Salted vs. Unsalted butter

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by lillycakes07, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. lillycakes07

    lillycakes07

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    Why do cupcake recipes call for unsalted butter. I choose to use regular butter because I don't want to jeopardize the taste. Is this okay?
     
  2. shavy

    shavy

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    Most recipes in general call for unsalted butter, so that you can control the sodium content of the finished dish.  If you're using salted butter, you adjust your salt measurements accordingly.
     
  3. homemadecook

    homemadecook

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    I agree with it. Your cupcake recipes will not be jeopardize if you use either of the two but, be sure you adjust your salt measurement so that it will not turn out to be salty. :)
     
  4. panini

    panini

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    Actually it is hard to make the adjustment in salt because the levels in regular butter varies. Unsalted is usually fresher with a better date.

    pan
     
  5. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Actually, it comes down to a choice.

    Do you want someone else, the butter processor, to control the salt levels in your cooking or do you want to control the levels?

    I prefer unsalted, that way I can add what ever salt I think is necessary and reasonable.

    Others prefer to let some unknown food scientist in a laboratory make that decision. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif
     
  6. trooper

    trooper

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    Salted Butter = Butter you keep in the dish next to the toaster.

    Unsalted Butter = Everything else that is not toast.

    : )
     
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  7. siduri

    siduri

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    I think lillycakes is asking a more home-grown question.  She defines herself as "I just like food" and the replies are all from professionals. 

    As a home cook (and a pretty good one, renowned among a large number of people i've baked for) i will tell you that the difference is really negligible.  Even different salts are different in saltiness!  I have to use much more of salts that have additives that are intended to keep the salt from clumping. So it;s not just the butter that is different.  

    I also notice that since salt is a preservative, salted butter goes bad slower.  Much unsalted tastes a bit off to me.  (Note that here in italy you have to go out of your way to find salted butter - i buy it in quantity and keep it in the freezer. Even so, there's often a slight rancid taste to the unsalted.)

    If you use salted for everyday use, and if you are baking once in a while, it;s really not very practical to buy unsalted and keep it for a long time just for baking. 

    Also, if the recipe has been written in the past five years or so, i almost always automatically add more salt, because most recipes are trying to reduce sodium at the expense of taste.  Since i don;t eat a lot of crap foods, and I have naturally low blood pressure, i can afford to add more.  And i can guarantee the baked goods taste better. 

    For the home cook, use whatever butter you generally keep on hand.  You open up other problems if you decide to buy special baking butter and you aren't using it up.  (And yeah, you can freeze it, but home bakers often bake on the spur of the moment - that;s the fun of it - i do it when i feel the need for some relaxation, and you will find yourself having to wait till it defrosts or putting it in the microwave and getting cold butter with melted holes in it!)

    I guarantee you your cupcakes will not be bad, that small amount of salt is not going to make a difference.  And while in a professional bakery your recipe may call for the equivalent of a 1/4 cup of salt, so the difference is going to be measurable, in the quantities used for home baking (12 cupcakes) the difference will be in grains of salt, and your teaspoon measure will anyway be inaccurate to such small amounts.  And it will make no difference. 
     
  8. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I was always under impression that salt was added to butter to aid in shelf life and stop rancidity. I don't know if this be true. If anyone knows if it is let me know. Thanks EdB
     
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  9. siduri

    siduri

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    I always thought that too, chefedb, but also to enhance flavor.  For me unsalted butter often has a hint of rancidity, and anyway, it's like eating anything without salt, kind of tasteless.  Yeah, if i sniff it, (when it's nice and fresh) it has a nice smell, but i can't enjoy a piece of bread with unsalted butter on it.  I also immediately pick up if a cake or sweet is made without salt - I don't like it.  Try adding a small pinch to hot chocolate or any other sweet thing you like.  Too much, of course, is not pleasant, but we're talking minute amounts in the end here. 

    But I definitely think it extends its shelf life. 
     
  10. ishbel

    ishbel

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    I usually bake with unsalted butters - and I haven't noticed any rancid taste, but maybe it's the breed of cows we have in the UK?  I love salted butter to eat in sandwiches and on toast - I love Bridel, a wonderful french butter with grains of sea-salt in the butter pat.  If I'm pushed, I buy local butter, both salted and unsalted.

    If I can't find Bridel, or a good local butter, I buy President (both salted and unsalted) - it's a good, standard French butter.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  11. bigfatbaker

    bigfatbaker

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    I generally use organic unsalted butter for baking. I like to control the amount of salt added. I sometimes find other ingredients in the recipe will have sodium in them, so it helps me avoid over salting a recipe. But I agree with Siduri, you probably won't notice the difference in a batch of cupcakes.
     
  12. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Ironically, Siduri, I agree with your conclusions but not the way you got there.

