Brown Butter is my secret ingredient to enhance the flavor of any dessert. It adds complex taste and a note of toffee to your cookies and cakes, taking it to the next level.
Brown Butter might sound fancy, but it’s actually extremely simple to make. If you can boil water, you can make brown butter. All you need is a light colored saucepan, a whisk, a pair of good eyes and a decent sense of smell.
So what is brown butter exactly?
Brown butter is regular butter that has been cooked until the water in the butter has evaporated, the milk solids become toasty, and the butter caramelizes into liquid gold.
Brown butter smells sweet and nutty, with a note of toffee that will add amazing complex flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. My favorite way to consume brown butter is in cookies and banana bread.
What type of butter to use?
It is best to use unsalted butter. Since the resulting brown butter will be used in a recipe for sauces or baked goods, this will give you more freedom to control the amount of added salt in your final product.
Step by Step Instructions
- Add unsalted butter to a saucepan: I like to cut them up into smaller pieces so they melt quicker.
- Cook over medium heat: the butter will go through some changes, first melting, then foamy as the water evaporates. You don’t have to whisk the butter yet at this stage, but if you do, it doesn’t affect the butter in any way negatively.
- Once the foam subsides, you’ll see clear bubbles. At this point forward, you must whisk continuously to keep the milk solids at the bottom of the pan from burning.
- You’ll see the color change to a light brown, then golden brown, and it can go to dark brown in a matter of 15 – 30 seconds. This is why a light color pan will help. When it smells nutty and is golden brown in color, take it off the heat and continue to whisk. The butter will keep cooking from the residual heat.
You can now use it right away if your recipe calls for hot brown butter, or let it cool before using it for baking. Once cooled, you can also let the butter resolidify in the fridge and use it as you would regular butter.
- Many recipes will call for cooled brown butter, so I like to make a larger batch and store it in the refrigerator for later.
- Just keep in mind 1 stick of butter (or 4 oz) reduces to roughly 75 – 80% by weight when browned. This is equal to 3 – 3.2 oz, or 6 tbsp to 6 tbsp + 1 tsp, or 85 – 90 grams.
- Typically you won’t need to strain the milk solids, but if you’re making a frosting, straining it out will yield smoother frosting. For example, replace regular butter with brown butter in this cream cheese frosting recipe will yield an amazingly tasty frosting. But it is best without the milk solids.
How to fix burnt brown butter?
Making brown butter is easy but it is also easy to overcook it. If it’s burnt, there is no way to un-burn it. But before you throw your hands up and toss it out, give it a sniff test, does it actually smell burnt? Or does it just look “burnt”?
See the difference in color between these two jars of brown butter? The one on the left (golden brown) is taken off the heat at 8 minutes and 30 seconds, the one on the right (blackened brown or just black really) at 9 minutes.
You might think the blackened butter is definitely burnt and is a toss away, actually that is not so. It has a very intense nutty smell, but still sweet, not bitter-burnt, and can still be used for baking. You can strain out the burnt milk solid to save it.
More on straining
Use a fine-mesh sieve lined with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the still warm butter over it. The milk solids will get trapped behind. You’ll want a few layers of the cheesecloth to make sure you’ll catch all the milk solids.
If you want to get every last bit of brown butter out, squeeze the cheesecloth to drain out every drop. The difference between squeezing and not squeezing is about 5 grams or so, not huge.
The difference between straining and not straining can be 10 – 15 grams, that’s including the milk solids.
Most of the time, you don’t need to strain, especially when you’re using it for baking. A lot of flavors is in the milk solids anyways. Unless you’ve burnt it, then in this case, strain it to save your butter. Or if you’re using it in a frosting.
How long will it last?
Stored in the refrigerator, brown butter will last up to two weeks. I usually use a clean empty glass jam jar for storage.
If you have suspicion about whether it is still good or not, check it with a sniff test, if it still smells sweet, it’s good.
How to use brown butter
- Add it to these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for a toffee note, it goes perfectly with the brown sugar in the cookie dough.
- Used in traditional financier recipes, try it with these Dark Chocolate Financiers, they’re absolutely delicious.
- Use it to upgrade your classic Peanut Butter Cookies for an amazing taste.
- Each layer of this Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread is brushed with brown butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar making it a delicious treat.
- Transform a classic recipe into something even more amazing like these Snowball Cookies.
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- 8 oz unsalted butter (226 g)
- Heat butter in a light colored saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking once butter has melted, the butter will become foamy, you don’t have to whisk yet. When the foam subsides, you will see clear bubbles, start whisking at this point to keep the milk solids from burning. When the butter starts to brown, watch the color carefully, when the butter is caramel in color and smells nutty, turn off the heat. This will take approximately 8 minutes and 30 seconds.
- Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a jar for storage in the refrigerator. You can strain the solids out of the butter using a fine mesh sieve lined with some cheese cloth, if desired.
- When butter starts to brown, you will need to watch it very carefully because it can go from brown butter to blackened brown butter in a matter of 30 seconds.
- For baking, it is not necessary to strain out the solid. But if you happen to over-brown it, straining the burnt solid out can save the butter.
- I recommend straining out the milk solid when you’re using brown butter to make frosting for a smoother frosting.
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Great tips!! Thanks for sharing!
Awesome post. I love brown butter but in the past I’ve accidentally thrown out what I thought was burnt when it was probably just black. Thanks and I’ll give it the sniff test next time 🙂
Yup, don’t be too quick throwing it out 😉