That's right, Art in the Vines is over (for now, but, stay tuned); the opening at For Art'sake was held this last weekend (It was wonderful and the show will be hanging for at least a month); and finally, I am officially moved into my new painting studio space in Paola. Whew! I have time to cook again! It is a good thing....I have had absolutely no butter in my refrigerator for at least 2 weeks, which I feel is surely against the law. I have not had time to read my favorite food blogs, much less try some of the recipes. So, I have decided, I'm going to spend more time in the kitchen, starting now.
Oh how I would love to believe that statement ....but I think it is slightly exaggerated!
Butter is a major part of my cooking and baking. If I am testing a recipe that calls for shortening, I think twice before I continue. If I absolutely must cook with shortening, I buy the smallest amount possible. I truly do not like the way it looks, smells or tastes. Butter, on the other hand, makes me happy.
I love making butter based sauces, my favorite being Beurre blanc, or white butter, the classic French white sauce that’s known for its richness and creaminess. Beginning with a wine and/or vinegar reduction, butter is whisked in until it has the consistency of heavy cream. As with all butter sauces, beurre blanc is fragile, and can easily break down when exposed to heat.
To make beurre blanc, combine 1 cup dry white wine (Somerset Ridge Chardonnay, of course), 1-1/2 oz. white wine vinegar, and 2 finely diced shallots in a saucepan. Reduce over medium high heat to a volume of 2 tablespoons. Cut 2 cups cold butter into small pieces. Set the pan over low heat and add butter a few pieces at a time, whisking continuously. Add more butter as previous addition is almost melted. Continue until all the butter is added. This is absolutely perfect on fish, turning it from ho-hum to yum-yum!
As for baking with butter, gosh, where do I begin. Most people bake chocolate chip cookies. Most use the recipe on the back of the bag of chips. Everyone loves them! But have you ever noticed some cookies are mounds and some are flat and spread out? That is because the mounded cookies are made with shortening (I am sure all that plastic keeps them that shape!); the flat cookies are made with butter. Mine flatten and spread, and melt in your mouth!
My favorite butter cookie is Shortbread. With such simple and few ingredients, butter is the shining star of this recipe. If you have never experienced true homemade shortbread, prepare for a religious experience!
Thank you, Martha!
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar
1.Spray a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, slowly add flour. Mix until well combined.
3.Evenly spread cookie dough into prepared tart pan. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
4.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle shortbread with sanding sugar. Using a 2-inch round fluted cookie cutter, make a shallow cut in the center of the dough. Using the tines of a fork, score dough from the edge of the circle in the center towards the edge of the pan into 12 equal wedges.
5.Transfer tart pan to oven and bake until light brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the shortbread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Immediately re-score circle and wedges with cookie cutter and the tines of a fork. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 1 hour. Remove shortbread from tart pan and let cool completely. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife along the scored lines.
Last but not least, here is a great berry butter. Raspberries and Blackberries are available now, but you can always use Strawberries.
Berry Bread Spread, a fresh fruit butter
1/4 cup berries
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
Place all ingredients in the bowl of the food processor. Process until well combined. Refrigerate the mixture in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to a month.
Wonderful on bread, scones, bagels, or my favorite....biscuits!
If I have turned you on to butter again....Good! I am not saying throw a half a stick on your baked potato, but do allow yourself to enjoy a pat of pale yellow goodness everyday! And we must not forget Corn on the Cob....oh! and Popcorn! I almost forgot fresh vegetables, you have to have butter on asparagus and peas! Mashed Potatoes, and French Toast! Pancakes, what good is a pancake without butter? Okay, see? You may need many pats of butter!