Utterly Butterly Brown

Gently melt a small amount of butter until it becomes a delicate, foamy essence. Sample its subtly sweet and creamy notes. Next, melt another portion of butter, but maintain the heat this time. Witness the captivating transformation as it evolves from light to a deep golden, reaching a deep ebony hue. Each stage brings forth a distinctive layer of flavour, unveiling a delightful and nutty richness. As the butter melts, milk solids rise, forming a frothy layer before sinking and cooking at the bottom of the pan, resulting in the creation of richly coloured brown butter—the exquisite and savoury counterpart to the simple sweetness of regular butter. While commonly used in professional kitchens and bakeries, it is an underutilised technique in home cooking.

“Brown butter, known as beurre noisette, has longstanding roots in French and Indian cuisine. Ghee, resembling caramelised butter, shares similarities. During my time at Olive Bar & Kitchen, I embraced brown butter, even opting for goat butter to enhance pasta with a nuttier essence. This gorgeous ingredient beautifully complements fish, seafood and certain desserts. At Indienne in Chicago, I apply brown butter in Snow crab and butternut squash bisibele bath,” shares Michelin Star Chef Sujan Sarkar, co-owner, of Indienne.

The browning process imbues butter with rich hues and a range of nutty, caramelised notes. Prateek Sadhu (chef and founder, Naar in Darwa, Himachal Pradesh) aptly compares melted and brown butter to white bread and toast, highlighting the remarkable flavour from caramelised sugars. Caution is crucial, as butter can burn quickly. “Whisk while simmering, monitor the pot, and use a white enamelled one for ideal colour display,” he says. What is important is to consider butter and pan temperature to avoid uneven cooking. It is best to start with a cold pan and gradually heat the butter.

“Whipped brown butter, created by browning melted butter until it develops a nutty flavour, adds complexity and lightness to the dishes. It enhances flavour profiles, provides richness and airiness to mousses and frostings, and serves as a decadent garnish for savoury meals. Simply brown the butter, cool it, then whip it until fluffy. The result is a delightful version that adds depth and texture to your recipes,” says Dhruv Oberoi, executive chef, Olive Bar & Kitchen, and The Grammar Room, both in Delhi.

Sadhu reveals another culinary secret: “Use your ears”. As moisture evaporates, the sizzling sound diminishes, indicating rapid browning. Once the desired colour is achieved, swiftly halt the cooking by adding a cool splash like lemon juice, dipping the pan’s bottom in cold water, or transferring the butter to a suitable container. With practice, improvisation becomes effortless. Even with additional ingredients, achieving this only takes minutes. Drizzle over steamed fish, coat noodles and parmesan for rapid pasta, and savour the delectable results.

“Having been a long-time enthusiast of browned butter, I truly appreciate its delicious blend of sweet and nutty aromas. In our current menu, we’re showcasing a smoked brown butter infused with jaggery, elegantly paired with caviar. This innovative concept draws inspiration from the harmonious interplay of sweet and savoury flavours seen in Punjabi cuisine, reminiscent of traditional delicacies like gur, safed makkhan, makki roti or the beloved puri-halwa-chana combo,” adds Garima Arora, chef-owner of Michelin-starred modern Indian restaurant GAA and Marigold, both in Bangkok.

In dessert-making, brown butter is a versatile ingredient. It enhances existing flavours or mimics the taste of nuts. When folded into madeleine, it adds a distinctive nutty fragrance, transforming these delicate cakes. Additionally, it excels in sautéing fruits like caramelised bananas, pineapple, pears and apples.

Combined with sugar and vanilla bean, the result is a luscious topping for ice cream or pound cake. Surprisingly, brown butter can replace regular butter in tart crusts and cookie dough, adding a depth of flavour.

“Through the art of whipping, butter undergoes a natural transformation, becoming lighter, sweeter and remarkably easy to spread. This malleability is a perfect vehicle for carrying flavours, exemplifying the secret behind our delectable besan laddoo. We discreetly incorporate whipped brown butter to enhance its irresistible nutty essence,” smiles Arora.


For brown butter

● Unsalted butter: 113 gm

● Heat skillet, melt butter while whisking. Watch for browned specks and nutty aroma. Remove from heat and keep aside.

For the caramel créme

● Sugar: 210 gm

● Brown butter: 85 gm

● Heavy cream: 120 ml

Heat sugar in saucepan, stirring vigorously as it melts. Turn off the heat; add brown butter, then cream, whisking to combine. Let cool briefly in pan, then transfer to a jar and cool at room temperature. Can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. To reheat, microwave until warm and pourable.

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