How and Why to Clarify Butter ~ For Arabic Cooking & Other Cuisines

February 27th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Clarified butter, called samneh in Arabic, provides a distinctive taste to Arabic sweets and savory dishes. It also features strongly in French cooking and other cuisines.

When regular butter is melted, a clear yellow liquid rises to the top and separates from the milk fat. This pure, transparent yellow liquid is clarified butter. Rich and strong with less water content than regular butter, it has a slightly nutty taste.

Clarified butter offers many cooking benefits. Because it has no milk solids and less moisture, it can withstand higher cooking temperatures without burning. It also lasts much longer than regular butter. Furthermore, a little goes a long way. Because it contains only a tiny amount of lactose, it’s safe for most people with lactose intolerance.

Canned ghee, found is Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores, is basically clarified butter. However, sometimes low-grade vegetable oil fillers are added to ghee, which can give an unpleasant flavor. Instead, I recommend making a homemade version of this purified butter. It’s an easy task. You can do it in bulk and it will keep for months.

Using Clarified Butter

Julia Child recommends using it in butter sauces, roux, scalloped potatoes and for sautéing. Martha Stewart recommends it for omelets while I have used clarified butter to make hash browns, crepes, and grilled cheese sandwiches. In other words, use it whenever you’re cooking over high heat and seek the flavor of butter rather than oil.

In Arabic cuisine, clarified butter (samneh) gives pastries a distinctive taste. It’s used in sweets such as baklawa, shortbread, kunafe, nammoura, and filled cookies. It’s also used in savory dishes that are eaten hot, particularly grain dishes, soups and meat stews. There is nothing more delicious than halloumi cheese fried in clarified butter. Heaven.

How to Clarify Butter

You can clarify any quantity you wish. If you require it for a specific recipe, figure that 1 cup regular butter makes slightly more than 2/3 cup clarified butter. For everyday cooking, I usually clarify 1 pound (500 g) unsalted butter at a time to keep on hand in the refrigerator.

Method

1. Cut the butter into pieces and melt in a heavy-duty saucepan over moderate heat until foamy and bubbling. Lower temperature and simmer for a few minutes or up to 20 minutes. (Longer simmering time will give a nuttier flavor.)

2. Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes. The milk solids will fall to the bottom. Skim any foam from the top and discard.

3. Spoon the clear, yellow liquid into a measuring cup or sterile glass container lined with a sieve or cheese cloth (also called butter muslin). Leave the white milk solids behind (either discard or use in soup, sauces or over popcorn).

4. Store in refrigerator in sterilized glass container for up to six months and use as needed.

Question: How do you use clarified butter in your cooking?

  1. Amanda
    February 27th, 2012 at 09:41 | #1

    I’ve never used clarified butter, but I may try it one day with this recipe. =)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      March 2nd, 2012 at 10:47 | #2

      Amanda, Thanks for stopping by. I plan to add a kunafe pastry recipe soon, which would give you a reason to make clarified butter. ;-)

  2. Amanda
    March 2nd, 2012 at 10:49 | #3

    awesome! =)

  3. March 2nd, 2012 at 18:29 | #4

    The aroma of clarified butter is delicious. Love it on Kunafe. Nice post :)

  4. November 9th, 2012 at 14:56 | #5

    Another thing you can do with the milk leftovers is to keep it on a very low heat with a spoon of the clarified butter “Ghee” once it turns brownish in colour you can keep it as a sandwich or bread spread it’s usually salty and have an amazing flavour to it. I love it on toast :)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      December 21st, 2012 at 17:15 | #6

      Marco Polo, Wow. sounds yummy. Thanks for the delicious tip. :-)

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