I work in a bakery. A bakery where we make things using one of my favorite substances on the earth. Butter. Lots of blond, beautiful, bliss inducing butter. But there is a population out there for whom just the thought of this invokes terror. Terror, by choice. This lovely, innocent product of cow and churn is evil in their eyes, a scourge that is removed from toasts and palates in favor of something they can’t believe is not butter. Shouts of ‘unhealthy’, ‘bad for you’ or most often, ‘fattening’ spring forth from unbuttered mouths. Well… pish tosh! Sure, eating tubs of butter isn’t the wisest or healthiest thing for you. Eating tubs of anything isn’t particularly smart. But eschewing butter for chemicals and partly hydrogenated un-butter? That doesn’t exactly invoke thoughts of health and wisdom in my mind.
Now, I’ve waxed poetic about lighter fare, calories counts, and recipes under 400 calories on this very screen. And I’ve intentionally reduced the amounts of the luscious pale yellow stuff in recipes I’ve written. But none of that lessens my love for butter, nor would I ever remove it from my diet, even if I were trying to drop a pound or two. I LOVE butter like buttah, and my ardor for the creamy yumminess is absolute. I’ve got it bad for butter. I thrill to the sight of a large variety of butter in the market, and have been known to go miles out of my way to find a market that carries my favorite tasting brand. I know I’m not alone. Butterphiles aren’t that hard to spot. We toss around words like Plugra and Lurpak, Président and Lescure. We debate Kerrygold vs. Kate’s vs. Vermont Creamery, and speak in reverent tones about Parmigiano Reggiano Cream. Like models at a champagne bar during fashion week, we line up 3 deep if there is a butter tasting in our local gourmet markets. We don’t even care if the butter sampling device of bread or crackers runs out. Just give us a little spoon and let us at it.
Why would anyone willingly live a butterless life? A life with less flavor, where beige would replace golden brown, and onions would be very, very sad. What would a lobster be without the drawn butter? Just a cockroach of the sea, and a pain in the butt to eat. But put a dish of melted butter along side, and we’ll sit for hours digging into shell crevices on a quest to dunk sweet flesh into liquid gold. Butter just makes things better. Ok, so maybe too much has its drawbacks, but most things worth having do, (I know…I had to pack all those shoes.) And yes, overindulging isn’t the best thing for hearts and cholesterol-lined arteries, but a little bit, well surely that has to be a good thing, right? A little lubrication is always needed to keep things running smoothly. Butter has been around since the dawn of cow. If it were so bad, surely it would have been dumped centuries ago. You’ll never see a warning label on a stick of butter. Not so for “lo-fat food”. Remember the fake and supposedly healthier fat they put in potato chips a while back? Something that is good for you isn’t supposed to carry a warning labels about side effects, is it.
I’ll never deny my love for butter and it will always have a place in my fridge. And to those who chose to put a big red X over butter on their grocery list I say, fine. Just means more butter for the rest of us.
When I was a kid, the town bakery made a cake that was an homage to butter. It was even named after it…Butter Kuchen. A yeasty sweet coffee cake with dimples of butter and sugar on top, it was a treat we always looked forward to on Sunday mornings. For years I tried to find a recipe but no one, not even my grandmother made it. It was always something bought at the local bakery. About 3 years ago I was going through an old cookbook picked up on the sales rack, and while looking for something else, I found it. So from the Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook, here is one of the best uses of butter I know, Butter Kuchen.
From The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook by Anna and Sybille Pump (Harper & Row, 1990)
Makes one 18 x 12-inch sided baking sheet full, for 16-20 servings
- 14 TBSP butter (1 ¾ sticks)
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 ½ cups warm milk
- 1 ½ TBSP active dry yeast (2 packages)
- 4 cups plus 2 TBSP unbleached white flour
- ¾ cup raisins
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream 8 TBSP of butter, ½ cup sugar, and the salt until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and grated lemon zest and beat well to blend. Add the warm milk and yeast, and set aside for 5 minutes until the yeast softens.
Add 2 cups of flour and beat at low speed for 5 minutes. Beat in another 2 cups flour (the dough will be very sticky.)
In a small bowl, toss the raisins with 2 TBSP flour and mix into the dough mixture. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
After the dough has risen, spread out into an 18 x 12 inch buttered baking sheet. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and press lightly into the dough, making butter filled dimples all along the top of the cake. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the top. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Place the kuchen in a cold oven. Turn oven on to 350°F and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Calories: 250 – 300 calories per serving (depending upon 16 or 20 servings).
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