Clarified Butter and Browned Butter

Beurre Noisette

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Clarified butter is ideal for people who are lactose intolerant because it removes all the milk solids, leaving only the butter “oil.” Several recipes in this book call for beurre noisette, or clarified butter that has browned to the color of noisettes (French for “hazelnuts”). Beurre noisette offers a richer, more delicious flavor than melted or clarified butter.

Clarified or browned butter will keep, covered, for months in the refrigerator, or just about indefinitely in the freezer because the milk solids have been removed. (It is the milk solids that cause butter to become rancid relatively quickly.) I always make extra clarified butter to have on hand. (The solids can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks, or frozen for up to 6 months. They are excellent for adding flavor to bread and cookie doughs; a tablespoon or two can be mixed in when adding the flour.)
Once butter is either clarified or browned, you will have only 75 percent the volume or weight of the whole amount of butter you started with. For example, if you need 3 tablespoons of clarified or browned butter, start with 4 tablespoons of butter. If you are using a cheesecloth-lined strainer, start with about 1 tablespoon more than that because the cheesecloth will absorb some of the butter. Clarified butter weighs a little less than whole butter because whole butter still contains water and milk solids, which, for the same volume, weigh more than fat. One cup of whole butter weighs 8 ounces/227 grams; 1 cup of clarified butter weighs 6.9 ounces/195 grams.
When butter is clarified, its water evaporates and most of the milk solids drop to the bottom. The milk solids cannot begin to brown until all of the water has evaporated. Butter that contains less water is ideal for clarifying because it sputters less. If the butter is frozen, allow it to defrost completely before clarifying in order to prevent burning.