Strive for grateness.

Stacey Ballis
March 20, 2019
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There is something about a freezer door stacked with butter that just makes me happy. Seeing all those neat bricks of creamy possibility sends my brain into a fantastical spiral of imagining cookies and cakes and buttery sauces. Just the way wine collectors like to stand in their cellars and lovingly gaze at a future full of sipping and sharing, or the way a new mom can stand over a crib to watch a sleeping babe, I can stand in my open freezer like an idiot with my mouth agape, master of all the butter I survey.

Currently, the door of my freezer contains the following:

1-pound bricks of unsalted Plugra, which is the butter we use for cheese platters and also the one we cut satisfying square slabs off of to put on the table for dinner party bread anointments.

½-pound bricks of Lurpak Lightly Salted, which is our salted butter of choice for daily toast or sandwiches. We keep this in a butter bell on the counter so that it is always soft and ready to spread on even the most delicate breads.

Sticks of unsalted butter in both ½-cup and ¼-cup sizes. I love having the half-sticks on hand, so useful for measuring in baked goods.

Compound butters: These flavored butters are a quick way to anoint a piece of protein or enhance a pan sauce or take a bowl of plain pasta or rice or grains completely next level. They are also fun with breadstuffs like popovers or biscuits. At the moment I have zucchini blossom butter for a bit of summer flavor on a winter night, an herb-shallot butter, a fig butter, and a weird but delicious coffee butter. 

And the best pal of all of these frozen fatty delights? My microplane graters. I have about as many of these graters as I do butter, every size from the superfine zester to the one that makes large curls, both the handheld and the box style. And if you have them both? You are well on your way to being a better cook.

Watch: How to Make Cathead Biscuits

How It Works

I can hear you now: How on earth does a freezer full of butter and a drawer full of graters make me a better cook? Seems simplistic. And it is, simple in the best possible ways.

Let’s start with flavor. Frozen butter, stored properly, is less likely to absorb off-flavors the way it does in the fridge, and the butterfat doesn’t break down. You know how sometimes fridge butter gets that thin line of darker yellow around the creamy middle? Not dangerous, but not peak butter. Frozen butter stays perfect until you use it.

Now, technique. While softened butter is terrific for spreading on toast (see: butter bell), and is a first step in many baking applications, there are a lot of places you want your butter to be cold.  Pastry, for example, is all about keeping the butter as cold as possible so that it doesn’t get greasy in the baking. Biscuits, scones, and pie dough all want cold butter for flakiness. So, for a lot of these, I grate frozen butter directly into my flour mixture, using a large grater to get big long flakes of butter. These just need to be lightly stirred into your dry mix with a fork, no hands ever touch them, and you will get light and fluffy and flaky baked goods every time.

In Your Eggs

Did you think that you were good at scrambled eggs? Let me make a major improvement. Using the smaller microplane, the one you would use for parmesan cheese over your pasta, grate frozen butter into your beaten eggs at the rate of about 1 tablespoon to three large eggs. Beat the tiny butter pieces into the raw egg mix until well distributed, and then scramble to your desired doneness. The cold butter slowly emulsifies into your eggs making them rich and tender and they will never get bouncy or rubbery even if you cook them completely through.  Which is even better, if you are scrambling for a crowd, you can hold these eggs in a low oven until serving and they will not dry out or get tough. I’m fairly certain it was my egg technique that sealed the deal with my husband.

In Your Gravy

Frozen grated butter stirred into a pan sauce or gravy has the same effect, and since the smaller pieces work faster than larger cold pats, you have less chance of your sauce breaking on you.

In Your Cookies

Sometimes we do not have the forethought to soften butter for baked goods. Sometimes in the middle of our afternoon someone posts a picture of cookies on their Insta and it sends us into paroxysms of desire. Never fear, you can just grate the frozen butter right into the bowl of your mixer and let sit at room temp for about 15 minutes and you will be able to cream butter and sugar for those treats like magic. 

On Your English Muffin

Did you wake up, put the English muffin in the toaster and reach for the butter bell to discover that there is not enough soft butter left to cover both sides? Before cursing your thoughtless partner, just grab the frozen butter and microplane, and just grate a light snowfall of butter directly onto your hot toasted carbs, and watch it immediately melt into those nooks and crannies. Your love has many other fine qualities, and forgetting to take out a new stick of butter to soften is probably not really a decent reason to say those things about their mother, even if you are hangry.

Whether it is a last-minute addition to amp up steamed veggies, the transformation of a pan of roasted chicken juices into a glossy sauce, or just the best damned scrambled eggs you ever made, frozen butter and a grater or two will improve your cooking. It’s just that simple.