Straight butter, baby


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.

Leftovers, schmeftovers

That thing I had against leftovers? Not a problem anymore. No sirree, not after last night, at least.

I had quite a bit of filling left after adapting the Plump Pea Dumplings recipe from 101 Cookbooks, so I pondered for a while what exactly to do with it. Then I remembered another recipe I’d bookmarked from Delicious Days (whose photography just kills me) for Egg Yolk Ravioli and dinner was taken care of!

So I mixed together a double recipe of pasta in my food processor (if it’s good enough for Lidia, it’s good enough for me!) and kneaded it until it was pliable, then formed it into a ball before setting it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

Making ravioli from scratch meant digging out the pasta maker we received as a wedding gift and only used once. Not exactly sure why it isn’t in the rotation more often because it turned out nice, thin sheets of ravioli dough.

First, I quartered the dough and ran half of it through the machine to make sure the rollers were completely clear of metal shavings before I got down to it.

And then slowly I rolled, step by step, inch by inch.

Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t use this more often! My arm nearly fell off.

But, as I said, it turned out nice, thin sheets, which I then topped with about a tablespoon of leftover dumpling filling per egg yolk I planned to use. This left me with four frankly not-very-attractive balls of green stuff, into which I formed little craters so the egg yolks wouldn’t escape.

See? Unattractive, but just you wait.

Then I used the egg separators right at the end of my arms to separate the yolks from the whites. The whites went into a bowl and the yolks just sat very perkily atop the green mounds.

Well, ok, not ALL of them were so perky…

That guy at left? He was trouble.

After that balancing act was done, I brushed the dough all around the fillings with egg white and set the other strip of dough on top, carefully sealing each ravioli and doing my best to squeeze out all of the air. Not sure I succeeded on that count, but none burst in the water, which is all I need to consider myself a culinary genius. Set the bar low, kids.

I’m no Martha, but I do love a scalloped edge.

So these babies boiled for 2-3 minutes while I scurried frantically around the kitchen, warming the plates, melting the truffle butter (yeah, you heard me), and getting out the microplane grater so I could top each eggy pillow with cheese before it had a chance to cool off.

I’d say it all turned out well, wouldn’t you?