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Clarified Butter

Clarified butter is also called drawn butter.  Simply defined, clarified butter is unsalted butter that has the milk solids and water removed so all that remains is pure liquid golden-yellow butterfat.  The advantages of this type of butter is its long keeping quality (several months refrigerated) and its high smoke point (can be used in frying without burning).  The disadvantage is that it doesn't have that same wonderful rich flavor of regular unsalted butter (since the milk solids have been removed) but it does have a more buttery taste than other oils. 

To make clarified butter gently melt unsalted butter over low heat until the butter breaks down and three layers form.  The top layer is a white foam or froth (the whey proteins) and should be skimmed off with a spoon.  The milk solids will drop to the bottom of the saucepan and form a milky layer of sediment.  What is left in the middle is a pure golden-yellow liquid called clarified butter.  When you have skimmed all the white foam from the surface of the clarified butter, and it has stopped bubbling, remove the saucepan from the heat.   Let the butter sit a few minutes to allow the milk solids to further settle to the bottom, and then strain the mixture through a fine sieve or  a cheesecloth-lined strainer.  The liquid collected is the golden-yellow clarified butter (butterfat) that can be covered and stored several months in the refrigerator.  Chilled clarified butter does become grainy.

The intensity of flavor of the clarified butter depends on how long you cook the melted butter.  If you continue to cook  the butter once it has melted and separated, the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan will start to brown.  Once the milk solids turn a golden brown color the clarified butter will take on a rich fragrant nutty flavor that is called "noisette butter" or "beurre noisette" which is a French name for "brown butter" or "hazelnut butter".  (So named because the the butter turns the color of noisettes (hazelnuts)).  However, be very careful not to overheat the butter or it will become bitter tasting.

Clarified butter is used in baking genoise, madeleines, and other baked goods where creaming the butter is not necessary and you want that distinctive fragrant nutty flavor.  For cooking it is used in making hollandaise sauce and is excellent for sauteeing as it has a high smoke point.

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Clarified Butter

The top layer is a white foam or froth (the whey proteins)  and should be skimmed off with a spoon.

Strain through a fine sieve or  a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

The liquid collected is the golden-yellow clarified butter (butterfat).

Clarified Butter (beurre noisette)

1 cup = 195 grams

Note:  When making clarified butter always start with at least 25% more unsalted butter than the amount of clarified butter needed, as the volume is reduced during the melting and straining process.

Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to remove all the water so it can be stored for longer periods (both refrigerated and at room temperature).  Popular in India.  Can be used for deep frying.

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