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How to prepare and keep flavored butter

Prepare butter in a variety of ways for some quick and tasty recipes

If you buy a tub or stick of butter and then just throw it in the fridge, you are missing opportunities for added flavor treats for your taste buds. Most butter recipes are quick and easy.

You can cook with enhanced butters or serve them in crocks or as butter curls. The trick to a good flavor combination is to let the butter soften first. A stick of butter will require about 30 minutes outside the refrigerator for a workable consistency.

Remember that salt acts as a preservative. When using unsalted butter, it will not last as long as the salted variety. You can freeze butter for about 3 months. You should use unsalted butter for baking and for greasing casserole dishes or cookie pans.

If you are baking, use stick butter. It is easier to measure and has the correct density called for in recipes. Whipped butters contain air and may cause your final product to cook improperly.

If you are serving butter with vegetables, warm it up first to increase the flavor.

Real butter is best but margarine is acceptable when you are creating compounds. For some enhancements, you may want to use a blender or food processor. Always add the butter first and let it soften. Then add the dry or fresh ingredients. If you are incorporating any type of liquid, always leave the processor running and drizzle the liquid into the butter. If you pour too quickly, the ingredients will separate.

Add these typical items - either singly or mix and match - to butter for a fast and easy spread:

Herbs, fresh or dried (cilantro, basil, thyme)
Chili powder
Onion powder
Curry Powder
Grated Parmesan cheese
Roasted garlic cloves
Toasted sesame seeds
Hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper

For sweeter spreads, add:
Pumpkin pie spice
Sugar, white and brown
Banana, mushed

One stick of butter is equal to ½ cup. Add ingredients sparingly, testing for color and taste. You can also find plenty of butter recipes in cookbooks and on the Internet.

Serve flavored butters in crocks or roll them into logs or other decorative shapes. Wrap in plastic, then foil, and place in a plastic bag.

Fun for kids: use cookie cutters in popular shapes to create cinnamon/sugar butters for French toast and pancakes.

For adults: Personalize butter with initials using a pastry bag and serve with warmed baguettes. Use clean rubber stamps to make impressions in butter pats (use the stamps only for this purpose - do not return them to your stamping drawer).

Experiment with small amounts of butter before you prepare for a crowd. Use your own ingredient ideas and you just may create the latest taste sensation.

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