Butter boards: the deliciously rich trend that's whipping up a storm | Food | The Guardian

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Finally, there’s a TikTok food trend that doesn’t start with a genius making something unreplicable out of rice paper; something I can try at home and, more to the point, want to. Meet the butter board. Initiated by Brooklyn-based food influencer (foodfluencer, yes, it’s a thing) Justine Doiron, what you do is get a pack of butter, not too cold, and spread it on a board. Then you can sprinkle anything you like on it – toasted almonds, roasted garlic, nasturtium petals, honey, chilli flakes, figs if you’re mad – and then spread it on bread, much as you would regular butter, except much more exciting. The board isn’t the point, the butter isn’t the point; it’s a synergy thing.

My mother likes to eat slices of cold butter with nothing at all, not even a cracker, and says it’s because she grew up with rationing – there’s nothing quite like the sheer exotic plenty of being allowed to. But I didn’t grow up with rationing, and I like to eat butter on its own as well, and thus we can sideways prove the inheritance of acquired characteristics on our way to making a butter board.

Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus, says it’s tempting to trace butter boards back to American chef Joshua McFadden. He was man-of the moment after publishing Six Seasons, which has a number of compound butters featuring microherbs. However, she urges a longer memory: “You could go to Larousse [the seminal tome, repository of classic French techniques], and there are all these combinations of compound butter that have been around since butter was invented. When they’re good, they’re quite clean – herbs and citrus, maybe a bit of garlic or onion. The butter board is quite a tortured food trend; there aren’t that many ways of doing it so that it looks really great, that’s how you end up with nasturtiums. Anything that’s wet, anything that leaks colour, will mess it up – a lot of nice, fresh ingredients don’t behave very well.”

Zoe Williams makes a butter board at home
Zoe Williams makes a butter board at home with feta, fresh oregano, toasted almonds and chilli flakes and salt. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian

There’s also, Segnit says, “no sense of what this is going to look like if you’ve got candles on your table, 12 people round it, lights overhead. It’s quite hard to move it into the domestic setting.” Even though it will be very rich and send your kids crazy, Segnit leans towards the sweet butter board: “Maple sugar, honey, chestnuts. You’re basically putting out a flat board of flourless cake mixture; it would work with french toast, muesli, granola, waffle. It is,” she concludes, “going to taste nice”.

Plus, the TikTok nitwits are doing it wrong. You don’t just spread it on a board, however artfully; first, you have to whip it. Butter served as a centrepiece ingredient, rather than a neutral accessory, has been a restaurant staple since the early 2010s. The best fancy butter I’ve ever had was in Smoke and Salt (an avant garde restaurant that started in Pop Brixton and has found its permanent home in Tooting, south London).

Chef Remi Williams describes the principle: “Whip it for 10 minutes until it goes white and fluffy, but with a mixer, not by hand. The fat distributing differently is what changes the colour. As it gets aerated and fluffy, you get a better flavour. The air moves through the butter so you can taste it more, because you taste through your nose, not your mouth.” (He used to be a chemist, you know).

As you fancy it up, consider breaking up the texture as well as the flavour – Williams does an incredible butter where he renders some bacon, then folds the fat into the butter and sprinkles the crunchy bits on top. His most popular is probably the honey and wholegrain mustard (add more salt if you’re using honey; TikTok loves honey) and he once did a seasonal butter with treacle and orange, which was both delicious and a marker, Williams says, of “starting off the meal and setting a tone”.

I tried it four ways: trad – feta, roasted flaked almonds, chilli, oregano and salt, even though it was already salted; fusion – kimchi, more chilli, more salt; personal preference – roasted garlic, thyme, toasted pine nuts; and finally, one that I didn’t whip, just allowed to go soft, to see if it really was less good – honey, mustard seeds, more salt and very small bits of walnut. I used some butter from Yeo Valley (£3 for 250g) and some from Lidl (£1.75 for 250g) to see if you could taste the difference in quality more, once aerated, which you can. I should add that you currently need to take a mortgage out to buy most non-Lidl butter, yet should not under any circumstances attempt to take out a mortgage.

You’ll need a new board, not one of your regular square ones: corners are anathema to the vibe, and the wood needs to have classy, inviting knots.

Kimchi is a great flavour with butter but brings slime to an already unctuous surface, which the chilli does nothing to break up – if you want this taste experience with a better mouthfeel, try Carla Lalli Music’s recipe for pork chops, and kimchi rice and shrimps. Honey and mustard is much better than you think, though the unwhipped butter is just duller, less complex and more amateur; plus it’s hard to get the proportions right when you’re just slopping honey over the top rather than beating it in.

Both walnuts and pine nuts are too oily to work and feel a bit transgressive, as if you’re actively trying to damage your arteries. But the traditional version – butter whipped for 10 minutes, everything else sprinkled on rather than beaten in – was so delicious that I want to insert a swear word. Almonds, once toasted, have exactly the right dry, almost chalky surface for textural contrast, you can take a lot more fat the saltier it is, and the oregano, against all the odds, brought a freshness that made it taste almost like a health food.

I did feel a bit sick afterwards, though.


This page was created programmatically, to read the article in its original location you can go to the link bellow:
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