I always hear foodies raving about Plugrá butter, so I finally decided to try it myself, with interesting results. The taste is superior to a basic grocery-store American butter–no question about that. It’s rich, aromatic, and slightly tangy because it’s a cultured butter. I would always prefer this for spreading on baguettes, or making buttercream frosting. But what happens when you use it in baking?
According to the Plugrá website, the butter has “less moisture content.” Might this factor cause a recipe to turn out differently? On Chowhound I found this comment from Roland Parker: “I read in Carole Walter’s Great Cookies that the richer butters have a higher butterfat content, which affects not just the flavor of cookies (making some of them too buttery), but also the texture. She advocated using American butters for baking, and saving the European butters for table use.”
I experimented by using Plugrá in a classic American recipe, Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies (the variation with oatmeal).
Creaming the butter and sugar, I found that it was very dense. When I tasted the mixture, it was heavenly.
The batter too was very thick. I admit that I scarfed some of it, in spite of the raw eggs! (Batter eaters should stick to vegan cookies, many of which are excellent. This recipe won’t give you a butter fix, but it’s got a batter you won’t be able to resist. Oh yes, and the cookies are good too.)
I baked a test cookie for 9 minutes at the recommended 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 Celsius), but the bottom turned out too brown, so I lowered the temperature to 350. It was difficult to hit on just the right combination of temperature and time. The first batch of cookies emerged from the oven almost too fragile to remove from the pan without tearing. As it turns out, these cookies grow firmer as they cool and take on a chewy (or if cooked slightly longer, crispy) texture. But if left on the pan until room temperature, they stick.
The premium butter version of this recipe produces a cookie that spreads more than the regular version and is far less cakey and more confection-like, with a noticeably crispy texture. The buttery character is very pronounced, and it is one of the dominant flavors of the cookie (more so than, say, vanilla).
The verdict? Well, the Long-Suffering Husband thinks they’re great because of the butter flavor. I thought they were more of a hassle to bake because of their fragility, but I like a chewy cookie. So I might use the expensive butter again, for special occasions. I suspect that Plugrá would also be excellent in that rosemary-pine nut shortbread I’m thinking of trying…
- Cookie! Cookie! Cookie! Cookie! Cookie! (vittlesvamp.typepad.com)