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European style butter vs. regular every day U.S.butter

  • k

Sorry if it's a stupid question, but I've never had it, and there are quite a few postings that mention it (from Trader Joes of course)So I would like to give it a try. My question is what exactly is the difference? Is it salted /unsalted? Is it whipped? Would I measure out the same amount as regular butter for a recipe?

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  1. European butter (EB) may have more fat, less water. Compare the calories in your favorite US butter (USB) vs. a European Butter. Since I think butter is fat, if European butter has more fat, the EB calories should be higher than USB.

    Some people can tell the difference in taste, mouth feel, and baked goods.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      in addition to the taste (and some really do taste much better)- higher fat content really makes a difference in some recipes. For bakers, especially in the doughs and crusts and cookies, a higher fat content butter makes things flakier. even higher fat content than most European Style butters sold in supermarkets, check out Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. Theirs has an 86% fat content and its very flavorful. You can find it in Whole Foods.

      use european style butters when you want the butter to shine like in baking, or spread on bread, or for dipping radishes, or in baked potatos . . .

      1. re: Tamar G

        I use unsalted Plugra, which has a higher fat content, but is not cultured, for baking. I do not use it for everything, but I find it really makes a difference in laminated doughs such as puff paste, and in buttercream (the kind where you beat a sugar syrup into eggs and then beat in the butter, not the butter/confectioner's sugar kind). The difference is not noticable so much in the taste as in the way the tbings I make with it set up. For instance it takes less Plugra for my buttercream to set up than with regular butter.

        When Whole Foods opened their store in the Time Warner Center in NYC they sent me a $10 coupon, and I used it to treat myself to things I wouldn't normally buy. I got Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's European style butter, which was higher fat and cultured. They only had it in lightly salted. I only used it on bread, it was delicious. If I were going to bake with it, I think I would use it only for something where the taste of the butter would really stand out, like plain butter cookies.

        1. re: ruth arcone

          for sauteeing european butter has a higher burn temperature than us butter

          1. re: byrd

            Do you have any data or source on this? I have noticed this to be true empirically (for example, when making a roux), but never knew why. Though I imagine it has to do with the higher fat content.

              1. re: byrd

                Just to put a spanner in the works, ever tried Anchor (from New Zealand) ?

                Personally we like olive oil on our toast..
                Lindsay
                www.maisondetreholidays.com

                1. re: Lindsay

                  Ah, Anchor butter - growing up in Bermuda it was the only butter available - unless you made your own ;)

                  1. re: Athena

                    Nice and salty - my dad's favourite! No wonder he's got high blood pressure...!

                    They're on Lurpak now...not half so good...!
                    Lindsay
                    www.maisondetreholidays.com

              2. re: butterfly
                j
                jennyantepenultimate

                It could be because the more fat there is in the butter, the less milk solids there is volumewise. The milk solids are the part that burn or turn brown when making "brown butter." Ghee, or clarified butter, has a pretty high burn temperature since all of the milk solids are removed, leaving only the milkfat.

          2. re: Tamar G

            I use unsalted Plugra, which has a higher fat content, but is not cultured, for baking. I do not use it for everything, but I find it really makes a difference in laminated doughs such as puff paste, and in buttercream (the kind where you beat a sugar syrup into eggs and then beat in the butter, not the butter/confectioner's sugar kind). The difference is not noticable so much in the taste as in the way the tbings I make with it set up. For instance it takes less Plugra for my buttercream to set up than with regular butter.

            When Whole Foods opened their store in the Time Warner Center in NYC they sent me a $10 coupon, and I used it to treat myself to things I wouldn't normally buy. I got Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's European style butter, which was higher fat and cultured. They only had it in lightly salted. I only used it on bread, it was delicious. If I were going to bake with it, I think I would use it only for something where the taste of the butter would really stand out, like plain butter cookies.

        2. Well, in general, "European" butter includes many areas and companies (just as in America) and each product differs, salted or unsalted. For instance, the Trader Joe's Irish butter (Plugra) is super, super creamy and you can really see and feel the difference in it's texture if you taste test it with some "U.S." brands you might have - like the TJ brand butter.

          Some people taste butter to such a degree that they even care what region the cows come from so they know what they are eating. A "famous" butter in France is really good because the feeding fields are near the sea and the grass has a salty flavor that then is apparent in the product.

