The Hatter was the first to break the silence. ‘What day of the month is it?” he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear. Alice considered a little, and then said “The fourth.” “Two days wrong!” sighed the Hatter. “I told you butter wouldn’t suit the works!” he added looking angrily at the March Hare. “It was the best butter,” the March Hare meekly replied. “Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well,” the Hatter grumbled: “you shouldn’t have put it in with the bread-knife.” The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, “It was the best butter, you know.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
In cooking we definitely want the best butter. So what is the best butter? We need to define our purposes. There are two general types of butter, salted and unsalted. Generally, just use whichever tastes best to you. Specifically, for baking, only use unsalted butter. Now wait a blasted minute (you say to yourself) – I like salted butter, so why use unsalted? Well, for baking we must control all the ingredients most carefully. If you use salted butter you do not have total control over the amount of salt in the mix – and that is why you want to use the unsalted.
Now then – brands and such. Well, well, I suppose that depends on where you are. Land O’ Lakes is about the best national brand that we have around here. And it is quite good. You may be able to get something better where you live and shop. We can get some European butter – Plugra or some such. Also very good stuff. But check around. If there is a local farmer that makes his own you might want to try that.
I seem to remember back when I was a kid and got butter from a friend’s farm that it was miles better than what we get now. Of course that might be young taste buds and memory versus the aged and decrepit set of buds I have now. I suppose I will have to tell you about farm work and slaughtering and all the stuff that is pretty much dead and gone now. Well – let’s just leave that for another day.