Holdiay Food Guide

“Pastry-making…is one of the most important branches of the culinary sciences. It unceasingly occupies itself with ministering pleasure to the sight as well as the taste.” So said Mrs. Isabella Beeton in The Book of Household Management, first published in 1880.

A rather staid way to describe the near-magical creation of a glistening, chocolate-glazed caramel tart, or the conjuring of delicate squares of thyme-scented shortbread, no?

There is nothing staid about pastries, of course, and that has much to do with what is arguably the most important ingredient in the art and science of baking: butter.

  • Butter Basics
  • Shortbread
  • Tarts
  • Coffee cakes
  • Cream puffs
  • Recipes

Recipes

Peach and Lemon Thyme Shortbread - Shortbread is one of the easiest butter and richest-tasting pastries to prepare. And it will fill your kitchen with a divine aroma.

Butter Dough for Tart Crust – We love dessert tarts. Colorful, elegant fruit tarts, chocolate drizzled nut tarts, ricotta-rich cheese tarts--you name it, we love it. Here’s a buttery base for many of them.

Caramel Walnut Tart – Two crusts encase a dreamy, dense filling of homemade caramel and walnuts and then the whole thing is glazed with chocolate. In a word: WOW.

Lemon Tart – A graceful classic with a sweet-tart savor.

Coconut Pecan Coffeecake – You might want to serve this old-fashioned coffeecake on a cut-glass platter, with coffee in antique cups. Double-risen in a warm kitchen and baked with pasture-pure butter, it evokes the “olden days”.

Cream Puffs – Butter gives these fun-loving pastries their characteristic flavor and crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside texture.

Butter Creations

The world of pastries is a vast one: cakes, pies, cookies and bars. Tortes, tarts, croissants. Puff pastry and Danish pastry, muffins and scones. To be sure, the pleasures of pastry baking are never-ending. Here we’ll concentrate on four types of butter-rich pastries, ones that are readily mastered by home bakers. Let’s call it a good beginning, shall we?

Shortbread
Tarts
Yeast-raised Coffeecakes
Cream Puffs

Butter Do's and Don'ts

Keep these in mind when baking with butter:

  • Avoid using butter that has been frozen. Freezing can affect butter’s texture and alter its moisture content.
  • Don’t use a microwave oven to soften butter. It can produce unevenly softened butter, or can easily over-soften it altogether. It’s better to let butter come to room temperature “on its own”.
  • The ideal “room” temperature for creaming butter is between 65 and 70 degrees. That’s when the most air can be beaten into the batter, creating air bubbles that will grow larger during the baking, and help the pastry rise.
  • Start with cold butter for flaky pastry. Cold, solid butter isn’t absorbed into flour as easily as softened butter and thus allows layers (read: flakiness) to happen.
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