For some reason, I've never figured out why eating bread and butter in France always tastes better than eating it in any French Boulangerie in the United States (not to mention French cafes here are not really French cafes but silly pretentious frou frou ones). Butter here always tastes flat and greasy and kind of I don't know, bland? Call me ignorant or unfortunately unaware, but I recently discover the miracle of cultured butter - which I can make at home and it tastes like I bought it for $15 a pound at Whole Paythroughmyarse.
Anyway, cultured butter omgomgomg. Yes, it makes me that giddy. OMG! I found the method for making cultured butter on The Traveler's Lunchbox and well, OMG!
Cultured butter is a breeze to make, and costs half the price of something from Vermont Butter and Cheese Company or imported butter. All you need is a pint of the BEST heavy cream you can find, with the highest butterfat content and is not ultra-pasteurized, some creme fraiche and a lot of patience!
This butter goes absolutely FANTASTIC with crusty slices of baguette (as I'm typing, the roof of my mouth is bleeding from the whole loaf of baguette I just inhaled). I'm glad there are at least some decent baguettes here in Seattle, and with this cultured butter and a nice strong cup of cafe au lait, it's almost like I'm in Paris.
Cultured Butter (adapted from The Traveler's Lunchbox)
*Note: You can change the amount of cream used to yield more or less butter. One pint of cream will yield about 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of buttermilk. For each pint of heavy cream, use 2 tablespoons creme fraiche.
1 pint heavy cream (I used one with 40% butterfat, pasteurized)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (see note above)
A big bowl of iced water
Fine mesh strainer
In a clean glass bowl, combine the heavy cream and creme fraiche. Stir lightly with a wooden spoon an cover with a clean dish towel. Place the covered bowl in a warm place, ideally the air temperature should be about 75°F (I put mine in the oven overnight). Leave it for 12 - to 24 hours.
After that period, the cream should look a little thicker and you can test with a clean spoon to see if has become tangier. If the cream is gassy and bubbly, you will want to toss it away and start over. It has always work for me within 12 - 14 hour period. Melissa from The Travelers Lunchbox suggests that the ideal temperature for churning is 60°F but I've discovered that at such a temperature, my butter takes forever to come together. So I take it straight from the oven and start churning using a handheld mixer on medium speed. It usually comes together within 20 minutes.
Churning may get a little messy, so you want to don an apron and use a really deep bowl. I used a handheld mixer on Speed-3. The first thing that will form when you beat the cream is whipped cream, which is thick and white. If you keep on beating, little yellow bits will start to curdle, and you know you have your butter. Bring the speed down to low and beat a while longer until the liquid is clear white (buttermilk) and your butterfat has come together.
Strain the buttermilk into a bowl and you can keep this for pancakes or muffins. Pour a cup of ice water over the butter and knead the butter with a fork. Discard the water when it becomes cloudy. Do this multiple times until your water is clear. Your butter will now be in a ball, and will be quite tough. At this point, you want may want to add a bit of sea salt to flavour your butter and give a final knead to release most of the water.
Put your butter on a piece of paper towel and squeeze to release any remaining water. You may want to do this a few times to ensure that your pat of butter is dry.
And voila! You now have salted, cultured butter! I wrapped mine in wax paper and put it in a Ziploc bag - if it is salted, it should last up to a month (if you don't finish it within two days with a loaf of baguette).
With the buttermilk, here's what I made: