A Quartet of Compound Butters

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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