Sweet cream butter (Recipe: lemon-currant biscotti)
A dairy cow weighs more than 1,000 pounds.
A butter cow — specifically, the Iowa State Fair's famous Butter Cow — weighs 600 pounds, enough butter to coat 19,200 slices of toast.
I know what you're thinking.
Salted butter, or unsalted?
(Are you really thinking that, or are you wondering, like I am, what happens to all of that butter at the end of the fair? Does the cow melt in the heat? Do cow birds eat butter? Does the Butter Cow sleep in a barn at night? Does it moo?)
Good questions. The Butter Cow is made from pure cream butter. If the cream is pasteurized, the result is called sweet cream butter, also known in my house as regular butter. If the cream is not pasteurized, the product is called raw cream butter. To both kinds, salt is added for taste, and as a bit of a preservative.
Everyone remembers, from grade-school visits to the the local farm, that butter is churned from cream. What we think of as butter comes from cow's milk, which produces the sweetest butter; in other parts of the world, butter also comes from water buffalo, camel, goat, sheep, llama, reindeer and yak. In fact, in Tibet, a host may place a bit of yak butter on the head of a guest as a gift for a happy new year.
Today's ingredient makes me wonder about how easily I'm seduced by packaging. Yes, the box is beautiful, and that's probably why Kate's Homemade Butter caught my eye in the local supermarket a few years ago, but I promise you that it's the taste that keeps me buying this particular item for my pantry.
Made by the Patry family in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Kate's contains only sea salt and fresh pasteurized cream from cows that are not treated with growth hormones, and it's churned in small batches. The butter is a lovely pale yellow, lacking that supernatural glow that comes from artificial food coloring. It also lacks the harsh salty taste of many commercial brands; the sea salt provides a gentle enhancement to the inherent flavor of the sweet butter.
Whole Foods and other local markets carry Kate's here in New England. If you can't find it, look for farm-fresh, small-batch butters in your supermarket. They cost more, but they're worth it.
Lemon-currant johnnycake biscotti
I named these after the local Rhode Island cornmeal used to make johnnycakes, which are a kind of thin pancake. Of course you can substitute white or yellow stoneground cornmeal for the Kenyon’s, or use the same recipe to make orange-cranberry biscotti. Makes 20 cookies.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Zest of 2 large lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Kenyon’s stoneground (white) cornmeal
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup currants
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice, and beat until combined. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, and beat until combined. Stir in the currants.
Turn the dough onto a very lightly floured countertop and bring together in a ball. The dough will be sticky, but carry on! Divide dough in half, and place each half on the baking sheet, a few inches apart. Pat each half into a log approximately 10 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch high. (You may need to wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking.) Place baking sheet in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the logs start to turn golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and, with a wide spatula, transfer logs to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.
Using a very sharp non-serrated knife, slice each log into 3/4-inch slices, and place slices on their side on the baking sheet. They will not expand, so the slices can be placed 1/4 inch apart. There will be some crumbling, because of the cornmeal in the dough. Don’t worry – let them crumble! Return biscotti to the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Turn the biscotti over, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the biscotti are brown and crisp.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.