This past January one of the sessions I ran was “In the Kitchen Time Savers”, and I had a slide about compound butters. Interestingly enough, most of the questions I got at the tail end of the session were asking about the butters, I had innkeepers tracking me down after the session to ask about them and innkeepers are still emailing me, the one this morning actually is the one that prompted me to write this up.
What I have been asked about primarily is some suggestions and any tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years. So here goes……
Realistically almost anything can be made into a compound butter, aside from the usual types, you can add finely chopped smoked bacon or diced smoked salmon, lobster butter is also quite lovely, especially on top of a nice omelet or poached egg, also quite good on savory waffles as well. Smoked salmon and dill butter on a sweet potato pancake or waffle is a tasty combination. Method, soften the butter, throw into a mixer, whip, add ingredients, roll into logs, refrigerate and serve.
Using a hot knife to cut the logs is suggested (running under hot water or having a bain marie filled with hot water if you are going to cut a bunch makes it much easier to cut) be sure to wipe the blade down to remove any water first. There are cheese and butter cutters with waffle cuts that can make some fun patterns as well when cutting.
The sky and your imagination are all that hold you back. The one rule of thumb is if something tastes good with butter on it (the exception being a steak, I have tried making a compound butter with it, and it’s “interesting”) it’s generally going to taste good as a compound butter mix.
When in doubt, try micro batches. I prefer using my KitchenAid Mixer to make compounds, but if experimenting, I would use a regular small bowl and spatula to test and just do a tablespoon at a time.
Use unsalted butter to start, add Kosher Salt to taste, I prefer Diamond brand Kosher salt as other Koshers tend to be saltier and textured differently. Even with fruit butter, a pinch of salt brings the flavors out. Using iodized salt in compound butter is just gross, sorry, but it is.
While you can use plastic wrap to make the butter logs, I prefer parchment paper as it makes a more even roll, wrap well in plastic wrap after to ward off refrigerator or freezer odors.
You can set the compound butter in a large square or oval dish and use a butter curler to make individual curls as well, just be sure that any compound butters you are using with a butter curler are smooth, chunky butters like nut or chopped fruit will not curl well. I have also cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, like hearts and stars and reused the leftover butter bits for something else.
Compound butters can be cut from the log and served on a plate as an accompaniment, put in small ramekins to serve or placed directly on your entree or side, they are so versatile and I always found it fun to watch a guest in a dining room ohh and ahh over a lovely roasted pepper compound butter strategically placed on top of their stuffed sole melting slowly down over it. Where oh where was Instagram 20+ years ago?
Toasting any spices in a cast iron past before use (cool down before adding to the butter mix) brings out most flavors.
Fresh Herbs are always the way to go when making compound butters, dried herbs, even if rehydrated, never have the same flavor and the color is not a poppy as well.
I also recommend using fresh garlic and ginger, while powdered does work as well, you will get a better flavor from using fresh ingredients. If you are using a recipe, even one you have developed, taste the garlic or ginger first before adding, I suggest this about most herbs as well. One head of garlic can have a hugely different flavor from another head, that one tablespoon of chopped garlic per one pound of butter may be perfect one time, but overwhelm or underwhelm the next.
If using alcohol or liquors for the compound butters, burning off the alcohol in advance is best, let cool before adding to the mix.
If putting citrus in butters, don’t just use the juice, cut out the supremes (the segments) and chop up and use as well. Tip; using canned mandarin oranges (drain well first) makes excellent citrus butters.
For using other fruits and nuts in butter, puree or finely chop in a food processor before adding them to the whipped butter.
I try to keep most compound butters less then a week, the shelf life will vary depending on the ingredients, if you are making large batches, I’d suggest freezing them (very well wrapped to negate odors) for less than two months. Optimally a month is best. I have kept compound butters In the freezer longer with no ill effects, but again it depends on the ingredients used.
Making homemade butter is always a treat to use as a compound. Because compound butters usually don’t keep for long, the normal shelf life of homemade butter (2-3 weeks) generally doesn’t come into play. I personally love Kate’s Homemade Butter, which I think is one of the best butters out there, I prefer it above even Plugra. Please use a good butter, even if a little more expensive, the flavor makes a difference and guests notice, good ingredients are so important. It’s like cooking with cheap wine, your sauce will taste a million times better if you buy that $13.00 bottle of 19 Crimes Red Blend and use half and drink half vs the $6 cooking wine. It doesn’t have to break the bank just up the game a little.
Keep in mind when making compounds you want to think of the end results and what you intend to do with them, are they to compliment a dish you make frequently? Is it to go on every table daily to accompany muffins that may change flavor daily or scones? Experimenting is fun, but think about when you batch compound butters, is this something you are going to end up with a lot extra of, and even if frozen will it languish in the freezer until you have to throw it out to make room for something else?
These are some of my favorites I’ve made over the years:
• Dried Blueberry and Lavender Butter
• Honey Grand Marnier Butter (also good with Toasted Walnuts or Pecans)
• Toasted Pecan and Maple Butter
• Orange Honey Butter
• Ginger and Grapefruit Butter
• Chocolate and Black Pepper Butter
• Dark Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Butter
• Blackberry and Sage Butter
• Mango and Ginger Butter (Mango puree works the best for this).
• Dried Cherry and Bourbon Butter
• Strawberry and Toasted Walnut Butter
• Raspberry and Chocolate Mint Butter
• Banana and Cumin Butter (with a touch of honey)
• Cinnamon Maple Butter
• Blueberry and Cardamom Butter
Sweet or Savory
• Reduced Balsamic Butter (or you can cheat and use something like Blaze’s Reduced Balsamic)
• Chocolate Balsamic Butter
• Mexican Chocolate and Chili Butter
• Honey Sriracha Butter
• Red Wine or Port Butter (always reduce the wine or port to a ¼ of its original for the best flavor, I like using Port better as it has a somewhat sweeter final taste, also yummy with some dark cocoa power dashed in)
• Blood Orange and Ginger Butter
• Macha Tea and Ginger Butter
• Roasted Apricot and Thyme Butter
• Pink Peppercorn and Grapefruit Butter
• Roasted (or Grilled) Pear and Agave Butter (Puree the pears in advance or chop very finely)
• Blueberry and Thyme Butter
• Roasted Peach and Mint Butter
• Poppyseed and Lemon Butter
• Fig and Honey Butter
• Garlic and (any herb) Butter
• Lime and Cilantro Butter
• Honey Mustard and Dill Butter
• Roasted Cerignola Olive and Rosemary Butter
• Chipotle and Smoked Paprika Butter
• Jalapeno, Lime and Cilantro butter
• Lemon and Dill Butter
• Chive and Whole Grain Mustard Butter
• Caramelized Onion or Shallot Butter with Cracked Peppercorns (Peppercorn Melange/Mixed Peppercorns are good in this)
• Gooseberry and Ponzu Butter
• Grilled Eggplant and Basil Butter
• Caper and Tarragon Butter
• Roasted Pepper Butter (Red bells will give you a different flavor and color then yellows and oranges)
• Soy Sauce and Lime Butter (I like Citrus Ponzu, Lime and Ginger Butter as well)
• Smoked Tomato and Garlic Butter
• Roasted garlic (and any herb) Butter
• Black Garlic and Rosemary Butter
• Toasted Sesame and Lime Butter
• Kalamata and garlic butter (I like roasting the olives first as it gives an additional dimension to the flavor.
I could go on as there are hundreds, nay thousands of combinations out there, use your imagination and have fun!