Butter Wars – Europe vs. USA

Finally, a quick look at how European butter differs from butter in the U.S.

The main differences are fat content and culture.  As mentioned earlier, American butters contain roughly 80% – 82% fat.  European butters hover around 82% – 84%, sometimes higher.  For us bakers, more fat means less water in the pastry and lighter, flakier crust.  The lower fat American butters are fine for bread, cookies and cakes, baking that doesn’t produce delicate layers.  Pie crusts and flaky pastries come out better with higher fat European butter.  Why is it so difficult to find a proper croissant in the U.S. – it’s the butter.

European butters also differ in process.  Similar to the way yogurt is made, European butter is cultured with bacteria.  The result produces a slight tang and fuller butter flavor.  For chemistry geeks, that light sour comes from the addition of Lactococcus and Leuconostoc to pasteurized cream.  American butter production skips this part, so its cream remains “sweet,” not sour.  Those rectangular sticks Americans buy are sweet cream butter, meaning the cream was not cultured.  On French packaging doux means sweet, but in this case it means the butter is unsalted.

On taste – American butter is fine.  I like it on biscuits and pancakes.  Toast.  But I prefer cultured butter and would never eat American butter in the same butter to bread ratio that I do in France (mostly butter, little bread).  American butter has too low a flavor profile, and when placed next to cultured butters, it’s bland and unremarkable.  The flavor of a good cultured butter allows the butter to stand on its own.  It needs little else, not even salt.

Next battleground – Who makes the best butter in Europe?  France vs. Not France

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