My brother called me the other day to tell me about another baking fail to add to the family lore. Actually, I called him to tell him about my Ostakaka blog post but it sounds better if he called me. Anyhoo, as we laughed over past Ostakaka disasters, he confessed to his latest fail. He had made Spritz (to you non-Scandanavians, it’s the most awesome butter cookie imaginable and should be in everyone’s arsenal of holiday cookies). While making it, he couldn’t understand why the texture was off and the dough felt almost oily on his hands. The finished product fared no better. It even tasted a little chemically.
In the words of SNL Coffee Talk’s host, Linda Richman, spritz should have tasted “like buttah.” Except it won’t, if you use the wrong butter. Yes, there are wrong butters. Butter is butter is butter except when it comes to baking. Then, butter can make all the difference between success and failure. I have been remiss in imparting my vast “butter knowledge” to others prior to this. Here’s a little course in Butter 101 just in time for the holidays.
I came upon my “butter knowledge” the old fashioned way–trial and error. I make a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my house and I mean A LOT!!! Especially during football season. You know how people have superstitions about watching sports events (wearing the same pair of socks, watching it in the same chair, or any of the great ones from Silver Linings Playbook). In my house, we have a cookie requirement. We have to pay homage to the cookie gods to ensure a “win.” If I fail to do this, it’s on my shoulders if they lose. BTW: I’m doing cookie penance this week because I didn’t make cookies AND the Patriots lost to Miami.
During my countless cookie baking sessions, I noticed the cookies sometimes turned out greasy and spread a lot when baking. I said to myself “huh? I wonder why?” and that was the end of that. Until eventually, I put two and two together (yeah, I’m fast that way) and discovered that when I baked with Land O Lakes butter, they came out perfect every time. I subsequently found out that Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen (two shows that I’m addicted to and recommend highly!) rank Land O Lakes butter their top supermarket brand and it came in second overall to some European-style butter with an unpronounceable name.
You may be pooh poohing me at this point and you would be in good company, my husband calls my theory nonsense but I pooh pooh him because he lacks baking standards and will eat anything.
If you still think you should go out and buy the cheapest brand because you think it doesn’t matter, RESIST THE TEMPTATION. Baking is the finickiest of all cooking methods. Ever watch those chefs on Top Chef wilt under the pressure when they have to make a dessert? I rest my case.
But don’t take my word for it, I refer to you this fancy dancy chart (which someone who cares about these things took the time to compile) and it shows that the ratio of fat to moisture to milkfat solids can vary WILDLY from brand to brand. Ergo, wildly varying components = wildly varying results. Believe me and those one or two smart other people at America’s Test Kitchen – Land O’ Lakes is the way to go.
Note: If I had been compensated for this blog post, which I was not, not even an itty bitty bit, I would have blown it all on Mega Millions tickets for tonight’s jackpot. So maybe it’s a good thing this blog makes no money.