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Novice baker here. I live in South Africa, where it is difficult to find European style butter and the one we do have is exorbitantly expensive, around 50 euros for 500g.

The closest to European style that we've got is an 82.4% butter from Lurpak

I've already checked here and here for ideas on what to do and I'm of two minds.

I know that Ghee is basically the Indian version of clarified butter and that its taste is similar to that of oil but what would happen if I combined both the Lurpak butter and Ghee in order to create something that is of both worlds. It would both, have a higher fat content as well as not taste completely of oil. Am I hoping for too much? Would the croissants taste oily if I used this method?

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    I'm not sure I get your problem, there seems to be plenty of real butter in South African stores, and none of it looks that expensive. Why would one of those not work for you?
    – GdD
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 12:59
  • Do you mention Lurpak as an example of very expensive European butter, or as an example of affordable butter?
    – dbmag9
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 13:49
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    @dbmag9 I use the Lurpak as an example of butter I can readily afford and currently have. I've also mentioned it as it is the highest fat content butter I can find in South Africa that's not 50 euros. There is another butter that's cheaper than Lurpak but it has 81,8% fat. There's one other butter but It's not sold in my area and I cannot find out the fat content.
    – Chamkey
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 16:23
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    You should investigate further, just in 2 minutes I've found an online shop there selling domestic butter that's 82%, for R65 at 500g.
    – GdD
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 16:32
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    Oh, now I understand your question! You don't need 87% butter to make good croissants, 82% will work fine as @rumtscho says. Technique is much more important, focus on getting good lamination and it'll come out well!
    – GdD
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 16:42

1 Answer 1

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My suggestion would be to use the Lurpak butter and not worry. If you run into any problems, they won't come from the butter.

On the "European butter is better" story

I have also come across the story of the high-fat European butter, and I am quite puzzled by it. I personally live in Germany, and have shopped in several other European countries too. The butter in the supermarkets in Europe is consistently 82% or 83% fat. The fresh stick in my fridge is declared at 82%.

I have no idea how the whole matter came to be so prominent on the Internet. But I don't see much behind it.

  • If people mean that in other locales, products labeled "butter" are noticeably less than 82% fat, then people should indeed try finding brands which sell 82%-fat-butter, or something close to it. You noted yourself that the Lurpak butter has that much fat.
  • If people think that in Europe, butter has much more fat than the 82% declared as legal minimum, they are mistaken. Maybe professional bakers can source some specialty butter that goes higher, I don't know. But the average home baker works with what is on the supermarket shelf, which is 82 to 83%.
  • The most unusual claim I have heard is that the difference in actual fat content is tiny (e.g. 80 vs. 82%), but the resulting difference in taste is huge. I find that hard to believe. If you are using 100 g butter in a recipe, 1.6 grams of fat more, or 1.6 grams of (bound) water less, is an absolutely tiny amount. It is below the accuracy of home scales, and it is also less than the amount that gets smeared on your bowl and spoon when you transfer the butter from a mise-en-place bowl to the mixing bowl. Its contribution to the final texture should be much smaller than other factors of butter quality, which you simply cannot read off the butter's packaging.
  • There certainly are small artisanal dairies in Europe which promote their production as superior in quality. But their distinguishing criteria are not in the fat content. You won't be able to emulate the results produced with such butter by just having higher fat content. Also, this is such an incredibly tiny detail in optimizing quality, that you have to get everything else absolutely perfect before people with refined palates start noticing the difference. It may be the detail that decides whether a five-star bakery will beat another five-star bakery for the coveted spot on the food critics' list, but it is not something a home baker should worry about.

Lurpak is a brand by Arla, one of the major dairy producers in Europe, and according to its website, it is positioned as a "premium brand". It should be equivalent, or even better, to the butter that home bakers in Europe use for their baking. Using it as-is should give you the results your recipe was designed for.

On mixing butter with ghee

Sure, you can do that, if this is what you want. The question is, why would you?

First, the fat content of a 50-50 mix would be 91%, which is a lot more than standard European butter. If you think that your recipe may be off from just 1% difference, you would expect a disaster from 9% difference. In reality, I think that it won't be a disaster, but it certainly won't be what the recipe is aiming for.

Second, ghee is structurally very different from butter. It has been melted, destroying the complicated emulsion-plus-crystals-plus-semisolid-fat mixture that is butter. When you use ghee, that will have a much larger effect on texture (in unpredictable ways) than the difference in fat percentages.

Third, ghee is different not only in structure, but also in taste/aroma. The final taste will not be the same as when you bake with pure butter.

All in all, if you want to experiment with ghee, you can do it. But don't think that you are "correcting" a "problem". There is no problem to start with, and if there were (e.g. if you only had access to 80% butter), then the addition of ghee would be a risky move that gets you away from the original, not a correction.

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  • I think a prime driver of the "European butter has more fat" idea is Plugra, an American brand of butter which positions itself as being (a) higher fat, and (b) "European style". (The "Made in USA" sticker is very small.) IME the primary difference between American butter and (some) European butter is the degree to which the cream is cultured.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 15:04
  • @Sneftel The plugra butter is the butter that I mentioned above at 50 euros per 500g
    – Chamkey
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 16:25
  • Butter is clarified so that you can use it at high temperatures without it smoking. Ghee is more in line canola oil or sunflower oil in it's use. Although, it is a derivative of butter it's application is totally different from that of butter.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 19:12
  • @Chamkey I now did a couple more searches. I was unable to find a butter in France sold as having 87% fat (neither by checking expensive butters in Carrefour online - they are all 82% - nor by doing a web search on "beurre 87% matiere grasse"). I was able to find two brands of 84% butter being sold b2b, toutbeurre.fr/15-beurres-patissiers. Then I checked Plugra - it seems that all its products are 82% too. The professional one has no fat percentage declared, but when multiplying from the nutrition facts, that's what I get.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 31, 2022 at 19:53
  • Canada here and our butter is all around 82% too. We also have "European style" butter made by Canadian brands and they're all around 82% fat also. The difference, as @Sneftel said, is the degree to which the cream is cultured before making butter. The difference is subtle. I'd use the Lurpak too. 50 euros for a stick of butter is madness.
    – J...
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 0:08

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