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best butter for baking that can be purchased in MSP

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Your opinions, please:
Which butter, in your estimation, produces the very best baked goods? I am thinking of baked goods such as shortbread where butter is the key player. And where, here in MSP, can I purchase your butter of choice?

Thanks, all.

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  1. Hope Creamery butter -- available at the Wedge, Mississippi Market and other co-ops; Whole Foods, Lunds and Kowalski's might also have it, although I'd call to ask.

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/disp...

    2 Replies
    1. re: mcgeary

      the high butterfat hope butter available through the heartland deli case (and elsewhere?) is the very best. i would use it for something extremely special, where cost is not an issue.

      regular hope unsalted is very good and it is what i use for traditional cookies and cakes. it's widely available but is usually cheaper (by like, a buck) at a co-op rather than a kowalski's/lund's/byerly's type store. i do not think plugra or lol are very good, and they are more apt to not be fresh. i like using local butters that haven't been frozen or stored too long, to me the difference in flavor is apparent and very important.

      1. re: soupkitten

        I love Hope Creamery butter, too. I didn't know there is high butterfat version - I just might buy some if I ever need a splurge. But for the things I make, the regular version is great.

    2. My opinions tend to differ from most, but even in butter-centric baked goods I rarely see a difference between butters. It tends to be everything else in the dish that seals the deal. I use standard salted sticks from Rainbow / Cub or just Land O Lakes for all of my baking. I also subscribe to the theory that it's not the instrument, it's the musician....and my grandmother always told me that people can taste whether something was made with love, versus the brand of ingredients used by the baker. It sounds corny but I stick with it. So to directly answer your question: generic butter will still produce the baked goods and you can purchase it anywhere. Feel free to purchase more expensive/fancy stuff if you feel that will make the difference in what you bake.

      2 Replies
      1. re: GutGrease

        I wouldn't use salted butter for baking -- most recipes assume unsalted, and it's important to control the quantity of salt precisely. In most baked goods, a little too much or too little makes a significant and detectable difference.

        Otherwise, I tend to agree that there is little meaningful difference between brands -- and Land o Lakes is overall a high-quality butter.

        1. re: Jordan

          I agree that: 1) in my experience, the brand of butter makes no noticeable difference to me when it comes to baking; 2) freshness matters much more (no off tastes picked up from spending a few weeks in the fridge, no oxidation); and 3) salt content of some baked goods is important, so use of unsalted butter may be very important, so I stick with unsalted for all baking (unless recipe otherwise instructs).

          In short, any fresh, unsalted butter available at your local chain supermarket is as good in baked goods as any fancy-pants that you'd pay double the price for, but for that high price you got to say you used locally sourced, small batch, hand churned, organic butter from cows that were hand-fed clover and massaged to sleep each night in a heated barn.

      2. A lot of the important taste & texture differences between artisanal butters disappear when they are used for baking. The Plugra, etc., lose their special qualities in the process. The butter just needs to be fresh.

        I believe that the Cooks Illustrated taste test settled on Land O Lakes, in part because the wrapper for the sticks -- a trade secret, if I recall -- preserved the freshness better than did the papers & foils used for other brands.

        1 Reply
        1. re: KTFoley

          Good to know, as LoL is always my first choice for baking, even if not for spreading.

        2. Thanks, all. Very interesting to see the differences of opinion on this issue (which butter to use for superlative baked goods). I may have to shell out some bucks for Hope then make some shortbread with Hope and some with Cub brand and conduct a taste test.

          As always, thank you for your gracious and generous responses. Happy baking!

          1 Reply
          1. re: soccermom13

            It would be very interesting to see the side-by-side comparisons, especially if fed blindly to taste testers that knew nothing of the "experiment". If you do this, please let us know the results!

          2. I think I am kind of a butter snob and love the local premium butters. My instinct has been though that unsalted Land o Lakes is equally good for baking.

            I'd love to know the results of a blind taste test with something that is based on butter, like shortbread, so let us know if you do that, soccermom, or anyone else.

            On a related note, I was thumbing through that Ruhlman 20 book recently and saw that he said he cooks with salted only, unless there's a specific reason not to. I think he didn't think it made that much difference. I've always used only the unsalted.

            One other thing -- I was tasting some of the Rochdale butter recently at the coop (and thought it was great). The person serving it said that all the butters you buy in the grocery store are frozen and then thawed to sell. But the Rochdale is made in small quantities and not frozen. She said that is part of the difference in quality. For what it's worth.

            3 Replies
            1. re: karykat

              i agree w the frozen vs unfrozen argument. hope is also shipped fresh and never frozen (small batch, not distributed nationally), which is (another) of the reasons i like to choose it. do you remember how much the rochdale was selling for, per pound?

              1. re: soupkitten

                No, I don't remember.

                Will keep a look out for it.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  FWIW, I always use frozen butter. It's so expensive now that I buy it only on sale, and toss it into the freezer. When I need it, I have it. I alays thaw it first, and it tastes every bit as good as unfrozen, IMHO.

              2. A note on salted vs. unsalted. Unsalted is fresher, as salt is a preservative. They have to move the unsalted faster.