Eric Akis: How to make your own butter, bread and cheese

Eric Akis

A lot of flour is being sold during the COVID-19 pandemic — an indication that many folks have gone into pioneer mode and are making bread. Ask them what goes good with it and many will say butter.

So I thought it would be fun to show you how to make your own butter. It’s not difficult when using a stand mixer, as I did.

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You whip whipping cream until it breaks into butter and buttermilk. The butter is formed into a ball and squeezed, submerged in cold water, to remove any additional buttermilk. The butter is then drained and seasoned with salt, if desired.

Two cups of whipping cream will yield about one cup of butter. It will also leave behind about one cup of buttermilk, which is conveniently needed for my soda bread recipe.

If you don’t have a stand mixer, but do have strong arms or many family members who can help you shake, you could start making the butter in a one-litre jar. Put the whipping cream in the jar and shake, shake, shake until it eventually breaks into butter and buttermilk. Now finish the butter as described in the recipe.

If butter’s not your thing, try today’s other recipe for yogurt cheese, which can be spread on such things as bread, bagels, crostini and crackers.

Homemade Butter

Tasty homemade butter you can spread on anything requiring it, such as slices of soda bread. It also yields about one cup of buttermilk, an ingredient needed for the bread.

Preparation time: a few minutes, plus mixing time
Cooking time: None
Makes: about 1 cup butter

1 (500 mL) container whipping cream (see Note)

1/4 tsp salt (optional)

Set a colander in a bowl and set it aside for now.

Pour cream into a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment. Whip cream on medium speed (I used the number 5 setting on my Kitchen Aid) until medium peaks form, about four minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Put on your mixer’s splatter guard, if it has one.

Increase speed to medium-high (I used the number 8 setting). Whip cream until it breaks into butter and buttermilk, about six to 12 minutes. The cream will make sloshing sounds just before that happens.

Put the butter clung to the whipping attachment in the colander. Set a sieve over a 2-cup measuring cup or other vessel and pour and strain the buttermilk into it.

Add any butter in the sieve to butter in the colander. Cover and refrigerate buttermilk until ready to use for the soda bread or other use.

Press butter in the colander into a ball. Fill the bowl with ice-cold water, and then squeeze the butter to remove most of buttermilk left in it, about one minute.

Lift butter out of the water, drain on paper towel and then set in a clean bowl. Mix salt, if using, into the butter.

The butter is now ready. Form it into a brick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. You could also store the butter in a fancy bowl or jar, or mold it. The butter, refrigerated, should keep a month, but you’ll likely devour it well before that.

Note: I tested this recipe with Island Farms brand whipping cream, and also Avalon Dairy brand organic whipping cream. The latter turned to butter much quicker than the former, which is why the recipe method gives a range on how long it will take to whip the cream into butter.

Buttermilk Soda Bread

Hearty, yeast-free bread you can use for sandwiches, or serve with cheese, stews and soups.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Makes: one, about seven-inch round loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for kneading and shaping

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 cup buttermilk (see Note)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add butter and with your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, work into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed.

Mix in buttermilk until loose dough forms. Turn dough on to a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour your hands, and then gently knead and shape the dough, which should still be a little sticky, into a 6-inch round, about 2-inch thick, disc. Set on a non-stick or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Cut a shallow cross on the top of the loaf. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until loaf springs back when gently touched in the centre.

Note: If using buttermilk leftover from the butter recipe, if you don’t have exactly one cup, simply top up with regular milk until you do.

Eric’s options: Replace 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with 1 cup whole wheat flour. To make buttermilk cheese soda bread, after adding the butter to the flour mixture, mix in one cup grated cheddar cheese. Now finish bread as described in the recipe.

Yogurt Cheese

Here’s a tangy, easy to make, soft-cream-cheese-like mixture you can spread on sandwiches, bagels, crostini or crackers. If spread on the latter two items, make appetizing bites by also topping them with items that compliment the cheese’s taste, such as tapenade, cured meats, smoked salmon or roasted peppers.

Preparation time: a few minutes, plus draining time
Cooking time: None
Makes: about 3/4 cup

1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt (see Note)

• salt, to taste

1 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, oregano, basil, tarragon and/or dill, or to taste (optional)

Set a fine sieve over a bowl and line with two sheets of cheesecloth. Or, line a coned-shaped, drip coffee maker with a paper filter and set in a bowl. Spoon yogurt into the sieve or filter. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let yogurt drain 24 to 36 hours, until like spreadable cream cheese in texture

Transfer yogurt cheese to a bowl and season with salt and chopped fresh herbs, if using.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep about a week, depending on yogurt’s best before date.

Note: I used Liberté brand, two per cent Greek-style yogurt when testing this recipe.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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