Food & Drink Salted Butter Has Always Been the Secret to Better Cookies

08:36  11 february  2018
08:36  11 february  2018 Source:   lifehacker.com

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Alison Roman’s salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies are everywhere. Bon Appétit, Eater, Nylon, Smitten Kitchen, and The New York Times have covered them in glowing detail; The Cookies pop up on my Instagram discover feed literally every day. The best recipes are more than the sum of their parts, but the sheer volume of breathless, googly-eyed reviews suggest that a concerning number of people have lived deprived, salted-butter-cookie-less lives until now.

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a slice of pizza: All photos by A.A. Newton. © Provided by Univision Interactive Media, Inc. All photos by A.A. Newton.

I, for one, welcome the salted butter Roman-naissance with open arms because unsalted butter is completely pointless. I fry my eggs in salted butter and spread it on toast, of course, but I also bake with it exclusively. My reasoning is that salt doesn’t just make food taste good; it makes food taste, period. I sub in salted for unsalted one-to-one without even reducing the salt called for in the recipe because I strongly believe that an extra half-teaspoon of salt can’t hurt a recipe with a combined four cups of flour and sugar. Baking with salted butter still borders on the taboo for most, and by demanding it, The Cookies have given thousands of home cooks permission to do something rather naughty indeed. Therein, I think, lies the secret to their popularity.

The Real Reason Butter Is Making A Comeback

  The Real Reason Butter Is Making A Comeback photo credit: shutterstock Just because butter is less processed, is it really better for you? Butter makes everything taste better - that's the kind of thinking that iconic chef Julia Child famously promoted with her cooking. However, fear surrounding butter's saturated fat content saw it eliminated from most diets over the years as a food spread and cooking fat - though butter is still preferred for baking - until recently. 'Today, butter is making a comeback because people appreciate it as a natural, 'clean' food compared to margarine,' says Lindy Kennedy, a registered dietitian at Fit Nut Consulting in Calgary, Alta. She explains that margarine is a processed food - vegetable oil is converted into a fat solid, by adding hydrogen in a process known as 'hydrogenation.' But the real question is: What are the health benefits of butter? What are the health benefits of butter? Butter is made from the cream of whole milk through a churning process that separates out the fat content of the cream. Basic salted butter is made up of about 80 per cent fat, 15 to 17 per cent water and the rest salt, protein, calcium and phosphorous and fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. Butter contains the antioxidants vitamin A and vitamin E, as well as selenium.

The Cookie backlash hasn’t started yet, but it can’t be much longer now. It’s both easy and lazy to dismiss popular stuff for no reason other than its ubiquity, especially when it’s consumed primarily by women and girls—like, gee I dunno, cookbooks. After all, cooler-than-thou types have nurtured a blanket, knee-jerk hatred of feminine-coded popular media in lieu of an actual personality since forever, usually in the name of “originality” or “innovation.” I’m no media studies Ph.D., but it seems obvious that cultural phenomena aren’t born by breaking new ground. Instead, they tap into something with longstanding, near-universal appeal at precisely the right moment and, in doing so, tell us more about the human experience than any Gallup poll ever could. The Beatles invented neither cute boys nor four-piece bands, E.L. James certainly didn’t invent BDSM slashfic, and Alison Roman didn’t invent the salted butter shortbread cookie; she just told us about it at the right time.

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a close up of a piece of paper: Salted, always. (This is the cultured salted French butter you can get at Trader Joe’s.) © Provided by Univision Interactive Media, Inc. Salted, always. (This is the cultured salted French butter you can get at Trader Joe’s.)

