A simple thing like butter can make a huge difference to your dish. But the French have identified the perfect proportion of making it just that extra droolworthy. Here’s more!
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: September 19, 2023
Think of France and what comes to mind? Paris, fashion, food, cheese, wine, macarons, luxury goods, but butter? Turns out, French butter has a bigger slice of the pie—no pun intended—than we thought.
The next time you’re in France and taking a bite of a freshly baked croissant, you’ll be immediately aware of how good it tastes. In fact, anywhere that French butter is used throughout France, in cooking, sauces and pastries, French butter adds the extra dash of rich flavor. Industrially made butter has no place at the table in France, or the European Union (EU), we found out, and here’s why.
The French wouldn’t think of using butter that’s not on par with their taste buds, let alone locally produced from cows grazing on grass and meadows in France. The recently launched trade campaign “Taste Europe Butter of France”, supported by funds from the European Union (EU), actually touts French butter as “the secret that makes the difference.” When the invitation came for a butter tasting at the French Dairy Cheese Board in New York City, we said yes to a two-hour private masterclass to learn about about French butter. In fact, French butter and cheese tastings are some of the intriguing and informative classes this trade agency offers (bookable online), in addition to well stocked refrigerated display cases full of French butters and cheeses.
According to Charles Duque, US director of the NYC-based trade agency and onsite store, “French butter must have a minimum of 82% fat content, two percent higher than American butter. This small percentage difference has a major effect on flavor and texture in cooking and baking, releasing the full spectrum of flavors in a dish, adding texture and mouthfeel.” French butter also has a higher melting point, essential for those golden, crusty croissants. A 100% natural product made from cream, milk, and ferments, French butter contains Vitamins A and D.
Available raw or pasteurized, salted or unsalted, French butter is produced in specific regions and some butter is packaged with the label “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), much like wine made in EU countries. There are three PDO butters made in Charentes-Poitou, Isigny, and Bresse. French butter ranges in color from white and light yellow to deep sunshine yellow, a result of the season during which the cows are grazing. New grass in the springtime means more beta-carotene and cows convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, resulting in butter that is more sunshine yellow in color.
If you’ve moved on from the butter board trend, try rolling chilled slices of butter or butter “batons” into spices and herbs—even truffle salt—to create delicious, aromatic, spreadable accompaniments to spread on slices of baguette bread, meats, fish, vegetables, pasta. We made our own “herbed” butter batons during the class and then melted them over filet mignon slices and roasted carrots, all wonderfully paired with French Crémant sparkling wine.
For the ultimate butter taste, level up to French butter and your taste buds will notice the difference.
If you’re re-creating this at home, you can also spread French butter slices on lightly toasted baguette topped with caviar and others with Roquefort—oh la la—as the butter helps neutralize the acidity of the cheese and the salinity of caviar (yes, use Beluga!). But don’t stop there when you can add a chilled bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs and give your guests the chance to create their own butter and baguette bites.
And what is clarified butter or ghee? It’s butter in a purer fat form with its whey strained off and which can withstand higher temperatures for sautéing and traditional French sauces like Hollandaise and Béarnaise, which are part of the Mother Sauces recognized by gastronomes and chefs alike. Trust me, Indians swear by ghee!
Butter is universally accepted as a significant ingredient in cooking, baking, and enjoying on bread, pasta, and on top of seasonal vegetables like corn on the cob, artichokes, and green beans. Ninety five percent of French chefs swear their toques by butter. To achieve maximum flavor, look for 82% fat content. For the ultimate butter taste, level up to French butter and your taste buds will notice the difference. Online retailers offer some options here. Once you taste the difference using French butter in your cooking and baking, you may be the Francophile you’ve always dreamed of being!
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.