Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Real Reason We Went to St. Martin

I don't know who coined the phrase "everything's better with butter" (Land "O Lakes, maybe?) but I agree!  Especially when the butter in question is Normandy butter. 

We ate a lot of it last week in St. Martin.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Breakfast consisted of that blood orange juice I told you about, along with strong coffee and a warm baguette slathered with butter.  Disproportionately, I might add, meaning more butter than baguette.  It was worth every pound we gained, too (notice I did not say "ounce").

The grocery stores and restaurants on the French side of St. Martin rely heavily on the daily Air France flight which arrives from Paris laden with fois gras, butter and wine.  No wonder Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean!  No wonder this is our favorite vacation spot!

Speaking of airplanes, one of the favorite pastimes on the island is heading to the Sunset Beach Bar to watch them land every day.  That's because huge planes (yes, even 747's) come in low, right over the beach, stirring up vortexes of sand and blowing unsuspecting tourists into the water.  Same thing happens when they take off.  Watching this has become something of a national sport, particularly if you're hanging out with a drink at the bar next to the runway!

Here's what I mean:

As usual, I've gotten WAY off track here.  Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah .. butter!  Make it yourself!  It's easy and oh, so good.  Heck, if you've ever attempted to make whipped cream and walked away from the mixer, then you've made it before.  Buttermilk, too.


(This recipe and method comes from Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of Coi in San Francisco.  It was published in the New York Times Magazine on 7-1-07).

6 cups organic heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
Sea salt to taste (optional)

Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk.  Tightly cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and start mixer on medium-high speed.  The cream will go through the whipped state, thicken further then change color from off-white to pale yellow; this will take at least 5-8 minutes.  When it starts to look pebbly, it's almost done.  After another minute the butter will separate, causing the liquid to splash against the plastic wrap.  At the point, stop the mixer.

Set a strainer over a bowl.  Pour the contents of the mixer into the strainer and let the buttermilk drain through.  Strain the buttermilk again, this time through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl and set aside.

Keeping the butter in the strainer set over the first bowl, knead it to consolidate the remaining liquid and fat and expel the rest of the buttermilk.  Knead until the texture is dense and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Strain the excess liquid into the buttermilk.  Refrigerate the buttermilk.

If desired, mix salt into the butter.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. 

Yield:  this makes approximately 2 cups of butter and 2 cups of buttermilk

Two things:

Be very careful when placing the plastic wrap over the bowl of the electric mixer.  Make sure it's secure enough that it won't get wound up on the device that turns the whisk - trust me on this.  It happened to me once when I was making sponge cake for tiramisu at Star Provisions and it took me over an hour to remove the tightly wound plastic from the stem of the mixer.  Not fun!

And don't throw away that buttermilk!  It's sweet and delicious.  Stay tuned for the next post.....


  1. Welcome home. Great post... Nothing better than a good piece
    E of bread with really good butter. Yum!

  2. Hi Liz,
    Just wanting to say hello. (I hope this doesn't show up as a post! I wasn't sure how to send you an email.)
    Charlene cuts my hair and told me about your blog. I can't wait to try the Brown Sugar Shortbread! It's one of my favorite treats at Star Provisions.
    I'm wanting to start my own baking blog. After seeing Julie and Julia, I was inspired to go through all the dessert recipes I've cut out of magazines so I can see what needs to be weeded out. I want to post only the fabulous ones. :) So far, I've thrown out more than I've saved.
    I'm currently in the caramel cake section of my binder and have made four caramel frosting recipes this week trying to figure out the recipe at Piece of Cake!! I'm getting kind of close. Not sure if I'll get the exact taste, but I'm actually liking mine better!
    I've also been following Serenbe's blog. I had the most wonderful, dense and moist red velvet cake at Blue Eyed Daisy. The owner said she'd post it on her blog but hasn't yet. Think I might give her a friendly reminder. I'm dying to try it on my own.
    Well....once I get the first successful recipe on my blog, I'll let you know!!