Pepe Saya is Australia’s preeminent cultured-butter producer. This now-famous product can be found beside the bread at Rockpool, cafes all across Sydney and even 33,000 feet above ground onboard Qantas international flights. So we asked Pepe Saya founder Pierre Issa how to make something similar at home.
Issa’s boutique approach to butter making is all about homemade. “Everything’s small-scale. We sour the cream down, we churn it, wash it with filtered water, knead it, [strain] the water out, pack it and label it. That’s it. That’s butter,” says Issa. So why not apply his simple philosophy and whip-up a batch of your own cultured butter? “All you need is a bowl, some cream, a butter culture – that can be some crème fraîche or buttermilk that contains a live culture. Then a stove, a woollen blanket, a fridge and a Kitchen Aid,” Issa explains.
While you won’t be churning out four-and-a-half tonnes of butter a week like Pepe, this recipe should make enough to butter your bread for at least the next week – it’s that good.
Prep time: 45 minutes (plus ageing, culturing, setting)
Makes about 500g
1 litre pouring cream (40–50 per cent fat content)
120g (½ cup) active crème fraîche or buttermilk
Kitchen Aid or other electric mixer
Age the cream in the refrigerator until it starts to smell, “Like it’s starting to go off”. This takes about a week. “The ageing process of the cream aims to grow lactobacillus and essentially bring down the PH level. That’s what produces the sophisticated flavour profile,” says Issa.
Transfer cream to a large bowl and place over a large saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally so the cream warms evenly to 37.5 degrees Celsius or until it meets the pinkie test. “Dip your little finger in the cream and count to 10. If you can stand the temperature until the count of 10, you’ve hit the sweet spot. If it remains cool, give it a little more time and test again. Too hot and you’ll need to let the cream cool a little,” says Issa.
Combine crème fraîche with 125ml warmed cream in a separate bowl, then add back to the cream and stir thoroughly.
Transfer to a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, cover and wrap in a heavy wool blanket. Place in the warmest part of the house to inoculate for at least 20 hours “I like to keep it in the laundry or in the oven – with the heat turned off of course.”
Unwrap the saucepan. The butter, “Should resemble custard,” says Issa. Place in the fridge and leave to age anywhere from two days to up to three weeks. The longer you leave it, the more pronounced and “cheesy” the flavor will be, but Issa recommends, “At least two weeks.”
Transfer crème fraîche to an electric mixer (like a Kitchen Aid) and whisk on high speed for about four-to-five minutes, until the cream splits. “The cream will break into two and you’ll end up with butter and buttermilk,” says Issa. Reduce speed to low and beat until, “The butter resembles popcorn and the buttermilk splits out, this is when you should stop.”
Strain through a colander. Reserve buttermilk for baking or marinating meat (it will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge).
Place colander in the sink or over a large bowl and rinse butter with well-chilled water, until the water runs clear. Shake occasionally. Make sure you don’t touch the butter with your hands. You will end up with about 500g of butter.
Work the butter in a squeezing motion with your hands to remove excess water until it has the consistency of Play Dough.
Push the butter into a ring mould lined with greaseproof paper, fold paper to enclose, remove ring to make, “A little butter bundle.” Et voila!
Serve with a fresh loaf of sourdough.
Issa advises, “Always eat unsalted butter and sprinkle with your favourite rock salt on top, because salt disguises flavour but it also rounds it off, compliments and adds to it.”
Check out Pepe Saya’s ‘how to make butter’ videos on his website.