The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cultured butter in croissants - not just for the flavor

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tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

Cultured butter in croissants - not just for the flavor

I thought I'd share my recent experience for anyone who has been having problems learning to make croissants.

I've been using Plugra butter in my croissants, but a few weeks ago I realized I was a couple pounds short for the croissants I had scheduled to bake. I had my wife pick up some 'regular' unsalted butter at a grocery that doesn't stock it. Besides the flavor, the difference in workability was amazing(ly dissapointing). Cultured butter is easily beat into shape with a French pin and is very elastic, even at fridge temp. 'Regular' butter isn't elastic in the slightest, due to the higher water content.

So if you're having problems with your croissants (and who doesn't from time to time) try cultured butter.

As an aside, I've found the price on Plugra varies greatly from store to store. Our regional grocery chain, Ingles, has it for about $5.25/lb as compared to Kroger where it's closer to $9. 

yy's picture
yy

I love the flavor of cultured butter, but I don't think that a butter has to be cultured to be used successfully in laminated doughs. Any European style butter with a higher fat content (82/83%? - I don't remember the exact figure, but the search box should help) will have the proper pliability characteristics. "Regular" butters, at least in the U.S., have much more water content (only about 80% butterfat), making them more brittle. Ciril Hitz discusses this difference in Baking Artisan Bread. He actually gives a tip where you can mix in some flour with a lower butterfat-content butter to simulate the workability of a European style butter. 

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

Just recently, the local Smart & Final in Los Angeles has been carrying one pound of Plugra butter. It was about $3.70 per pound.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Plugra isn't cultured butter.

It just has a higher percentage fat (82% vs. 80% for American butters).

I think yy has it right, it's % fat that's the real issue, and Plugra and many other 'European' butters have higher % fat (some as high as 86%).

I've used standard American butters for croissant many times and, as long as I'm careful to bring it up to 65 F, it's perfectly workable. Try working high fat % (and/or) European butters at 65 F and you have to work very, very fast indeed. I rather prefer using lower % fat butter for this reason.

Question: Isn't butter's water content important for croissant? Something about it being important for puff in the oven? Perhaps an "old wives tale", but me thinks I've heard that before from a reputable source (Jaques Torres, maybe?).

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Those of you trying to find high % fat butters should avoid the butter aisle in American supermarket. They almost always hide these butters in the "gourmet" section.

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Plugra has held the top-shelf for high % fat butter in the US for a long time, but it's slowly being dethroned by Kerrygold Irish Butter. I've tried the latter and much, much prefer it.

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Sauveur dedicated an whole issue to butter a few years ago. All (most?) of the articles in that issue are online: http://www.saveur.com/article/Back-Issue/Table-of-Contents---Issue-109

Here's the "30 Great Butters" article from that issue: http://www.saveur.com/article/Techniques/30-Great-Butters

Was surprised to see Horizon Organic European Style Butter on that list, which is made here in Colorado. We make the best beer on the planet, but butter? Who knew! (And it's relatively cheaps at Costco!)

If you don't want to gain 20 lbs this month, don't read this recipe: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Caramel-Pound-Cake

 

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

"Plugrá is not actually cultured, but the flavor and aroma of cultured butter are added with lactic starter distillate, a natural flavoring derived from cultured milk."

Well shucks! I thought since most European butter is cultured, 'European Style Butter' would be as well. That's what I get for thinking.....

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

Since we're talking about cultured butter and butter high in butter fat, has anyone tried Organic Valley European Style Cultured Butter?

I stumbled upon their website: http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/butter/european-style/

The butter is listed as 84% butterfat. I wonder what's the price per pound. I hope it's not expensive as the Five Star Butter (85% butterfat) which is like $36 per pound. LOL I'm not that rich.