In last week's recipe, we casually suggested making your own butter. That really got us thinking. After all, who doesn't love butter? And since we also happen to love complicated recipes, who better to expand on a simple process than Chef Daniel Patterson of Coi restaurant.
In an article he wrote for the New York Times in 2007, Patterson admits, "[making butter] is one of the easiest, most low-tech cooking processes ever invented. Beat cream until it curdles, expel liquid and presto: butter." In his Coi cookbook, he clarifies the sentiment. "More than the butter itself, there's something else that is important about the process, a feeling that is hard to explain, that has to do with mastery of a craft, and something more".
So if you're ready to master the craft of homemade butter—have at it with this (non-traditionally written) recipe from Patterson's Coi cookbook:
Acquire starter culture or active, cultured buttermilk. Two nights before you make the butter, stir 50g of culture into each liter of cream, cover, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. The next day, refrigerate the cultured cream at least a day, and up to 5 days. (It depends on the culture–if you make it often you'll get to know how long it takes for the flavor to develop. It should be pleasantly sour, but not cheesy.)
When the cream is ready, remove it from the refrigerator and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Tightly cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap (trust me) and start the mixer on medium speed. The cream will go through the whipped stage, thicken further and then change color from off-white to pale yellow; this will take at least 15 minutes. When it starts to look pebbly, it's almost done. After another minute the butter will separate, causing the liquid to splash violently against the plastic wrap (aren't you glad it's there?). At this point stop the mixer.
Set a strainer over the bowl. Pour the contents of the mixer into the strainer and let the buttermilk drain through. Strain the buttermilk again, this time through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl; set aside for other purposes. You can hold it for up to a week, and use it to culture more butter, or for making crème fraîche. Once you get into a cycle, you'll always have some cultured cream to work with. If you're not using it right away, freeze it. The culture will die, but it will remain tasty for cooking purposes.
Put the butter back into the mixer, and use a paddle, on very slow speed, to force out more buttermilk. Drain. Repeat. We've learned that good butter-making is about controlling temperature. We use a machine to force out much of the buttermilk and aggregate the fats, because hands will warm up the butter. The less you touch it, the better. (You're wearing gloves by the way right?) Transfer the butter to a sheet tray and form it into a rough block. Dunk it in ice water, to wash the buttermilk off the outside, and cool it down. Wrap the butter in cheesecloth and use it to press the rest of the buttermilk out. The texture should be dense and creamy, with an almost waxy look. Fold in sel gris or another coarse salt. At this point we wrap the butter in cheesecloth, put it in a shallow-lipped container, and vacuum it once on high. If there is still a little buttermilk it will come out around the edges, and we blot it with paper towels. Typically, though, it's completely dry, which is what we want. Buttermilk left in the butter is what causes off-flavors during the secondary aging process.
Pack the butter into a clean container and set in a cool, dark place (we use our wine room), for a few days, or until the taste has fully developed. Wrap and refrigerate.
Reprinted with permission from Coi: Stories and Recipes by Daniel Patterson (Phaidon), copyright © 2013.