I am a butter enthusiast. In more specific terms I am a salted butter enthusiast. I believe it to be one of the key building blocks of good food and good baking. It is butter that puts toast on its pedestal and butter that makes a hollandaise silken. It is real butter that I cook pancakes with, one sizzling knob at a time. It leaves cakes golden and biscuits crisp, it creates the flake in good pastry. It is the first of all baking steps. I like to cut it into cubes and feel it cool between my floury fingers. At room temperature it whips stiffly with sugar and, when warm, it separates and drizzles, deep and golden. Such a simple ingredient is one of the four pinnacle ingredients of baking. It is the reliable formula of these four ingredients that gives me so much comfort, making baking an accessible science in a seemingly complicated world.
I have a particular penchant for fancy butter. The type that often comes shaped in a log, hand rolled and wrapped in wax paper. The type of butter that has the name of the dairy farm on the label, preferably the cow that produced it. I don’t buy this stuff for baking purposes, the fancy waxed paper comes at a price, I buy this primarily for toast purposes when butter is promoted from ‘ingredient’ to ‘main event’. I like this type of butter rippled with sea salt flakes. For all other purposes I use standard, slightly salted blocks.
Most cake and biscuit recipes will tell you to use unsalted butter. A few weeks ago I was discussing Fika with a Finnish woman who had been raised in Sweden. I tentatively told her that I bake with slightly salted butter and that I believe that the things I make taste better for it, she furiously agreed with me (she also told me that using melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder was the key to the best Kladdkaka…..). It seems a very personal issue and I do not, in any way, dictate the preferences of others. I do know that I have a taste for salt and sweet, believing one to bring out the intensity of the other.
Today is a long day at the end of a difficult week and all efforts to embrace the glow of health have been postponed. By mid-morning big, chewy, warm cookies were the only thing I could think about. I wanted to break one in half whilst it’s centre was soft and the edges had crisped to peer at the molten chocolate inside. I wanted to eat three in quick succession, the warm sugar still caramel and cleanse each sticky bite with cold milk. On this occasion I baked with the ‘fancy’, french butter, the type chock with huge salt flakes. The salt sits against the milk chocolate, tempering the sweetness and leaving both cravings satiated. If you’re an avid unsalted-butter-believer then just a manual sprinkle of sea salt would suffice, yet (and this may simply be my own romantic notions) I feel as though it makes all the difference when the salt comes wrapped within the folds of golden fat.
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 9 approx)
60g fancy salted butter (room temperature)
80g brown/natural cane sugar
1 small egg (beaten)
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain white flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
50g milk chocolate chips/chunks
- Preheat oven to 190c (170c Fan) and line a baking sheet
- Combine flour and baking powder
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl
- Add the egg and vanilla and mix to a wet batter
- Add wet ingredients to dry. You should have a fairy wet but firm mixture that will stay upright when dolloped.
- Use a tablespoon measure to dollop the batter evenly on the baking sheet. Be aware that they will spread in the oven.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then use a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack. The cookies will still be slightly soft.