          Link below has much info.

          Link: http://www.iceculinary.com/news/artic...

          8 Replies
          1. re: kc girl

            Actually, Plugra is not an Irish butter - it is American-made by the Keller Creamery (the same people who brought us Borden's).

            The Irish stuff you're thinking of may be Kerrygold. I happen to prefer Kerrygold salted to Plugra salted for toast, etc. It's a lower butterfat content (80% vs. Plugras 82%), but I think it has much more flavor.

            Plugra 1-lb blocks of unsalted butter are a staple in our fridge.

            1. re: Fatemeh

              You're absolutely right! Thanks.

              1. re: Fatemeh

                While Plugra is now being made at Keller's Creamery in Texas it started out being made in upstate NY by the folks that now make Crèmdoré. Back then, (1980's) it was a superior butter - made for the French chefs in NY that were looking for the quality and higher butterfat they were used to. Plugra today is certainly European style (complete with higher butterfat) but I don't think it's as creamy or tasty as others. Crèmdoré is now sold mainly to restaurants in NY.

                I think that anybody can taste the difference in butters. We may be only talking about 2% fat difference, but there's more to it. You can taste the difference in styles and particular brands or regions. Now - whether or not you consider this difference worth the cost, is of course, entirely subjective.

                After living in Germany for 3 years, we found that we couldn't go back to American butters - at least, not for the tabletop. Even when cooking, I find sauteing and sauceing to require great butters - but we're not as picky with baking. We use either Vermont Butter & Cheese Company, or Lurpak (Danish) - both are available at WF.

                This is very subjective - regardless of international medals, usage by top chefs, etc., you can't tell someone that a particular brand or style is better if they grew up with something else and they simply prefer its flavor - although it could be argued that a particular cuisine is more "authentic" with a certain style of butter. I recommend to the OP that he just buys some and tries it. Slather some on your favorite bread and taste - especially side by side with your standard American butter or (heaven forbid) oleo.

                1. re: applehome

                  Oh, yes... I forgot about Lurpak. I really like that as well!

                  Cook's Illustrated this month actually did a butter tasting which put Land O Lakes premium, 82% butterfat product at the top of the list. Weird.

              2. re: kc girl

                While there are many kinds of butter in/from Europe, "European style" butter means butter with a higher fat (lower water) content. American butter is 80 percent fat (I believe that's the legal standard), butters like Plugra and other "European" butters are about 82 percent fat.

                It doesn't have anything to do with whether or not it's salted (although European butters are more often unsalted). And definitely not whipped!

                I picked up some of my favorite "European" butter at Whole Foods this week: a Czech butter called Jana Valley. Better than Plugra and about the same price ($2.19 for 8.8 ounces/250 grams).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  "American butter is 80 percent fat,.... "European" butters are about 82 percent fat."

                  Yup, that is what I remember.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Thanks for the info. Just to add another dimension: European style butter can also be made in the US by a number of creameries. Bought some the other day from "Challenge" creamery based in Humboldt Co., CA. Def. noticed the deeper butter flavor and luxurious mouthfeel compared to regular stuff, but can't compare it to those made outside of US since have never tried any.

                  2. re: kc girl

                    It is absolutely true that butters from different regions in Europe have very different flavors and characteristics.

                    Cows raised in a very wet seaside environment (like Asturias in Spain, for example) almost exclusively eat freshly cut green hay. This imparts a distict flavor and also ensures more naturally nutrient-rich product (particularly Vitamin A and D).

                  3. European style butters are also lightly cultured (like yogurt or buttermilk) to give them a little bit of acidic tang.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chococat

                      Many European butters are cultured, but by no means all. It's not a definitive characteristic of European butter.

                      Darn good, though! Vermont Cheese Co.'s cultured butter is fabulous. For a while one of my local stores was carrying the one-pound bricks for about $5 and it was my favorite small luxury.

                      Although Americans often use the term "sweet butter" to mean unsalted, it more correctly is applied to uncultured butter -- you can have salted "sweet cream" butter.

                      Link: http://edelman2.vwh.net/faq/

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        c
                        Caitlin McGrath

                        Indeed, the labels on Land O'Lakes boxes says "sweet cream" for both salted and unsalted varieties.

