hybridized with the US biscuit/pastry technique with small pockets of butter giving flake, pockets of steam and so on. 

    But I'm not a food chemist. I just play one on the web. 
     
  3. siduri

    siduri

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    Well,phatch,  i don't have a problem with mixing the soft (not melted) butter into pancake batter - i just put it in and whisk it like crazy for a minute so it mixes quickly before getting hard. 

    When cooks illustrated decides to put their hands in something it usually comes out to be extremely complicated and a ton of extra work, ten extra utensils and containers to wash, and no better (and possibly worse) than the normal way.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif   They do have some great recipes, no question, but when they want to "improve" a classical recipe, they end up doing crazy things (microwaving bananas to get "banana juice" for banana bread comes to mind or some ridiculous elaborate process for making french toast, that i found pretty disgusting, too much, too heavy, too sweet.)

    The biscuit au beurre recipe doesn't have any flaky quality, which would be from cold butter pieces, not from room temperature butter of the consistency of mayonnaise.   it's actually, how can i say, particularly moist?  buttery?  maybe a mouth feel that is more pasty than crumbly?  same for the pancakes and muffins. 

    I think the way actually melted butter mixes with batter is different, and maybe is absorbed by the flour more?  maybe?  i'm not a chemist, i can't even play one, but i think with my hands and have some good intuitions sometimes, i guess. 
     
  4. foodpump

    foodpump

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    A lot of "mystery" about butter has to do with it's water content.  It's usually around 82% b.f. (butterfat) but it can differ greatly from brand to brand and from country to country

    I use butter in my ganaches and realize that some recipies call for the butter to be fully melted and incorporated in, while some are simply added in "pommade" or baby-poo soft.  The reason for this, is I believe, water content, as melted butter will have some of the water content removed.
     
  5. siduri

    siduri

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    The water content of italian butter is much less than american butter, and frankly, foodpump, when you're dealing with the kinds of recipes i'm making, i doubt that makes a difference at all.  (In any case, when i melt butter, i don't boil off the water).  Intuitively i would say that the way it gets absorbed into the batter would be what makes the difference - do you notice a difference?  I do.  But i'm not convinced it's the water.
     
  6. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I prefer 93 score sweet Irish butter for the table and any 82 to 87% for cooking. Butter is rated by what is called score, the higher the score the higher the butterfat content
     
  7. dillbert

    dillbert Banned

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    >>the higher the score the higher the butterfat content

    Ed - I do believe that is incorrect
     
  8. siduri

    siduri

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    anybody know what difference adding soft butter as opposed to melted butter to a batter at the end?
     
  9. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Thats the way I ws told by purveyors
     
  10. dillbert

    dillbert Banned

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    the usda site is unavailable - so I'm working from memory.

    the point scale is used for the USDA Grade AA / A / B and is based on sensory judgements - color, flavor, texture, fully dissolved salt - if used, and a couple other points that I'm not recalling - but butterfat content is not part of that scale, it is separately specified.
     
  11. siduri

    siduri

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    Ahem - can anyone answer the actual question?  the difference between adding melted butter and adding room temp butter as the last ingredient in a cake or quick bread. 
     
  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    You might do well in reading about cakes and genoises in Ruhlman's RATIO and KA's BAKER'S COMPANION.  They offer some explanation.  Strictly imho butter at room temp. will impart some "solid" structure to your cake and would be less liable to collapse, imho, than when it's in liquid form.  In liquid form therefor heated, the melted butter may prematurely 'cook' the eggs.

    In some instances butter at room temp is creamed therefore has air incorporated into it which is something that can't be achieved using melted butter.  And then sometimes either eggs or flour or both are then incorporated into the creamed butter which results in a light, fluffy texture.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  13. dillbert

    dillbert Banned

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    >>answer the actual question?

    yes, no, and a definite perhaps.

    Shirley Corriher in Cookwise outlines the role of fats and how different kinds of fats affect (in this specific case) cakes.  the information is not summarized in the fashion of your question, so gathering "the answers" is a bit of a hit & miss.

    a major point she makes:  baking powder / baking soda actually does a large part of it's leavening by mixing with the fat and expanding microscopic air bubbles "already in the fat" - now - that applies nicely to "shortenings" - but butter and lard and oils have no "already there air bubbles"

    whence the idea of creaming together the butter & sugar - that "aerates" the butter.
    softer butter "aerates" better than hard/colder butter .

    none of which addresses the issue of when to fold in softened butter.....

    I can make a guess, but that's all it is....

    my drop biscuit recipe uses chilled butter "cut into" the flour pre-liquid add.  it's theory is to "make flaky" - created by pockets of water bursting with the heat of baking (same idea as flaky pie crusts and puff pastry....)  if mixed too thoroughly, does one get tiny tiny pockets?  this sorta' goes with the biscuit au beurre idea.

    pancakes & muffins don't strike me as a "need to be flaky" thing.  the fat is perhaps more just for moist & tender ?
     
