Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Compound Butter Is Fancy and Easy

Compound butter—a.k.a. butter with stuff mixed into it—is stupid easy to make but impresses people greatly. And you can up the impressive quotient by molding it in a cookie cutter, as I am doing for my upcoming holiday party (see photo). This breakout butter star will be accompanied by homemade French bread. (My go-to recipe is from a fantastic 1960s-era cookbook called “The Cook Book [sic] of Breads.”)

The only things you really need to take into account when making fancy-shaped compound butter are time + temperature. Leave the butter out of the fridge long enough so it softens and hence is malleable enough to mash into the herbs/flavors of your choice (for the star pictured, I mixed in sea salt and herbs de Provence, which is a versatile blend of things like thyme and lavender and a bunch of other herbs that are ... um, from Provence ... I don’t know, Google it for God’s sake!), and then be patted and smoothed into a mold and left to set in the fridge.

Once removed from the fridge, the butter needs time to soften enough to be eased out of the mold—use the tip of a knife to gently nudge around the edges—but not so much time that it gets melty and loses its shape. What you don’t want is stuff left behind in the crannies of the mold. (This will cause you to curse repeatedly and wail “WHY CAN’T I HAVE NICE THINGS?!,” at least if you’re me.) So just remove it from the fridge about an hour before serving—not much longer, to ensure it keeps its shape.

Then decant it onto a pretty little plate, with a cute wee knife if one is available. If you do so, your guests will be very impressed by the impression that you can have, and even make, nice things.

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