“Clarified” butter is essentially unsalted butter that has had the water and milk solids removed; leaving behind a clear golden-colored fat liquid. The process of clarifying butter is pretty easy and presents many advantages for the home baker. It can be refrigerated for months with little side effect or rancidity. It also has a higher smoke point than traditional butter; which makes it ideal for frying and sauteing foods without burning.
Because of this, the butter is often used in sauces, frosting, genoise and many other baked goods. One disadvantage of this process is you will lose about 25% of the original butter’s overall volume through cooking so it is best to start with slightly more regular butter than needed.
Clarified butter does not taste as sweet as regular butter because the lovely milk fats get removed in the clarifying process. However, if the butter is boiled beyond the golden-yellow color stage, the milk solids in the pan will begin to brown. The browned milk solids impart a darker color and very fragrant, nutty-flavor. The French call this darker butter “noisette butter” or “beurre noisette;” meaning “hazelnut butter.” I call it “delicious butter.”
How-to Clarify Butter
1. Place butter in a saucepan and melt over low-heat. Do not stir the butter as it melts.
2. As it melts, the butter will separate into three layers. The top layer is a light foam (the whey protein). The middle is the liquid, golden butter fat and the bottom layer is where the water and milk solids fall.
3. Use a spoon or skimmer to skim the foam off the surface. Discard the foam but be careful to not dip the spoon into the butter fat layer while skimming.
4. Once the from has been removed and the butter stops bubbling, remove pan from the heat. Let the butter sit for a few seconds to allow the milk solids to settle at the bottom.
5. Strain butter fat through a fine-sieve or a cheesecloth lined strainer.
6. The liquid collected in the bowl is your freshly clarified butter which can be used in your favorite recipe or stored tightly covered in the fridge for several months.
7. If you cook the butter fat through to the dark hazelnut butter stage, the milk solids will be pretty burned to the bottom of the pan. The easiest way to clean the pan is to “deglaze” it by boiling about one-inch of water in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Then remove the pan and the burned milk solids should scrub out pretty easily.