Butter is made from one ingredient – cream. Yet there’s a big difference in the quality of butter on grocery store shelves.
Cream quality plays a large role. As you’d expect, fresh is best. At Royal Guernsey, our cows’ milk goes from the farm to cream separator to butter churn within 48 to 72 hours. And we churn in small batches using the old-fashioned technique of batch churning resulting in a thicker, richer butter.
There are more than 120 flavor compounds that allow butter to take on its own characteristics. But it’s the butterfat in cream that allows premium butter to be appreciated the same way as good artisan cheese. A higher butterfat content generally means a better butter.
Most American butter has a butterfat content of 80.1%. If the butterfat falls below 80%, the product must be called a spread instead of being labeled as butter. “European-style” butters sold in the United States have a minimum butterfat content of 82%.
This two percentage point difference might not seem like much, but it makes a big difference in quality, flavor and texture. The higher butterfat content of European-style butter has less moisture, allowing it to produce flakier pastries and fluffier cakes.
The flavor and quality of higher butterfat butter especially shines in baking. When there is less water in your baked good, there is less water interacting with flour. This means you are not getting gluten formation and that means lighter airier products.
European-style butter is versatile. It is great for finishing dishes from simple sides to pasta to soups. It stands out in recipes like butter-topped steak and garlic bread that showcase its flavor. We like to let the natural flavors of the cream shine.