I think it’s worth considering what primed us for this particular recipe. Thanks to trickle-down molecular gastronomy, home cooking has trended toward the fiddly, expensive, and overly prescriptive for at least fifteen years. Dining In—Roman’s second cookbook and source of The Cookies—is full of singular, exciting recipes that offer a fresh perspective on familiar ingredients and techniques, while remaining completely accessible. In other words, it’s the ideological opposite of Modernist Cuisine or The Food Lab. Already in its fourth printing, people are clearly buying what Dining In is selling. As for The Cookies themselves, it could be argued that they followed the salted caramel mania of the early 2010s to its natural conclusion, then escalated things a bit. (Puzzlingly, most salted caramel recipes call for unsalted butter, then have you make up the difference with flaky salt. Why?) After a decade of obsessive iterations on the chocolate chip cookie and a generation of Olds tut-tutting the use of salted butter in baking, it’s no wonder that the cookie recipe that launched a thousand posts is so simple—and so shamelessly salty.

Cheesy Asparagus Gratin

  Cheesy Asparagus Gratin This family-friendly side dish is a delicious new take on potatoes au gratin. Yes, it’s still cheesy comfort food, but the fresh asparagus means it won’t leave you in a food coma. If you’ve ever made homemade macaroni and cheese, this technique will be familiar: you’ll make a bechamel sauce and top it with buttery breadcrumbs. In fact, you could double the sauce, toss it with pasta, stick it in the freezer and have mac and cheese ready to go whenever you need a quick dinner. For this dish, look for thick asparagus spears (not the pencil-thin ones) which will hold up better when served. Yields: 8 servings Ingredients 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for baking dish 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more for blanching water 2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, divided 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1½ cups whole milk 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about ¾ cup) 3 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated (about ¾ cup) 1 cup Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) Directions Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in highest position. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Add half of the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes (depending on thickness of spears). Remove with tongs, letting excess water drip off, and transfer to prepared dish. Repeat with remaining asparagus; toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper.

Somewhere between the first and fiftieth Google searches on the history of unsalted butter (it didn’t become a baking “must” until the late 20th century, probably because poor and middle-class people relied on salt to preserve a relatively expensive ingredient), I figured I should probably just make some of these damn cookies myself. I’m no stranger to salted butter shortbread, and to my relatively experienced eye, these looked so simple that I wondered what the fuss could possibly be about. You’re basically making a slice-and-bake shortbread roll cookie, with one special flourish: a demerara sugar crust. After getting my precious logs into the fridge to chill, I nibbled on a few nuggets of dough from the mixer paddle—and suddenly decided I felt great about my choices.

I’m so pleased to tell you that even among salted butter cookies, Roman’s are exceptional. I was ready for the caramel-like flavor that salted butter cookie dough develops as it browns, and I already knew how I felt about dark chocolate chunk cookies flecked with sea salt—I’m for ‘em!—but what blew me away was the complexity you get from three kinds of sugar. A mixture of white and light brown in the dough is standard enough, but rolling the dough in raw sugar (which I grumbled about having to make a special Trader Joe’s trip to get) made the most addictively lacy-edged cookies I’ve ever tasted. As I write this, I’m staring longingly at a cooling rack half-full of cookies—which I shouldn’t eat more of until my boyfriend gets home—and trying to congratulate myself on having the “good sense” to freeze the second log of dough for later.

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a close up of a piece of paper: And FIFO your freezer contents, you filthy animals. © Provided by Univision Interactive Media, Inc. And FIFO your freezer contents, you filthy animals.

Depending on the flexibility of your personal convictions, the mere suggestion of putting salted butter in a cookie could be enough to send you screaming for the comments section to tell me what a good-for-nothing, punk-as**millennial hussy I am. This would be a mistake in at least two ways: first of all, that’s the highest compliment I could ever hope to receive, and second, an irrational fear of salted butter is a great way to miss out on a whole world of tasty treats. Yes, I know that unsalted butter has a shorter shelf life—and thus more turnover on shelves, which some interpret as meaning it’s necessarily fresher than salted—and I know that salted butter tends to have more water, especially if its saltiness comes from a strong brine rather than granular salt. I’ve heard every argument to the contrary and I still choose salted butter because, to me, it tastes better. If you’re still skeptical, just make the cookies—they’ll do the trick.

Related gallery: Our Essential Chocolate Chip Cookie Guide (provided by Food52)

Triple chocolate Our Essential Chocolate Chip Cookie Guide

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