For the past couple of months, my inner Mennonite (Esther Stoltzfus-Yoder) has been very patiently encouraging me to make my own butter. As I’m someone who can happily survive mostly on olive oil, this craving has been a little surprising, but I gave in because hey — fresh butter! How cool is that? Finding heavy cream without additives was challenging until I decided just to buy it in the city (Ronnybrook at Whole Foods), but the bigger decision was what to serve with this lovely butter. Esther would’ve been especially pleased if I’d made bread, but I was willing to risk a shunning to go with the easier option — croissants from Madeleine Patisserie.
Making your own butter is a perfectly simple thing to do, as it turns out. Make sure your cream has no additives and is around 60 degrees. Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the whisk attachment, and — this is very, very important — cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set the mixer to medium-high (I used setting 6 on our Kitchenaid), and whisk away for about 8 minutes, or until buttermilk is splashing against the plastic wrap and you can hear the butter thunking around in the bowl. Thunking — pretty good word, isn’t it?
At this point, you need to rinse the milk from the butter so it doesn’t turn rancid in the fridge. To do this, just set up a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl to collect the buttermilk (which is beyond delicious — if I don’t drink it all, it has banana bread written all over it), dump the whole mess in, then wash the butter under cold running water, kneading it with a fork until the water runs clear. I pressed the butter with paper towels to remove the excess water, then set aside half in a ramekin for use this week and rolled the other half in plastic wrap to freeze for later. I lightly salted the butter we were using right away and could hardly wait to dig in. It really lived up to my expectations — this was the sweetest, creamiest butter we’ve ever had outside of a restaurant, but it doesn’t have a lot of character beyond that. Next time, I think I’ll culture the cream for 24 hours to give it a little oomph. Esther might just make me a quilt for that one.