What is Butter?
Butter is a dairy product formed by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk consisting of butterfat, milk proteins, and water. Butter remains as a solid in refrigeration while maintaining a spreadable viscosity when held at room temperature.
Butter performs a variety of functions in baked products such as cakes, pastries, dough’s, breads and biscuits. Butter contributes to product flavor, mouthfeel, texture and shelf life. In regards to flavor, butter imparts its own very distinct flavor in addition to helping uniformly distribute other ingredient flavors. Butter contributes a very desired mouthfeel. Mouthfeel is directly related to the ratio of crystalline (solid) and noncrystalline (liquid) fractions as a function of temperature. Butter melts at 38°C. Therefore when introduced to the mouth, only 5% of the butter is in crystalline form, eliminating a waxy bite and giving way to the smooth mouthfeel butter is known for.
In laminated doughs such as croissants, danish, and puff pastries, butter serves the function of imparting flakiness. Flakiness is caused by the release of trapped carbon dioxide bubbles during leavening. In the baking process, the bubbles are formed as particles of butter melt. The volume of baked pastry is directly proportional to the percentage of solid fat. In pies and tarts, mixing a portion of the butter into the dough increases flakiness. In regard to cookies, cakes, breads, and icings, butter is desired at room temperature. For cake batters, sugar is blended with room temperature butter until creamed to achieve a uniform distribution in the batter or dough. Butter contributes tenderness to bread by interfering with the development of the gluten network.
Butter is about 18-20% water. It is a water-in-oil emulsion. It is best to mix in butter with the dry ingredients or cream it with sugar first. In many bakeries, butter is a dairy allergen, and it is usually replaced by 80% shortening.