Boy, do I love brown butter. I think we all do, really. When you see brown butter on the menu, you see luxury. You don’t even need to know what it tastes like; you just know that the chef in question decided to take the time to make plain ol’ butter into special butter—one that required a watchful eye to bring the butter’s milk solids to a beautiful, toasty amber. Brown butter is the butter of the 1%, the butter that tried a little bit harder because, baby, you’re worth it.
My biggest problem with brown butter? It’s never enough. On its own it has such a bombastically nutty flavor, but when used in a recipe—unless you use far more butter than any human should consume in one sitting—the flavor gets washed out. I’ve had far too many restaurant items that lured me in with the promise of brown butter, only to be tragically let down with a dish laden with grease that imparted barely a whiff of toasted elegance.
As a chef and baker, I faced this problem over and over again. There were so many things I’d make that I thought could use a bit more beurre noisette, like deeply roasted vegetables, minimalist pasta dishes, and rich fluffy buttercreams. I needed more toasted milk solids, less milk fat. Then I realized that I actually solve this problem very easily, and felt like a total idiot for not figuring this out earlier: I could throw some powdered milk in with the butter as I was browning it. At first I would just half a teaspoon or so to give whatever I was making a bit of a boost, but eventually I started keeping a full jar of toasted milk solids in the fridge to use like a condiment. I’ve tossed a good quarter cup with a hot tray of roasted carrots and butternut squash and stirred a few tablespoons into pancake batter. I’ve sprinkled it on pasta with some Locatelli and fried cauliflower, whipped it into whipped cream. It’s also the “secret ingredient” in my stupidly delicious cinnamon buns, the recipe for which I’ll be giving you later this week. And it should be on your own personal list of secret ingredients, too.
- One stick salted butter
- 3/4 cup dry powdered milk
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add milk powder. Using a sturdy wooden spatula or spoon, stir well until everything comes together. Continue stirring while using the tip of the spatula to break apart all the clumps until the mixture is the consistency of coarse sand and has just begun to turn golden, about five minutes. Remove pan from heat and immediately pour onto a plate to cool, then put into a jar or pint container.
Store in the fridge until ready to use. If you’re not just throwing a cold spoonful into something you’re cooking, it’s best to warm up the solids just a bit to make them easier to sprinkle or schmear. Either leave them out at room temperature, or put in a small howl and microwave in ten second increments.