Which Butter Is Better?
I'm not a fancy baker, I like to think of my style as having a rustic charm (I think it's more accurately just a lack of patience with decorating) and most of my ingredients can be found in plain packaging in the baking aisle in the local supermarket. There's no problem with going for the home brand stuff! My only exception.. eggs, chocolate and butter!
Americans prefer sweet cream butters, Europeans prefer fatty butters, and us Aussies... well, we like a bit of both. But your choice of butter makes a huge difference to the end result in a bake! Choose the right one, and you will create the flakiest of dough's, the richest of cakes, the chewiest cookies and the most beautifully buttery shortbread. It's the base of the best frostings, and the silkiest of caramels.... "There is no substitute for butter" ~ Dorie Greenspan
So for those of you using margarine... put it down, and pay attention!
The other day, I mentioned my tendency to splurge on butter on Facebook, and my friends mum (shout out to Kylie) told me that she gets the best results from Woolworths brand butter! I've never tried Woolworths brand butter in my bakes, I honestly just assumed it wouldn't be the best because it's the cheapest one there! We're sort of bought up to believe that you get what you pay for, so I've always just reached for the more expensive options assuming they were better, but could Kylie be onto something?
I consulted google with questions like "Best butter for baking?" "Which butter is better?" and all the results were American articles listing brands I am not in the slightest bit familiar with. So tonight, I decided to head to the supermarket and find out for myself.. which butter IS better?
Here's the stats.
Lurpak Unsalted Butter contains 82g of fat per 100g of butter
Western Star Unsalted Cultured Butter contains 81.9g of far per 100g of butter
Woolworths Home Brand Unsalted Butter contains 83.6g of fat per 100g of butter
Coles Home Brand Unsalted Butter contains 82g of fat per 100g of butter
Allowrie Unsalted Cultured Butter contains 82.9g of fat per 100g of
Devondale Unsalted Butter conatins 81g of fat per 100g of butter
Ballantyne Cultured Style Unsalted Butter contains 83g of fat per 100g of butter
Mainland Pure Butter Unsalted contains 82.9g of fat per 100g of butter
Kerrygold Pure Irish Unsalted Butter contains 82g of fat per 100g of butter.
Australian Organic Unsalted Butter contains 81g of fat per 100g of butter.
Now that you know that... what dictates which is best?
Unsalted Butter vs Salted Butter
Firstly, you want to look for a butter that's unsalted. Unsalted butter allows you to regulate the amount of salt in your recipe and it's more malleable at room temperature than salted butters. This means it's easier to work with, incorporates into your other ingredients better, and aerates/whips better for frostings ect.
The Importance of those Fat Percentages
Secondly, you want a butter with a high fat, low water ratio, meaning the European butters, or European style butters are generally the way to go! American sweet cream butters usually contain around 80g fat per 100g, where as European butters are closer to 83g of fat per 100g. The higher the fat content the better, even a small percentage makes a huge difference, why? Because more fat means more flavour, a creamier texture, it raises the butters melting point, meaning it wont melt soo quick as to not allow your puff pastry time to puff AND more fat means less room for water. The less water in the butter, the longer your baked good will store without extra preservatives.
Cultured Butter vs Non-Cultured Butter
Next, but not entirely essential! Is a cultured butter, I prefer it in my baking because it just tastes better, it adds a bit of a twang without adding salt, which is pretty much the sole reason behind cultured butters creation. It has since been said to have many additional health benefits, it has less lactose (good for those who are lactose sensitive), and the bacteria in all cultured diary products aid in digesting food and strengthen ones immune system, it's a win win!
Grass Fed Butter vs Grain Fed Butter
And last but not least, grass fed cattle produce better butter than grain fed. Grass fed butter has a richer, longer flavor, and it is a glorious yellow colour! It contains 5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is popular in weight loss supplements, as well as higher amounts of omega-3 and vitamin k2. Studies have also shown that those who eat grass fed over grain fed are less likely to suffer a heart attack.
NOTE: For the most part, even butters marked as grass fed may occasionally have their feed supplemented with grains when grass is scarce, the yellower the butter, the higher the percentage of grass in the cows diet that produced it.
"Ok, we get it!... but which butter is better!?"
The Final Rankings
#1 Ballantyne Cultured Style Unsalted Butter - An Australian owned first place!
Unsalted, high fat, cultured and grass fed! I'm so glad that this made number one, because Ballantyne butter smells absolutely divine! AND it comes in a round roll, which is different, and I love products that are a little different.
#2 Allowrie Cultured Unsalted European Style Butter - a close second!
It's unsalted, almost as high in fat as Ballantynes version, cultured, and grass fed.
#3 Kerrygold Pure Irish Unsalted Butter & Lurpak Unsalted Butter (Dainsh)- the international brands tie for third.
Both unsalted, high in fat, cultured and grass fed!
Kerrygold may be every so slightly superior as their cattle are possibly the 'truest' grass fed brand, and it's one of the highest sort after brands for baking in the US and UK due to our 1st and 2nd place brands not being as readily available there.
#4 Woolworths Unsalted Butter - a surprising fourth!
It's unsalted, it has the highest fat content by a fair margin, it's grass fed, it's only downfall is it's not cultured, but that's not the end of the world!
#5 Western Star Unsalted Cultured Butter & Mainland Pure Unsalted Butter - great for different reasons!
Western Star is unsalted, slightly lower in fat that Mainland, cultured and grass fed.
Mainland on the other hand is unsalted, as high in fat as our second place holder, and it's grass fed, it's just not cultured. So I'll let you decided this one based on what's important to you!
#6 Coles Unsalted Butter - not completely atrocious!
It's unsalted, and reasonably high in fat, but it's uncultured and as far as we can tell, it's not grass fed. Let us know if we're wrong!
#7 Australian Organic Unsalted Butter - being organic is this butters saving grace.
This is the only organic option that made this list, but unfortunately for the sake of baking, it's not ideal. It's low in fat and it's uncultured, but it is unsalted and organically grass fed.
#8 Devondale Unsalted Butter - a very surprising last!
This Devondale option is unsalted, and grass fed, but it has the lowest fat content, and it's uncultured.
AN HONOURABLE MENTION - Pepe Saya Unsalted Butter.
It's a favourite amongst many Australian bakers, and it would have ranked an equal first place with Ballantyne Unsalted Cultured Style Butter were it more readily available. Pepe Saya Unsalted Butter contains 83g of fat per 100g of butter, it's unsalted, it's cultured and it's grass fed, however it is only available via independent grocers in major cities. For this reason it hasn't been listed, as for many (like us in rural Victoria), it's not a viable option.
And The Conclusion is...
Kylie wasn't wrong! Surprisingly Woolworths brand name butter had the highest fat content by far! It's unsalted, and their farm is grass fed! The ONLY reason I didn't award it the number 1 position is because it's not cultured, but that is nothing more than a flavour preference for cultured butters on my part!
I hereby change my statement. You can buy cheap name brand butter... so long as it's from Woolworths!
Whats your go to butter for baking? Let me know in the comment section below!