Let’s face it. Vegan butter by any other name is…well, margarine. At best, it’s a butter-like spread. When you remove cream from the equation that’s what you’re left with. I wasn’t raised on margarine. In our house, it was butter or nothing. I love butter. I love everything about it. The way it melts, spreads, whips, creams, browns, and best of all, the way it tastes! I don’t care about fat grams. In fact, when it comes to butter, cheese, and ice cream, I want all the butterfat money can buy. When I check the label on a wedge of brie cheese, I’m not looking for a low-fat variety, I want triple cream. Which is why I don’t have Haggen Daz ice cream in the freezer, and I limit myself to brie cheese once a year. So why have I spent the last few months researching dairy alternatives when I am not a vegan or suffering from lactose intolerance? Because I like a challenge. I don’t profess to have built a better mousetrap. I just like turning something on its ear. I’ve conquered coconut whipped cream, reinvented white chocolate, and even managed to turn aquafaba into merengue and make the mousse, just for the hell of it. Who knows, I may also find a way to manipulate coconut cream into brie cheese, but at the moment it’s all about the butter! In the world of dairy, there’s cow butter, buffalo butter, goat butter, sheep butter, ox butter, and even yak butter, but vegan butter…How do you milk a vegan? That aside, how exactly is butter made? (See recipe)
The U.S. vs. European Butter
First, let’s examine the difference between butter and margarine. For butter to be labeled butter—according to industry standards— it must contain at least 80% butterfat, although traditional homemade butter is closer to 65%. But no one said butterfat had to come from an animal. An updated definition of milk is: “Any of various potable liquids resembling milk, such as coconut milk or soymilk.” I don’t know about everyone else, but I am not a huge fan of soy. Admittedly, I do use tofu, but I don’t care for soymilk, whereas coconut cream, I’m onboard hands down. And yet every DIY recipe —claiming to have the “holy grail” of vegan butter—used soymilk and a myriad of additives that in the end didn’t even pass for margarine. The closest approximation came from Mattie over @veganbaking.net, and it is his shoulders, I now stand on. His comprehensive research on butter’s fermentation, emulsification, and stabilization was the most thorough. So much so I decided to test one of his vegan butter recipes using of all things, cacao butter. Never one to pass up an opportunity to include chocolate in the mix, I substituted coconut cream for soymilk, grape seed for canola oil, and added a touch of toasted hazelnut oil—that nutty flavor inherent in the smell and taste of butter when it browns. The French call it beurre noisette. The combination of coconut cream and cacao raised the total butterfat to around 60%, which left me just shy of traditional butter. And by fermenting the coconut cream overnight, I was able to accomplish a European style butter flavor. There are two types of butter: “sweet” butter; commonly found in the U.S and U.K., and European butter which has a slight tang that gives it a complex nutty flavor. And it is probably why European pastries and bread have that je ne sais quoi quality. I use to attribute it to higher butterfat, but not so. It’s the cultured fermentation process which Mattie explained in his blog (he really did do his homework).
What are the limitations of coco-cacao butter?
Very few if any. It whips, creams, foams, spreads, melts, blends, browns, and taste…with a close approximation to creamery butter. I even found myself repeating the line from that commercial: I can’t believe it’s not butter! And yet, it is butter, albeit plant-based. It isn’t made from a cow, it’s made from coco-cacao. Is it healthier than regular butter or margarine? Well, it still is saturated fat and should be used sparingly as with any saturated fat. But at least this butter, like regular butter, is all-natural. But don’t take my word for it. Judge for yourself.
Recipe notes: Some of the modifications were made based on personal preferences: less salt (for sodium reasons) and psyllium husk powder (it left an aftertaste). Lastly, flipping the ratio of cacao butter and oil, provided a truer butter viscosity, and, I didn’t want to taste the cacao, I wanted the flavor of the cream to shine. You can use any type of mold. Ice-cube trays work well. Then wrap and freeze them for easy use and proportion. Personally, I like having some of it whipped for spreading and making compound herb butters, the rest I keep wrapped in a freezer bag. It will keep in the freezer up to a year.
What you will need: Glass jar, bowl, whisk, hand mixer, and containers for tempering and storing butter. Active prep time: 20-minutes. Inactive time: one day. Yields 1-1/2lbs or 3-cups of butter. Difficulty level: A very easy 3-step process.
- 1-cup Kara brand coconut cream in the box
- 1-Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1-Tbsp+1 tsp coconut vinegar
- 1-Tbsp+1tsp sunflower or soy lecithin oil (available at most health food stores)
- 3/4-tsp psyllium husk powder or 3-capsules ( also available at health food stores)
- 1/2-tsp Himalayan, or sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
- 3-Tbsp+ 1 1/2-tsp roasted hazelnut oil
- 1-cup +2-Tbsp (9 oz by weight) deodorized cacao wafers, melted (250-ml) If ordering in bulk Jedwards offers it at a discounted rate
- Pour cream in a clean glass jar, add vinegar, lecithin, psyllium, and salt.
- Stir well to combine ingredients.
- Secure with lid and refrigerate overnight to ferment.
- In saucepan, heat oil, add cacao wafers and melt, whisking occasionally.
- Remove mixture from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Pour oil mixture into a bowl.
- Using a hand mixer, slowly add fermented, emulsified cream to oil, and mix well.
- Taste butter and adjust flavor profile. If you like more salt, add more. If you want more tang, add more vinegar. If you want a nuttier flavor, add a bit more hazelnut oil.
- To ensure a cohesive end result, give the butter a good whisking before pouring it into molds and placing in the freezer. The longer it takes to congeal, the higher the chance of separation, which will affect the quality of the finished product.
- Keep in freezer for 1-hour to completely set.
- Remove butter from the freezer and unmold.
- Depending on the mold used, wrap or place in plastic bags
- If you wish to aerate the butter for a spread, set in a bowl and begin whipping on low and increase to high until butter is fluffy, occasionally scraping down side of the bowl
- Scoop butter into the desired container and refrigerate. Enjoy!