Hi all you cooking and baking wizards! I would like to try a cookie recipe that calls for unsalted butter- can I use regular salted butter in its place? What advantages does unsalted butter have in baking? I notice most "classy cookbooks " use unsalted butter. Thanks for the help!
I have found that unsalted butter has a better flavor. Some commercial brands of salted butter taste very salty. When using unsalted butter you have more control over the finished product. I also read somewhere that unsalted butter is of a better quality as far as butter goes and the manufacturers started adding salt to cover up the inferior flavor of the butter they were making. I don't know if this is true. Maybe someone has more information on this subject.
[This message has been edited by Chef Cindy (edited 05-19-2001).]
Okay, salt was originally added to butter to lengthen its shelf life. If you taste the two, many people prefer the salted for spreading and eating straight up. Unsalted has been preferred in the business because pastry chef's want to control everything to the tiniest element in a formula.
But, in home recipes, there just isn't enough difference to REALLY matter. If you are salt sensitive, you may be able to pick up the differences. A stick of butter has 30mg of sodium, that's about 1/8 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of butter. Not a big difference if you are using it for baking. If you want, just hold back a little salt from the recipe if you use salted butter.
Oh, if you look at the wrappers, unsalted butter has a shorter shelf life, so be sure to check so it's fresh and store in the freezer. I've kept it past it's date without a problem, but I usually always freeze unsalted butter. Salted butter is usually stocked more heavily because they can purchase larger quantities and keep on hand longer. Another reason for unsalted is it's usually fresher.
As for salt masking an inferior product, I wouldn't go with that reason, if it's a Grade A or AA product, then it's passed the tests for the USDA, and if you buy Land O Lakes, well, they have HIGH standards for themselves and even higher than the USDA. In fact, when the USDA set up standards for butter, they used the ones already used by Land o Lakes. I've always been pleased with their products, but their new Ultra Creamy can't hold a CANDLE against the Keller's European style butter!
Also, I recently did my own "tests" with butter, I tasted several different butters from Wal-Mart brand to the highest priced Keller's European Style butter (a.k.a. Plugra to professionals). The Keller's was the hand down winner in straight bread/butter eating. Even the fancy Land o Lakes, ultra butter wasn't any better than it's regular butter. The Keller's smelled fresh. I mean when you think of "fresh" having a smell, Keller's European style butter was it. It was more pliable coming from the fridge, it spread evenly and beautifully and the taste was out of this world. Even though it's twice the price of regular butter I still keep it in the fridge for when I indulge in butter on my bagel, and it's the only spread at the holidays!!
I recently followed up my tests with a cookie test. Once again the Keller's European butter beat them hands down. All the butters baked about the same. There wasn't any great difference in the quality of the product, the look, or the texture. I used a basic butter based cookie that really takes on the butter flavor. Every person who tasted the cookies with the Keller's knew that there was "just something different" with that cookie. All the others tasted about the same, but the Keller's butter made a more tender, more flavorful cookie, and was a favorite of all.
Keller's European Style butter is sold in a 8 ounce block in a gold foil wrapper. Be warned, it's double the price of regular butter, but in my opinion (and I've used the Wal-Mart butter for years without a problem) this butter is now ALWAYS in my fridge for spreading and special recipes.
Kima: I was told in my cooking class that unsalted butter allows the flavor of whatever you're cooking to come out. Salted butter tends to mask flavor.
I did an experiment and I grudgingly had to agree. If it calls for unsalted, by all means, use unsalted...there's usually a reason.
I made cookies once with unsalted butter and the recipe didn't call for it and they were terrible.
Thanks for all the info on unsalted butter. I have read that it is a superior product. I am going to be daring and make the cookies with regular butter first. I will get unsalted butter soon and do a taste test.
Here in Canada most of the unsalted butter brands are kept in the frozen department. Unfortunately none of the brands you guys referred to are available her
Unsalted butter is about twice as expensive as regular so I don't think I would ever use it exclusively for baking but that may change if the taste is noticeably better!
I have heard that unsalted butter contains less water than regular butter and is a MUST for recipes such as Shortbread cookies. I admit I keep both on hand, but ususally use the regular stuff, only because there seems to be more of it available. In the stores I shop at, I believe the regular and unsalted are the same cost. I buy it on sale and freeze it. Never had a problem.
You are one smart cookies!!! Thanks for your always informative input!
I have to admit that I always use salted butter, no matter what the recipe says, because I can't stand the taste of unsalted butter. But, I am very impressed by CheMom's in-depth analysis and may have to give unsalted (an higher quality) butter another try.
Tami, thanks for the review on the Keller's. I have recently spotted it here and thought about trying it, but put it off since I already had butter on hand and didn't need to spend the extra money.
As for the salted/unsalted, I buy mostly unsalted and adjust the salt when needed, but I usually have a tub of whipped salted for spreading. Keller's may replace that since we don't use that much.
The Keller's around here does not say "European Style". I have not seen the Plugra brand, although I did watch something on TV where they used that butter.
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