Butter :: Recipe

Bread and Butter.

Even in the home of a baker, where the bread was good enough to eat without any embellishments, we always had butter on the counter, soft, ready for spreading.

My dad would come home from the bakery with an armload of fresh baguettes, or a beautiful sourdough jaco, or maybe on occasion some kaiser rolls. The bread always went straight to the kitchen counter that separated the breakfast nook from the cooking area. We didn’t use bread knives, just tore off pieces as my mom was making spaghetti, or a turkey soup was slowly boiling. Every evening before dinner this happened, for as long as I can remember, and the bread was never eaten without butter. Spread thinly, sometimes not so thinly, I once questioned my dad about butter, knowing the bread could stand alone. He just laughed. It enhances all of it, Janie. The flavors, the wheat and the salt and the starter… What would bread be without butter?

Knowing what I know now, not only is bread better with butter from a taste standpoint, but mixing those carbs and fats are better for us as well. Butter is good for you! Haven’t you heard?!!!

Anyway, on this eve of Saint Brigid’s feast, we are making up a little bit of butter just for the fun of it. We already have some in the fridge, but in memory of a beloved and faithful dairymaid, we are butter churners tonight.

Here’s how you do it :

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Find a cute small jar with a lid.

Add the heavy cream–not too full–only half–so that there’s room for shaking. Just cream, nothing else.

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Shake–with or without music–with or without cousins… (My drama girl is always up for shaking…)

20 minutes (or less) of shaking. Shake, shake, shake! (At some point you will feel like nothing in there is moving, that’s because you  have now made whipped cream! Just keep shaking, trade off between little ones and grown ups so it’s not a chore, and some bit of time after this you will hear that the butter has separated. You can shake some after this, we do, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary…)

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And you have butter, and a wee bit of buttermilk, too. Strain off the buttermilk to use, or drink, (do NOT pour it down the drain; it’s too delicious) and enjoy  the wonderful fruits of your shaking!

Here’s an excerpt from The Life of Saint Brigid--Brigid, a woman of Christ whom I long to emulate!

Brigid saw Christ in everyone she met, and had a particular love for those less fortunate than herself.

When the poor came knocking at the kitchen doors, Brigid handed out loaves of bread, jars of butter and jugs of milk.

With her heart and hands opened wide, she even gave away the food meant for the chieftain himself!

Cheers, dear friends. Enjoy a moment of dairy-maiding!

Bright Week and Butter

This year during Lent I looked through many baking recipes to try and find the best bread way to celebrate Pascha. I thought about making the popular Greek tsoureki, which has milk, butter and eggs, plus decorative red dyed eggs on the top–and also considered trying the Lebanese ma’amoul, since I love using orange blossom water in my baking…

But when I told my family my thoughts, they revolted! And I don’t blame them. When you’ve deprived yourself of butter for 49 days, the idea of SCONES pops right to the top of the Meyer Baking List.

I’ve been making the same scone recipe these last twenty years. We rarely have cream in our fridge, so I have substituted the cream for just about every other dairy product imaginable (cottage cheese, cream cheese mixed with milk, sour cream, plain milk…)  and still the results have turned out beautifully. My most common swap for cream is plain yogurt. The yogurt is healthier, and the scones are still so delicious. Here’s the recipe from my tattered, out-of-print Crabtree and Evelyn: A Book of Light Meals cookbook, which automatically turns to page 141. On the eve of Pascha, I splurged and used REAL cream for the scones that we ate and shared with our friends at church.

Time Commitment: Fifteen minutes to assemble ingredients and another fifteen minutes to bake. Makes about 12-16 scones.

Tools you need:

  • Just the basics…
  • plus, an oven :)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup currants (or chocolate chips!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or…. plain yogurt)
What to do:

Step One: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the cut butter and work into flour mixture with finger tips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add currants, or chocolate chips, and toss.

Step Two: Make a well in the flour mixture and add eggs and 1/2 cup of the cream or yogurt. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough clumps together.

Step Three for Traditional Scones: Knead mixture in bowl for 30 seconds–do not overwork the dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and halve. Form each half into a ball and flatten to form a circle about 3/4 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Cut each circle into 8 pie-shaped wedges.

Step Three for Drop Scones: After mixing ingredients together, use a large spoon and simply scoop up spoonfuls of dough and drop them onto the cookie sheet like you would for “drop biscuits.” If my dough is wet (which it usually is when I substitute the cream for yogurt), then I use this method. If my dough is dry, then I use the above method of kneading and cutting into wedges. Both methods make for attractive and delicious scones.

Step Four: Place wedges or “drops” onto cookie sheet. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon of cream or yogurt and sprinkle lightly with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Step Five: Best eaten warm! Serve currant scones with fruit preserves–or eat chocolate chip scones plain, with a delicious cup of green or black tea, or fresh lemonade.

Don’t forget to share 🙂