  14. siduri

    siduri

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    I don;t have either book, unfortunately. 

    However, when i fold in melted butter, i always am sure to cool it first.  So i doubt it will cook the eggs (anyway, what i'm talking about is at the VERY END of the mixing, where flour,sugar, eggs, liquid, etc, are all in there, then at the very last step, i fold in the softened mayonnaise-consistency butter instead of the melted cooled butter.  My impression (which may be wishful thinking, i don't know, it's not like i make two cakes at once and comparing) is that the texture is - let's say "creamier" - whether in muffins, a cake or in pancakes.  There is definitely no air in either form of butter, since it was not beaten in at all, just folded quickly at the end. 

    (And to address a prior point someone made, the water content is always the same in both cases, and anyway, that little water isn't going to make a difference).

    One hypothesis is that the soft butter hardens faster and remains more buttery?  but not in the sense of flakiness
    I have Cookwise - but as you say, it doesn;t really answer MY question. 

    It's not about the air, since neither method i mention creates air in the butter. 

    and the question is not WHEN to fold in softened butter, but what difference does softened butter make as opposed to melted butter. 

    and chilled butter, in biscuits or brisee is rubbed into the dry flour.  It makes flakes, i presume (my guess, but it's logical enough) the flour coats flattened bits of butter.  The liquid (water in the case of brisee, or buttermilk in the case of biscuits) mixes with the flour coating to make paste and when cooked, the butter melts out, while the paste cooks (and they are very thin sheets of paste) so you get flakes of paste with a bit of space between them. 

    But the biscuit au beurre is NOT FLAKY but kind of CREAMY.  Very much different from a genoise, made with the same technique using melted butter at the end instead of softened butter.  I hate genoise.  It's not moist, and that's why you have to put syrup in it (which for me is like making a bad cake knowing it will be bad and fixing it each time with an addition of something else, but that's just cynical me, i know everyone goes wild over genoise). 

    So, the question is:  is it the soft butter that keeps being buttery and adds moistness or creaminess to the finished product (which melted butter does not), or is it just a coincidence, and there are some other essential differences  between biscuit au beurre and genoise?

    Sorry to insist - of course nobody is obliged to answer.
     
  15. dillbert

    dillbert Banned

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    >>but what difference does softened butter make as opposed to melted butter. 

    there is water "entrained" in butter.  depend on type & brand, more or less water.

    being in Italy you're spared the USDA regulations - altho stuff labeled "plugra" ala "Kerry Gold" is available in USA if one goes looking for it.

    water (and milk solids, for that matter) "falls out" of melted butter - it acts more like a "oil" than a "solid" fat. oils often used for the moisture in a "heavy" loaf ala banana bread, etc.

    "softened" butter will still have the water entrained in the fat.  the mixing of fat&water&flour (protein/gluten/etc) reacts differently to "oil" and "fat&water"
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  16. siduri

    siduri

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    ok, that isn't the intuitive kind if explanation i had hoped for with its falling out and entraining /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif but i will ponder on it.  In any case, it seems to me that there is so little water in the butter here that i have a hard time believing it can make that much difference in a one layer 9 inch cake.   Thanks - i'll look up entraining and all that
     
  17. dillbert

    dillbert Banned

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    >>it can make that much difference in a one layer 9 inch cake.

    one would need to bake two cakes . . . and see if there is a difference.....

    bit like salt over the shoulder - does it really make a difference if it's over the left shoulder or the right shoulder?

    does it make a difference comma at all?

    every thing posted on the Internet is actually not true - a fact one should not lose sight of regarding "recipes" - it's how the author did it; does it make a difference?  well, mebbe . . .  and regrets to say, even the "classic" chefs/cooks/recipes do go off on meaningless tangents, time to time....
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  18. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Same cut in cold butter applies to a good flaky pie dough.
     
    thor likes this.
  19. thor

    thor

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    I'm nowhere near pro enough to describe why, but this it what I learned years back from Alton Brown:
    The sugar and butter are mixed together in such a way that the sugar cuts little air bubbles into the butter. These little bubbles can add some extra puff to the cookies.

    If you melt the butter first, not only do you not have those air bubbles, but there's water in butter, so you'll end up getting some gluten development when you mix in the flour and make a chewy cookie ... but more importatly, without the fat being (near) solid, the cookie will slump a lot more, and spread out before it cooks (assuming you haven't otherwise adjusted the recipe to compensate).

    There are cookie recipes that call for melted butter; compare the three recipies from the "Three Chips for Sister Martha" episode of Good Eats; the "chewy" cookie uses melted butter

    Hope it helped at least a little...
     
  20. siduri

    siduri

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    Thanks thor, but look again at my actual question.  I'm talking about the difference between FOLDING IN soft butter vs  melted butter AT THE END OF THE MIXING, Like in a genoise, you don;t cream butter and sugar, you beat eggs and sugar, fold in flour and then melted butter.  But i think folding in softened butter makes a much better cake.