Urban Churn! Butter, Buttermilk, and Biscuits Two Ways
This weekend, I briefly entertained the idea of quitting nursing and starting a small buttery. St. Malo, a small town in Brittany, France, has a fabulous artisan butter shop called Le Beurre Bordier. They make plain and flavoured butters and sell cheese. So perfect! Erin and I, who made this butter together, dream of our own version: Urban Churn in the heart of Vancouver! Unfortunately, it would really just be two KitchenAids secretly running in the back and perhaps not as romanticized as the name suggests. Nursing it is, for now.
Whatever your profession though, or your commitment level to homemade goods, this butter is easily achievable (mostly if you or a friend has a KitchenAid). It’s super delicious and you get buttermilk out of it as well! We made biscuits “from extra scratch” using the buttermilk and butter and they were delightful, especially spread with more of the homemade butter! It may all seem like overkill at first, but you won’t be saying that once you taste these beauties. And the pride!! Erin and I have been talking about our butter for days with everyone we come across.
Adapted from The Guardian’s butter recipe, makes about 1.5 pounds of butter and 1 litre of buttermilk
2 litres whole cream (whipping cream)
Special Equipment: KitchenAid with whisk attachment
Pour cream into the KitchenAid and whisk on medium (we did speed 6) for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it: it will bulk up a bit as it turns into whipped cream, then as you continue to mix the fat will start to separate out and the cream will look kind of “chunky”. It’s gross. Go a little further until you see little bits of butter floating in a milky liquid. I sincerely hope you have a splash screen. I knew that my mixture was ready when a giant splash of liquidy butter globules came flying out onto my fridge.
Prepare a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth over a very large pot or bowl. Pour your entire mixture through the cheesecloth, reserving the butter and allowing the buttermilk to drain into the bowl. Squeeze the cheesecloth to get out more of the buttermilk. If you still feel you have a lot of buttermilk in there, you can put the butter back in the KitchenAid, mix for about 30 seconds, and then put it back in the cheesecloth. We did this and it basically achieved nothing, since Erin’s squeezing was so effective. So you can go straight to the next step.
Clean your mixing bowl, then fill a few inches deep with VERY cold water – we even added some ice, because our butter was getting a bit soft. Make sure the water can just cover your butter mound. Put your butter in the cold water, let sit for about 30 seconds, then knead/squish the butter with your hands just above the bowl. You’ll see beads of cloudy water emerging from the fat of the butter – this is extra buttermilk that you don’t want in your butter! It will make it spoil faster. When the butter gets too soft, put back in the cold water for 30 seconds. Change your water often so it stays cold. During this stage, you’re also checking the water (both in the bowl and the water emerging from the butter) to see how cloudy it is. Once the water starts to look clear, you’re ready. We didn’t do perfectly in this stage, but we forged ahead anyway (and froze the butter we weren’t going to use immediately).
At this point, unless you’re more expert than us, your butter will probably be quite soft. Place the whole mound on parchment paper and get ready with a spatula for scraping up what sticks. Divide the butter into 4-6 pieces and wrap in wax paper or parchment paper. We weren’t actually able to wrap at this stage, so we put the butter mounds in the fridge for half an hour to harden.
Using whatever you have – wooden spoons, hands, etc, shape the butter however you like – we attempted rectangles, like american butter sticks, and got sort of rounded oval-ish pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It’s all in the taste.
Refrigerate and/or freeze the butter, as well as the buttermilk.
Buttermilk Biscuits, Two Ways
Erin and I made these biscuits during a break between softball games in our weekend-long finals tournament. They REALLY hit the spot and would be perfect for any meal: breakfast, lunch with a cheese plate, or as a side at dinner. We made half with cheddar and green onions, and the other half with freshly picked blackberries (which are officially a weed in Vancouver – best! city! ever!). We joked that these biscuits really are “from extra scratch” and we could basically only one-up this situation by grinding our own flour…it’s a slippery slope from KitchenAid butter to Vitamix flour!
Recipe adapted from Southern Buttermilk Biscuits on food.com
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
85 grams (or 6 tbsp) butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely grated aged cheddar cheese (we used the small grater)
1/2 cup blackberries, mixed with 1 tbsp sugar (let sit for 5-10 minutes)
You can do this in the food processor, or by hand with a pastry cutter (or two knives held together). Mix the dry ingredients together. Add 1-inch squares of butter, cutting them in until you get pea-sized butter pieces and an overall crumbly mix. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined (don’t over mix – you want the biscuits to be light).
At this point, divide the mixture into two bowls, if you plan on making both types of biscuits. In one bowl, add the scallions and cheese and give a few stirs to combine. In the other bowl, add the blackberries (minus the juice at the bottom of the bowl). The blackberry mixture will seem like a bit of a mess – very watery/juicy and not very well combined. My advice is to not try too hard to mix in the berries. It’s best if some of the dough is left as is/plain so that it keeps its flakiness and lightness. It will all sort itself out in the oven.
The dough will be quite sticky so generously sprinkle your countertop with flour, then sprinkle more flour on top of your dough. Roll out to about 3/4 inch thick, then cut into squares or use a glass to make circles for the classic look! Bake at 450˚ for about 10 minutes.
The cheddar scallion ones will rise beautifully and beg to be pulled apart and spread with your homemade butter. The blackberry ones will look a little more like round scones but be just as delicious. They’re amazing with brie.