What’s your favorite smell on the entire planet? Whatever it is, I want you to think about it intently, maybe even close your eyes to really imagine it fully, and get a good sense of it in your head. Now, let me ask you… is your favorite smell also your favorite taste? For those of you who answered with things like freshly cut grass, gasoline (there are a few of us out there who like that scent), and new car smell - I really hope you said no ;)
For those who answered with things like a bouquet of roses, freshly baked bread, or orange peels, I’m a little less worried about your answer. But now, I want to share my favorite smell - which also happens to be one of my favorite tastes - because I’m pretty certain that it’s about to become your favorite smell, too. Browned butter!
Before you even ask, I am prepared to tell you a little bit about it. Beurre noisette (how the French refer to browned butter - I’ll use them interchangeably here) is a staple in most French kitchens. In a way it’s kind of like cream cheese - it can be used in both savory and sweet capacities, and while it’s super delicious on its own, people will definitely look at you funny if you sit around snacking on it by itself.
But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret... You know my chocolate chip cookie recipe that I’m always going on and on about? Part of what makes those cookies so unbelievably scrumptious is that I use browned butter to add some extra flavor.
But what exactly is it? Beurre noisette is butter that has been heated past its melting point so that the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan and toast. These toasted solids are what actually turns brown and flavors the melted butter with what is commonly explained as a “nutty” flavor.
First things first when you want to make browned butter: put your butter in a pan (however much you want. Just remember that some of the liquids will evaporate during the cooking process so if your recipe calls for 4oz. of butter, you’ll need to start the process with a little extra. Oh, and unwrap it first.) and turn your burner on to MED-HIGH heat. I made my browned butter on MED for this blog because I was worried about burning the milk solids while photographing, so it took a bit longer than usual. I actually filmed portions of the process of browning butter, and I’m a little self conscious about posting them because I think you can hear me sniffing the scent of it the whole damn time. But, what can I say? I really love it!
Once the butter is completely melted, it will be whitish-yellow and will become foamy.
As it continues to cook, the foam will start to subside and the liquids will become very bubbly and will turn a golden color. (I could fall asleep to that sound!)
Once the solids on the bottom of the pan are toasted, you’ll see them as the butter roils. This is the point where it’s really smelling good, and as my chefs always said, “The nose knows”. When you smell that delicious, toasty, buttery scent (and see the browned particles) it’s time to remove the butter from heat and transfer it to a new bowl to stop the cooking process.
I placed mine in a glass bowl so you can see the darker color as well as all the browned particles at the bottom.
Once my beurre noisette cooled, I added it to my cinnamon cream cheese frosting and voila! My absolute favorite frosting recipe is ready to go.
You saw in the video that the browned particles collected at the bottom of the bowl and didn't slide into the mixer. Be sure to scrape all of those tasty browned particles into your frosting because that's a lot of flavor that you're missing out on if you don't use it. Plus the particles look cool in your frosting! #aesthetics (Shout out to my AWESOME neighbors for running a bag of powdered sugar over to my apartment when I sent out an SOS because I didn’t have enough to finish my frosting and had no time to get to the grocery store!) I actually created this frosting recipe years ago to compliment the cinnamon macaron shells I was baking at the time. They were easily my favorite flavor, and I’m so glad I can continue to use this recipe in different ways.
Now let's talk about this cake. First of all, remember that I am still trying to clean out the contents of my kitchen before I move next month. Sometimes when I’m baking cakes or cupcakes and have a lot of extra batter, I will bake an extra 6” round and freeze it so that I will have a cake layer at the ready if I’m ever in a pinch. Now that I’m leaving and am no longer accepting cake orders (it hurts my heart how many people I’ve turned down in the last month. I am SO SORRY!!) and need to clear out my kitchen, I decided to use whatever was stored in my freezer for this week's blog.
Turns out I had 3 layers of chocolate cake where I used Dutch process cocoa powder, and two layers where I used regular cocoa powder. It’s exactly the same recipe, but the Dutch process makes allllll the difference in the coloring. (Need a refresher about Dutch process cocoa powder? Read about it here.) So for those of you who are wondering about the two different colors of chocolate cake layers, there it is. Dutch chocolate cocoa powder is sooooo dark!
Next I decided to make a naked cake (a cake that doesn’t have frosting on the outside) since I wanted to have some leftover frosting for myself to just… eat. You know, sometimes Mother Nature rises up and slaps you right in the hormones while shrieking in your ear “EAT SOMETHING DECADENT!!!” (wow, Mother Nature is a bit of a banshee, isn’t she?), and this time, I obliged by making my favorite frosting and pairing it with chocolate cake. To make it more visually appealing, I used my French star tip and piped around the edges with what most chefs call a “sea shell” design (I tend to think of it as a face down comma, but that’s the Grammar-Nazi in me trying to take over the pastry chef in me). Whatever you call it, the design is moderately visible from the edges of the cake, and I pressed fresh raspberries and blueberries into the frosting to enhance the flavor and visual appeal.
Unfortunately with naked cakes there is no “crumb coat” to seal in all the crumbs from the cake underneath the outer layer of frosting, so the crumbs got everywhere. Since it’s not a cake for a client, I didn’t freak out and grab a toothpick to remove every single crumb from the frosting, but normally, that would have been my plan of action.
I also bought some fresh fruit to accent the flavors of the cream cheese and cut the sweetness of the whole cake with a little acidity, and by happy accident I now have a red, white, and blue cake which is just fine by me!
So go ahead and try making beurre noisette and let me know what you think about that scent! Not sure what to make? Here are two inspiration articles - one from Epicurious and one from Bon Appetit - and both seem to share my intense enthusiasm about browned butter! Post your comments below!
Happy eating, y'all!
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