    I only use unsalted butter. It's the only thing we keep in the house, and it's used whenever butter is called for, adding salt as necessary. I've never had any that tasted the slightest bit rancid. We store the working amount (usually two sticks) in the fridge. The rest goes in the freezer. At any one time I'm likely to have 3-4 pounds on hand.

    I can't speak for other baked goods, but when it comes to bread, most recipes are woefully lacking in their salt content. I suspect, as you've mentioned in the past, that's a result of the anti-salt compagne that's been waged for the past several years. Compare modern bread recipes, which call for 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of salt with, say, James Beard's recipes, which use at least a tablespoon. That's a 33% increase. But the breads taste much better.

    I almost always increase the salt content of any bread I make, and they all seem to benefit from it.

    I was always under impression that salt was added to butter to aid in shelf life and stop rancidity.

    I've never heard any other explanation for it, Ed. And once refrigeration became common, there was no longer any reason to do it---other than pernicious habit.
     
  13. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Salt was originally added to increase shelf life, but this almost always only occurs in english speaking countries.

    Salt is usually added in amounts of around 2% by weight, although this is by no means a standard.

    Salt is a lot cheaper than butter, so even 2% has an effect on cost.

    I do buy salted butterr, but only use this for things like pie dough and scones.  For any other baking the saltiness comes out and screams in your face when it shouldn't. 
     
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  14. siduri

    siduri

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    Ah, KY, habit but also taste.  Like many who were imprinted on salted butter, that;s the only kind we like. And to hear others extol the virtues of special French butter with crunchy salt in it - Yum. Wish i could find it here.

     But because there's no accounting for taste,  think of Umbria and parts of Tuscany where the bread is without any salt at all!  They actually like it!  They must think normal bread is way too salty. 
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    You're leaving out the time line, Siduri.

    Does salt add to the flavor of butter? No question. Well, changes the flavor profile at any rate.

    But flavor was the least important part of salting butter, originally. In fact (no way to know for sure), it probably paid no part at all.

    Like cheese, butter was a way of extending the shelf life of milk. But unlike cheese, which can last for ages, butter turns rancid pretty fast.  Chilling in a spring house certainly helped, but it still turned bad relatively quickly. So salt---long recognized as a preservation medium---was added, extending the shelf life exponentially.

    If you like the flavor of salted butter, that's fine. But I can spread my unsalted butter on a slice of sour rye, sprinkle it with the exact amount of salt I prefer, and achieve that same flavor. But it leaves me in control, particularly in applications where I don't want that salt element.
     
  16. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Next time you're visiting family in London, Siduri - go to a Waitrose or Sainsbury and buy a pack of the salted and unsalted Bridel!  At a push, the unsalted President...   The best butter!
     
  17. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Siduri, last time I was in Italy they were still using Lire.

    But in regards to Salt, ae they still selling in small quantities sold only in tobacconist's shops? 
     
  18. siduri

    siduri

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    I'm able to get President here, and i prefer it to the other salted butter they sell (Lurpak - though i also like Lurpak - but president is slightly saltier, and i like that too. But i don't like unsalted. I will, like KY, add salt to it, but i prefer it already salted.


    Ah, the lira.  and the salt and tobacco shops.  I have two funny stories.  I heard the expression many times "Lira di dio" or so i thought it was, that is, Lira of God.  I could not for the life of me understand what this meant - money of god?  weird. .  They would say "E' successo lira di Dio" - the Lira of God happened.  Huh?  

    then i realized it was a contraction "L'ira" not Lira - L'ira is "the ire of God"

    But funnier was when i went to the little local grocery store (there were maybe two supermarkets in all of rome back in the 70s - well maybe five, but rome is big and there were none near us) and asked for salt.  He looked at me with scorn, "At the tobacco store, of course!" 

    Ah, of course, why of course?  (Turns out salt and tobacco had a special tax and had to have a stamp on them like cigarettes and alcohol i believe, in the US)

    So when i went into a store asking for gelatin ("gelatina" ) i got a cube that when i opened it was actually aspic - not unflavored gelatin, but reduced broth.  I looked in the dictionary - gelatin is "colla di pesce" or literally, fish glue.  I go ask for fish glue and the guy shakes his head like i was an idiot.  In the HARDWARE store of course. By that point, after the salt in the tobacco store incident, i went to the hardware store.  Nothinjg was going to phase me now and i was darned if i'd look like one of those stupid tourists.  Of course, he looked at me like i was a total idiot and said it was in food stores. Not those around here, though, the specialty stores downtown. 

    But this is nothing compared to my friend who was at a formal dinner after a conference and these giornalists and others asked her how she liked italy - do you like the food, how is it different from america?  She said oh, of course, it;s wonderful here - the food in america is full of "preservativi" (wanting to say preservatives.  I leave it to you to look up preservativi).  The entire table went silent and no one asked her anything any more.