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Dec 14, 2008 05:30 PM

Euro Butter for Baking vs Land O'Lakes

In the past year, I've switched to European-style butter (President, Plugra, KerryGold and Silver etc.) for eating. But today I tried to bake Christmas cookies with it and they turned out to be a disaster. The dough was too dry and they burned quickly. Should I go back to Land O'Lakes for baking, or is there a way I can compensate with the Eurobutters? In a cooking class, I was taught that grocery store butters have a high water content while the European versions have much less, and that's why they taste better for dining. But I wonder if our recipes are calibrated to include that water content, so when I removed it, I got my sad result.

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  1. brenda, as I understand it--and, please, correct me if I'm wrong, based on what you learned in class--the reason Europeans butters have less water content is because they have a higher *fat* content. I use LO'L, President and Kerry, depending on what's available. I don't do anything to modify a recipe when I bake with Kerry or President, and I get good results (very tender).

    I realize it's a personal thing, but President's taste (that Normandy dairy almost yogurty thing going on) is the best, IMO. I can't always get President but when I see it, I stock up. I hesitate to suggest you try it again *without* adjusting the recipe, simply because butter is so expensive, but...I honestly don't find it necessary to revise my recipes for either President or Kerry. (I don''t like the taste of Plugra, so I never baked with it.)

    10 Replies
    1. re: Steady Habits

      Thanks, Steady. This is the first year I've baked with Euro butter and it's so dense that I decided to use less. Maybe that was my mistake.

      1. re: brendastarlet

        YW. It's such a disappointment (not to mention, inconvenient) when something doesn't turn out. I've been there; that's for sure. I'll be interested to know if you bake again with the Euro butters without adjusting things if you have a different experience. The texture may be a little different, but if so, I simply think it's more short (which I like).

        1. re: Steady Habits

          article in today's NY Times that addresses the role of butter in baking cookies...

          one of the issues discussed is the differences [or lack thereof] when baking with European vs. American of the experts [the head of Pillsbury's test kitchen] claims it shouldn't have much of an effect beyond “maybe a slightly richer flavor and more tender crumb.”

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            TY for the link, ghg. I'm conducting a little experiment this Christmas season, in my cookie baking. For several recipes, I'm making one batch of dough with LO'L and one batch with Euro butter. (Probably Kerry, since President is harder for me to get.) I'm going to be as careful as I can about getting equivalent amounts of liquid and dry ingredients in the two batches, and then see if we notice any difference. As I said, I've never noticed any difficulties with either formula, but this is the one time of the year I bake enough cookies to be able to test this.

            1. re: Steady Habits

              definitely post back when you're done. i'm sure i'm not the only one who would be interested to hear how you fared.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I will. I put some batches in the freezer yesterday, and made sure to label them. I don't expect to bake them up until 2 or 3 days before Christmas, but, FWIW, I'll be sure to post observations.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  When using Plugra, I get more spread than I'd like. I attributed it to the extra fat. I made Alton Brown's puffy chocolate chip cookies which uses cake flour and shortening and loved the texture, slightly flakey. But, I did not like the taste at all. I need that butter.

                  I might give Plugra a try w/ the cake flour and see if they counteract each other. FWIW, the baking tray matters, too. My good WS stainless steel pans heat faster and the cookies spread more on that than my cheap kitchenaid nonstick ones. When I bake the same batch of dough on both, they look like two different cookies.

                  1. re: chowser

                    chowser, is there a color difference between your WS & KA trays? i've found that using dark, non-stick baking sheets can wreak havoc on the consistency & doneness, regardless of the fat used. the darker the sheet, the quicker the cookies will spread & the bottoms will brown.

                    i've switched to lighter sheets lined with parchment, and now it's not a problem.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      It is darker, like a nonstick tray. I use silpat mats and/or parchment (I only have 4 silpat mats so switch to parchment when they're dirty and I don't have time to wash them). The spread difference is amazing, actually. And, I prefer the cheaper nonstick one because it's a puffier cookie. I had been in a flat chewy cookie phase but am looking for puffier, flakier ones now. I've experimented and even refrigerating the dough for half an hour on the stainless, I get flatter cookies than warmer dough on the nonstick. Intuitively the dark would spread more so I don't know why mine don't. Both sheets make good cookies but different.

              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                That NY Times article is a neat read! Very helpful.

                I came across an article on that espouses a different view. They claim that different butters can cause really different results when baking, and the brands good for eating plain aren't necessarily the ones that are best for baking:

                Of course, they were baking shortbread, which is nothing but flour, butter, and sugar, so any differences are likely heightened.

                Personally, I use whatever butter is on sale that week, but maybe once I try the European butters, I'll become enlightened. The price is a bit prohibitive though... even 'grocery' butter is expensive up here in Canada at more than $4/lb.

        2. There are some good tips on baking with butter in today's Style section of the NYTimes.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Joebob

            i posted a link the article in my above reply this morning.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Thanks ghg. Please educate m as to how you did that.

              1. re: Joebob

                I finally tried Plugra and was quite underwhelmed.

                Store brand unsalted is fine with me.

                1. re: Joebob

                  i opened the NY Times article in another browser window, copied the link, and pasted it into my reply - it's in my first response higher on this page (fourth one down from the original query).

            2. My father's favorite dessert, as, by now, you've all heard is Laurie's Pear Tart. My father was the kind of non-hound who would scoff at things like "gourmet coffee" (from places like Dunkin' Donuts) and all those other ingredients we obsess about...("I had one of those chocolate truffles; can you tell me why they cost a few hundred dollars a piece?")

              Anyway, I made his favorite tart with cultured butter from Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. (I think it's about 87% butterfat). I didn't even give it a thought, because I didn't think it would be evident in the final product. So, we're sitting there eating, and all of a sudden, my father stops chewing, looks at me, and says "I don't know what you did this time, but it's never tasted like this before". I rest my case. If my father could taste it, ANYONE can.

              BTW, I now use it for all baking, and I don't change volume in any way. I've heard that commercial bakers do, when they do croissant, and such, but it's more connected to doing things by weight, I think....

              3 Replies
              1. re: galleygirl

                Good story, galleygirl; but did your father like the tarted-up tart better or not as much as usual?

                1. re: Bat Guano

                  Oh no, he was amazed at how good it was!
                  And, to really lay it on thick, that was the last Pear Tart he had.....

                  1. re: Bat Guano

                    since she said she uses it for all her baking now, my guess is that his response was a positive one.

                2. the SF Chron did baking and plain tasting comparison of the European and American butters. I thought it was a good comparison.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nerdigrrl

                    I notice the difference in moisture content between European-style and North American-style ones in doughs that have relatively little water in them, e.g. pie dough. I generally use President's Choice Normandy Style here in Canada, but I substituted a more watery one a month or two ago without adjusting the amount of water added and boy, what a hassle! It totally fell apart and I had to chuck it out.

                    Organic Valley is another Canadian brand that is low in moisture content and high in flavour, though it is pretty pricey.