                        You mentioned Jana Valley upthread...I can't believe Whole Foods sells it for the price they do, considering how much they charge for Plugra (I know what a deal it is at TJ's, but I don't have acces to TJ's), but I'm glad they do!

                    2. A few pounds of Plugra are always in our fridge. Aside from the superior tatse of "European style" butter, I find it is far better for sauteeing, as the higher fat/lower water content allows it to be heated to a higher temperature without spattering or burning.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Lucullus

                        I am confused! what's your butter made of? Ours is made of churned milk with some salt added (sometimes but not always). I thought that was it for butter? No? There are other ways of making it?

                        Apparently top chefs use french butter and british cream - apparently they're the best...

                        Looking forward to learning something new...

                        Lindsay
                        www.maisondetreholidays.com

                        1. re: Lindsay

                          Butter is made from cream, but cream has many different constituents (milk fats, milk solids and water), and the ratio of those constituents in the finished butter makes for differences in the product. Additionally, as other people have mentioned, butter can be made from cream that has been cultured, which gives it a different flavor.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            I was just surprised to see the post - you would never see a post like that in Europe (or the one about cream later on) as butter and cream (unless it is UHT) are unadulterated natural products here - with only salt added to the butter. We are starting to see spreadable butter sometimes, but that is the only vaiation. Apart from that the differences are a function of what the cows have been eating. And you wouldn't be allowed to call it butter here if it had anything else added or taken away.

                            I remember being horrified on my first flight to the US to be presented with butter substitute and milk substitute and sugar substitute rather than the real things. Surely these chemical versions have got to be bad for you - why do they make them when there is plenty of the real thing around?

                            Lindsay
                            www.maisondetreholidays.com

                            1. re: Lindsay

                              > Apart from that the differences are a function of what the cows have been eating.

                              There are some other factors, as well--the breed of cow and the climate. Both, along with the diet, can have an effect on the flavor and content of milk.

                              1. re: Lindsay

                                "why do they make them when there is plenty of the real thing around?"

                                Lobbying of the chemical industries and the American phobia of real food. A lot of my relatives swear by margarine.

                                Unlike Europeans, many American's believe Armagedon is right around the corner, so they're use to stockpiling non-perishables for their bunkers. (just kidding!)

                                1. re: Kevin in SF

                                  Which corner is it likely to be around...:-)
                                  Lindsay
                                  www.maisondetreholidays.com

                                2. re: Lindsay

                                  I'm not sure you understood me. Butter is a natural, unadulterated product here, too.

                                  Have you ever made butter? When cream is churned, the fats and most of the milk solids separate from the liquid -- which is mostly water with a few milk components still dissolved into it. The solids are then pressed or packed to squeeze out any water still mixed in with the solids. The amount of water that's squeezed out, and the ratio of milk fat to milk solids in the remaining butter, can vary depending on how the butter is manufactured and the cream that it's manufactured from. The fact that some butter has more water doesn't mean it's adulterated, it just means it hasn't had as much water removed.

                          2. I'm reviving this thread because there's still an amazing amount of disinformation around online about the difference, if any, between the butters. An article on about.com claims that butter needs to be cultured to be European-style. (It doesn't.) Some slick LA author of a blog on home baking actually wrote a couple of years ago that using European-style butter would create problems w/ piecrusts and make them LESS flaky. See "Baking Bites".

                            The reality is that European butter differs from standard U.S. butter only in that more of the water was squeezed out of it during production (leaving a higher % of butterfat) so that it will work more predictably in recipes, especially for baked goods. Some European butters are cultured, but that is a separate category, and most aren't.

                            The extra water content of typical American-style butter adversely affects the texture of many baked goods. For instance, the same recipe for crispy oatmeal cookies made w/ U.S. standard butter may come out chewy while if it is made w/ either shortening or European-style butter the cookies come out crispy. The flakiness of piecrusts is due to the fat separating small sheets of dough, instead of their being glued together by water, so a crust made w/ European-style butter will be MORE flaky, not less. These sorts of differences occur whether or not you have a sensitive palate, so you don't have to be some sort of super-gourmet to need this butter for some purposes. Even some recipes for high butter sauces will work more consistently w/ the less diluted butter, though I'd be sure to use sweet cream, uncultured butter for those.

                            And don't get me started on when you need ghee (clarified butter)...