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High-fat, European-style butters make most everything better.
You already know how much I love olive oil—I use it for basically everything!—but even I have to admit that some things just taste better with butter. Butter-laced mashed potatoes are even more delicious with a bit extra melting on top, and there’s really no substitute for toast slathered with softened butter and a sprinkle of flakey sea salt.
And because studies now suggest saturated fat may not increase the risk of heart disease after all, butter is most definitely having a moment. The dairy sections are bursting with all kinds of European and European-style butters, from the French Echiré and Irish Kerrygold to Pennsylvania-made Plugrá.
What’s the difference, and are the often considerably more expensive European-style versions really worth it? More fat—82 to 86% compared to 80% in American-style versions—and less water make these types richer, better for spreading, and if you’ve ever made pie dough from scratch, you know that low water content is key when it comes to getting that perfectly flakey layered crust. European-style butters also tend to be cultured (though not all are), which gives them a higher acidity and a nuttier, tangier flavor than their uncultured counterparts. There’s also the matter of terroir; in France, butter, like wine, has appellation status.
My advice? In butter-centric recipes where the flavor and texture really count, splurge on the good stuff. You can make my butter cookies with American-style butter, but I guarantee that they’re so much better with high-fat versions. The same goes for butter-braised radishes, which make a perfect side dish or springtime starter. And browning good butter adds even more nuttiness to tortellini tossed with peas, herbs, lemon zest, and Parmesan. This quick-and-easy dish is almost enough to convert me to the butter camp.