“With enough butter, anything is good,” said America’s culinary darling, Julia Child.

Today, I dare to amend that sentiment by saying, with brown butter, even just a little bit, almost anything is better than good.

Brown butter, or beurre noisette in the French culinary vernacular, is unsalted butter that is cooked long enough to evaporate its water content and turn the milk solids toasty brown. The process brings out nutty notes that give the fat a deeper, richer, more intense flavor.

My husband, Andy, is my one true love, but brown butter comes in a close second. And I’ve assembled 10 Maine chefs and cheesemakers to back me up on how and why brown butter can do so much to boost the flavor in your favorite sweet and savory dishes.

“I keep a pint of brown butter in my fridge to elevate everything from scrambled eggs to ramen to pan-seared meat, fish and veg,” says Ali Waks Adams, private chef, and Culinary Director of Kennebec Meat Company in Bath. She is especially partial to drizzling it over roasted cabbage or creaming it with miso into her chocolate chip cookie dough.

Portland pastry chef Ilma Lopez, who owns Chaval with husband, Damian Sansonetti, is in the process of opening The Ugly Duckling Bakery and Luncheonette in Portland’s West End. She plans to use brown butter in both buttermilk English muffins and as a base for blondies she will sell there.


My email requesting input on brown butter usage reached cheesemaker Allison Lakin of Lakin’s Gorges Cheese at Forty Acre Farm in Waldoboro as she was sitting down to have coffee with her chef-turned-farmer husband, Neal Foley. “We simultaneously said ‘madeleines!’” she replied, pointing to a recipe for buckwheat flour madeleines from cookbook author David Lebovitz.

When swapping brown butter for plain old butter in a recipe, it’s important to understand that when you brown 8 ounces of butter, the yield once the water has evaporated is less. Therefore, if your baking recipe calls for 8 ounces (two sticks) of plain butter, you’ll need to brown 10.5 ounces in order to get 8 ounces of brown butter. Also, it’s a good idea to cut sticks of butter into 1/2-inch slices so that they melt evenly before they brown.

Baker Gabrielle Cote of Big Fish Cake Studio in Saco says she makes brown butter in advance and chills it. Once it’s cold, she uses one-part brown butter to two-parts regular unsalted butter to make the streusel she uses as a textural element in her assembled layer cakes, which have names like Maple Cake with Maine Blueberry Compote, Brown Sugar Streusel & Maple Vanilla Buttercream. Cote always squeezes a bit of fresh lemon into the brown butter just after she pulls it off the heat. This addition stops the butter from browning any further (brown butter quickly goes to inedible black, read burnt, butter if you don’t watch it very carefully) and the acid helps season the baked goods, as well.

Chef, cookbook author and food photographer Derek Bissonnette says his favorite way to use brown butter is in a pear, cherry or berry frangipane tart, where a brown butter pastry crust highlights the nuttiness of the almond cream. Occasionally, while cooking seafood, he’s left drawn butter a bit too long in a pan, and he’s learned from happy experience that brown butter complements all kinds of shellfish.

Chef John Shaw of The Boathouse Restaurant in Kennebunkport serves a brown butter-poached lobster roll flavored with tarragon, thyme and a little garlic. “The combination of sweet, savory lobster with nutty, caramel aromas of brown butter and the herbaceous flavor of fresh herbs make it almost inimitable.”

At Wolfpeach in Camden, chef Derek Richard combines brown butter and xanthan gum in a blender and slowly adds warm vermouth or sake-spiked dashi. After seasoning the sauce, he either poaches fish in it or pours it over cooked fish.


A jar with layers of hot brown butter, top, and chilled brown butter. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Richard’s tips for making brown butter are to, one, always use a pot with high walls to prevent the butter from boiling over. Also, always use a heat proof spatula as opposed to a whisk so you can easily scrape up all the caramelized milk proteins before they burn on the bottom of the pan. And lastly, “Get to know your brown butter! Take it off the heat and let the foam go away. See what color everything is, smell it, You can always make it darker,”

Both chef Sara Jenkins of Nina June in Rockport and cheesemaker Amy Rowbottom of Crooked Face Creamery in Skowhegan pair brown butter with pasta. Rowbottom recommends browning Casco Bay Creamery butter, which is available in most Maine grocery stores, with light, airy ricotta gnocchi.

“Almost any filled pasta is good with brown butter and sage,” Jenkins said. That is a classic Italian combination, of course. But Jenkins also uses brown butter more inventively in a sherry vinaigrette she tosses with Dooryard Farms overwintered spinach, which is grown in Camden.

I think the message from these Maine chefs, bakers and cheesemakers is clear: If you love butter, you’ll love brown butter even better.

Brown Butter and Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies. Brown butter makes everything better. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Brown Butter and Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe, a mashup of technique and ingredients from one published by Kentucky-based pastry chef and cookbook author Stella Parks and another by Philadelphia food writer Samantha Merritt, highlights the magic of brown butter. I chose it in honor of David Holt of Rome, Maine. His true love is my dear friend, Cori, but he is quite smitten with these cookies, too.


Makes 36 large cookies

3 sticks (339g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1¾ cups (350g) light brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2½ cups (425g) mixed chocolate chips/chunks
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
Flaky sea salt

Place the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat to melt completely. Increase the heat to medium and swirl occasionally as the butter snaps and crackles. Let the butter snap and pop (while stirring occasionally). Once the noises begin to slow, start stirring constantly. The butter will get foamy, and the milk solids will start to brown. When you begin to smell a nutty aroma, remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon juice and keep stirring to dislodge all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the brown butter into a heat-proof container and cool it first to room temperature, about 30 minutes, and then place it in the refrigerator until it is solid, about 60 minutes more.

Combine the brown butter (including the brown bits that have settled at the bottom of the container), brown and white sugars, cornstarch, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-speed until well combined, and then increase the speed to high and beat the mixture until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, pausing to scrape down the sides and then beating well after each addition. Add the bourbon and vanilla and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine all but 1/2 cup of chocolate chunks and flour. Gradually (with a mixer on low-medium speed) add the flour and chocolate chunk mixture to the batter, pausing periodically to scrape down the sides of bowl.


Divide the dough into 2-tablespoon portions (about 1½ ounces or 40g each) and round each one into a ball. (Portioned dough can be refrigerated in a sealed container for one 1 week or be frozen and stored for 6 months. If you store the dough, let the balls thaw to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone sheets. Place the portioned dough 2-inches apart on the lined sheets. Top with a few pieces of the reserved chocolate and press down gently on the balls to flatten slightly. Bake, rotating the cookie sheets once, until the cookies are puffed and pale gold around the edges but steamy in the middle, 12-14 minutes.

Remove from the oven, cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at: cburns1227@gmail.com

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