A Quartet of Compound Butters

A quartet of vibrant, colorful, and unique compound butter recipes - Smoked Paprika, Dry Desert Lime, Raw Serrano, and Dehydrated Strawberry.

A Quartet of Compound Butters

I saw an old painter's palette at a flea market the other day smeared with vibrant shades of sunset oranges and cornflower blues. Later that day Wayne and I were sharing a gelato in North Beach and he was telling me about a gelataria that serves a sampler on a painter's palette, six tiny scoops for seven dollars - your choice of flavors. It all got me thinking about color. I got home and had a few sticks of butter in the refrigerator and decided to make a spectrum of compound butters. Compound butter can bring an explosive burst of flavor to a recipe and I don't use them nearly enough. My goal was to create butters that vibrant, colorful, and unique - I didn't want to make any I had tried in the past. I ended up making the following flavors: Dry Desert Lime Butter, Raw Serrano Butter, Dehydrated Strawberry Butter, and Smoked Paprika Butter.

Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter: I've been playing around quite a bit lately using tea as a seasoning. Many times I'll grind up tea leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it the way you might use a pepper. The fragrance that comes off the ground leaves is wonderful and brings an unexpected element to many preparations. Depending on the tea I am using this can range from smoky to floral to fresh and bright. In this case I choose a dried lime tisane (or herbal tea) instead. There is something haunting, vibrant and ancient in the taste of dried lime and I thought it might lend itself nicely to a compound butter for use on a range of foods like: sweet potatoes (mashed/roasted), grilled corn, as a spread on sandwiches, etc.

Freeze-Dried Strawberry Compound Butter: Freeze-dried fruit is quite common now.  You can get strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pineapple. Crush and chop these strawberries, whip them into the butter and you get a textured, color-flecked spread perfect for pancakes, toast, muffins and the like. The strawberries are on the very tart side of sweet so I sweetened this one up with a bit of sugar - I used Florida Crystals because I didn't want a browner sugar to impact its bright color.

Raw Serrano Compound Butter: This one is for the cornbreads of the world. It has a little heat and a lot of flavor. I used 2 medium serrano chiles, but you can scale up of down on the chile scale depending on your tastes. A pretty pale green butter flecked with dark green freckles I'm going to use it on crepes, and corn, and to toss fresh summer shell beans, and for pasta....really versatile. I think a great variation on this one would be to add roasted garlic and pan-toast the chiles before blending them in.

Smoked Paprika Compound Butter: Fragrant, delicious, and a stunning rusty-orange color a little of this butter goes the distance. It will lend itself nicely to brown rice, certain kabobs, sandwiches, corn soup (I'm setting myself up for a corn bender), toasted artisan breads, and zucchini muffins.

A couple other ideas I had in mind but didn't get around to:
- toasted, shredded nori with sesame seeds
- dried fig and Balinese long pepper
- harissa

Picture compound butters: (clockwise) Serrano, Smoked Paprika, Strawberry, Desert Lime
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A Quartet of Compound Butters

These recipes make batches of roughly 1/4 cup each. Feel free to double or triple batches depending on the quantity you are after.

Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 or 2 Numi Desert Lime tea bags (depending on how strong you want it), cut open and the contents ground in a mortar and pestle 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Dehydrated Strawberry Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar (I used Florida Crystals) 1/3 cup dehydrated organic strawberries, minced
Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Raw Serrano Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 2 serrano chiles, deveined and seeded, loosely chopped 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Combine in a small bowl and puree with a handblender until the chiles are fully incorporated. Refrigerate.

Smoked Paprika Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Butter never looked or tasted this good !!!!!


The paprika compound butter looks easy enough to make and would go great with my Eric Kayser 7 cereals bread - can't wait to try this and have it with dinner tonight!


what a lovely idea ! I am a big smoked paprika fan, thank you for another reason to use it ^_^ Lovely pictures and a simple, yet flavorful idea - Thank you !


This is a great example of how butterfat is a great conductor of flavour. And how emulsification with sharp blades and correct temperatures can lead to better tasting end products. I will often make sugars this way so that cookies, cakes, ice creams etc. will emit more scent, rounding out a flavour sensation. Hence: http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2006/06/candied_herbs.html

shuna fish lydon

Heidi what a good idea. I got me thinking of Indian variations on this theme.....


Heidi, how beautiful and inspiring! They all sound wonderful, and so different. I can imagine some of the savory versions would be a wonderful starting point for a great grilled cheese. I'm curious about the dried lime tisane though. Is that just type of tea? Thanks!!


Heidi, these look absolutely delicious. I have made compound butters before but mainly with herbs. I am going to make one with the Chimayo peppers in my backyard instead of serrano (which I didn't grow this year). I am also going to make one with dried blueberries instead of strawberries. I have some left in a package. I usually sprinkle them on my cereal. Thanks for the interesting ideas. I have also made seasonings with green tea. This butter idea really looks good. Can't wait to experiment. RisaG


Beautiful.. just beautiful... hey - tell Julian "your tiniest friend" to try to eat his peas frozen next time. My kids love them like this! gg -From Kids Culinary Adventures


looking at the pictures it reminds me of the film made of the painter johannes vermeer, " "The girl with the pearl earring" the whole looks like a still of that film, they also made their colors from raw ingredients. It's beautiful en it must taste amazing to, you are an inspiration to me.


Garrett's post reminds me how delicious radish sandwiches are: grate and salt a bunch of radishes, and allow the liquid to drip away in a sieve (say 30 mins). Squeeze out the rest of the liquid in your hands. Add mayo and seasoning to make a spreadable radish "paste": it will be deliciously pink, and you will probably want to use white bread for effect.

Curzon Tussaud

Your photos knock my socks off!


Have you tried butter with nasturtium or other edible flowers? I'm thinking cool but savory...


How visually stunning! I'm surprised at the color of the strawberry compound though. LOL, my best compound was a simple shredded radish butter compound. Totally nummers!


You are so full of good ideas!


I love this post! Beautiful.....shay


It's amazing that you could be inspired by a painter's palette, and create all this in one afternoon, with items on hand...we are so lucky...v


These look absolutely delicious. After cooking lunch at church last weekend, I had some leftover basil, oregano, and thyme, so I now have about two pounds of herb butters in my freezer. I suddenly feel inspired to make more. I think I have some adobo in the fridge...


very nice - and what was your favourite?


You are so clever! Love the colors and the myriad of applications. Thanks for another great idea!


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