For those of you who have never had the pleasure of tasting brown butter, get ready to live. It’s exactly what it sounds like, butter that has been browned using heat from either your stove or oven. There are a number of reasons why you might make brown butter, also known as ghee, in both sweet and savory applications. The act of cooking the fat of the butter to the point where it begins to caramelize, adds a beautiful nuttiness to the flavor profile, it’s in the same wheel house flavor wise as toasted coconut or torched marshmallow. It imparts a warmth that settles magically on your taste buds. Butter is less of an ingredient and more a way of life in my kitchen. I firmly believe that bread was invented as a vehicle to get butter into my mouth as efficiently as possible. Clarified butter, compound butter, salted butter on glorious sour dough, it’s all fabulous. Were it socially acceptable, and wouldn’t cause an early heart attack, I would probably eat straight up sticks of butter every chance I got. Okay, enough of my ‘Ode to Butter’, why are we talking about frosting made with Ghee?…..Because why not!? Trust me on this, read on.
What is Ghee?
Ghee has been around for a really long time and is at the heart of a great deal of Indian cuisine. The word Ghee translates to ‘fat’ in Hindi and can often be confused with clarified butter. The main difference between traditional ghee and clarified butter lies in it’s preparation. When making clarified butter using the traditional French technique, the heat stays relatively low and the butter is removed from heat once the milk solids have been skimmed off. All butter is made up of three things; milk proteins, a little bit of water and fat. When you apply heat to the butter the water content simmers out causing foam on top and the milk proteins separate from the fat, leaving you with butter in it’s purest form….perfect for dipping delicious crab and lobster.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when making buttercream with ghee. It’s important to note that we are making an American style frosting, this won’t work well with a Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream. Additionally, the butter is going to take on a warm caramel, nutty flavor the more you cook the butter. You want to make sure not to cook it too long or you will end up with a burnt flavor, which does not taste amazing.
The procedure for this stuff is super simple, with the most time consuming portion being the wait while the butter cools. Let’s dive in!
Cook the Butter
It’s as simple as the heading implies, you are literally just going to cook the butter. Make sure it’s unsalted butter and that you don’t heat it too quickly. Other than that, it’s pretty foolproof. In a medium pot melt the butter down over medium low heat. How much butter should you use? For my American style buttercream I typically use a 1 : 1.5 ratio of butter to powdered sugar. This means if I’m using a pound of butter, you will want a pound and a half of sugar. This amount will typically give me enough buttercream to frost and fill a 3 layer, 6” round cake.
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Watch for the Foam
Once your butter has completely melted, you can bump the heat up to medium, from this point on you will need to stay close to your stove to make sure the butter doesn’t burn. This isn’t the time to go fold a load of laundry and then come back. You will see foam appear on the surface of your butter twice. Remember that the water content is evaporating. This first foam will appear rather rapidly. It will show up and then completely dissipate in the matter of a couple of minutes. Once it disappears you are halfway there. In about 15ish minutes (depending on how high your heat is) you will see a second foam show up. It won’t be as “foam-like” as the first time, it will look more like fat solids coming to the top. By this point, your butter should have turned a nice yellowish golden color. You can now stop cooking the ghee. If you would like a more pronounced flavor, leave it a little longer. If you want something more subtle, pull it off the heat now. Just remember that this stuff can go from cooked to burnt very quickly.
Strain and Chill
As your ghee cooks, you may end up with some semi solid brown bits at the bottom of your pot, as well as some milk solids that don’t completely dissipate from the top. You will want to strain these things out. Pour your ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof container. Be careful here, this stuff is going to be piping hot! Allow the ghee to cool down to room temperature and then place in your fridge overnight. The ghee is going to be softer than regular butter because we got rid of its solid structure. I like to allow my ghee to get really cold for a few hours and then let it come up to room temp before starting on the final buttercream steps. I find that it holds its shape a bit better this way. Keep in mind that this buttercream is going to be softer than a traditional American so this isn’t the stuff to use on a multi-tiered wedding cake in the middle of July for an outdoor wedding, if you catch my drift. It’s perfect for small cakes, cupcakes, rustic naked cakes, etc. I kid you not, this frosting mixed with coconut and used on a German chocolate cake will make you think you’ve died and gone to baker heaven!
Whip it, whip it good!
Once your ghee is at room temperature, or just below, throw it into your mixer and allow it to whip on high for several minutes. You will want to use your whisk attachment here so it gets nice and fluffy. Gradually add your powdered sugar, stopping every few minutes to taste the flavor. Once you are satisfied, add 3 Tbsp-1 ⁄ 4 cup of heavy cream. This will make it super smooth and totally delicious. Alternatively, if you don’t care for the powdered sugar taste, you can cut the sugar by a ¼ cup and replace the heavy cream with the same measurement of sweetened condensed milk (adding more or less to taste).
That’s it, you’re done, welcome to the buttercream revolution! Your frosting is shelf stable but I do recommend refrigerating your cake or cupcakes to allow the buttercream to solidify a bit, especially if you are working in the summer or your kitchen is particularly warm. Freeze any leftovers, it will be good for about a month.
Watch me make ghee in this quick tutorial and then try your hand at it, I can’t wait to hear how much you love it!
- 2 1/2 lb. Butter
- 2-4 lb. Powdered sugar to taste
- 1 Tbs Vanilla paste or extract
- 1/4-1/2 Cup Heavy cream or sweetened condensed milk
Cook butter over medium heat until you see a foam develop at the surface. Continue cooking, stirring consistently, until you see a second loser foam form at the surface. The color of the butter will deepen and you may see small milk solids in the liquid.
Remove from heat and strain into a heat-proof bowl, allow to cool to room temperature.
Cover and transfer to the refrigerator over night.
Remove ghee from the fridge and all to come up to room temperature. Transfer to the mixer and whip on medium high until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar in stages, scraping down the bowl in between additions. At this point, begin tasting the buttercream and stop adding sugar when you have reached your desired level of sweetness. Add the cream or condensed milk slowly, increasing mix speed to high. This will make the buttercream super smooth.
The finished buttercream can be used immediately and/or frozen for 30 days.
One thought on “How to Make Ghee Buttercream”
That looks amazing. Simple process to achieve exotic flavor.
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