The interesting phenomena about food bloggers is we have contrasting takes on different trends. Last month, I was all excited to post a blog on butter boards. This trend recently took off and put food enthusiasts in a trance. Who doesn’t get excited about a board smeared with butter?
Apparently, I was not alone in my enthusiasm because The Chopping Block’s Executive Chef Lisa Counts wrote a phenomenal blog from a professional chef’s view on butter boards this month. In the journalism world, that would be considered a "scoop" which is kind of ironic given it was a blog about scooping butter off a board.
We both had seen all the bewitching images of big platters of butter and wanted to make our own versions. Within days of the first articles popping up online, we both had spent time artistically creating our butter board dreams with various arrays of herbs, spices, salt and whatever else our imagination and pantries provided.
SPOILER ALERT: Chef Lisa's summary was thorough, but her conclusion was shocking. She was NOT a fan! After a very loud gasp of disbelief flew from my mouth, I realized that this was my chance to debate some of the opposing views on butter boards.
Pantry Ready Party on a Platter
Like Chef Lisa, I love a good cheese or charcuterie board but usually either one of those party favorites involves a trip to the market.
The bonus perk of butter boards is who doesn’t have butter in a refrigerator at all times? (If you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends.) The toppings on a butter board can be composed of anything in your pantry.
Did you save your basil blooms like was suggested in last week’s blog? Put them on a board! The seasoning mix your mother-in-law gave you for your birthday? Sprinkle it on a board. The jar of hot honey that you bought on a whim - drizzle it on a board. The pretty vibrant pink special occasion salt… shower it over a board. That tablespoon of dried fruit that was left in your kid’s lunch. Nope. Don’t use that because you don’t know where that has been.
Sharing is Caring
Speaking of not knowing where things have been, there is a strong debate on the “ewwww” factor of multiple people swiping a chunk of bread through a shared board of butter.
I would not bring a butter board to a serve at a potluck or a cocktail hour. It is communal but know your audience. You can always put a little knife on the plate like I did for this little treat I served to some folks in my neighborhood. (Because I’m the kind of person who sees people working hard and brings them food rather than offering to help.)
Butter boards are best for family and close friend occasions. If you aren’t going to steal a bite of food off their plate or tell them they have spinach in their teeth, they are not close enough to you to share a butter board.
Be Trendy Not Spendy
With nightly news mentioning supply chain delays and price increases, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that dairy is on that list. Don’t let that steer you away from making a butter board. This is not the trend that should break the butter bank.
While I agree with Chef Lisa on using a good quality butter, I also think an economical store brand is not a bad option when serving this much butter on a board. (I’ll qualify this by saying use a familiar store brand that you’ve tried before. Do not buy some random bargain butter!)
The base must have great rich butter or else it isn’t a butter board. Remember you are going to jazz it up with seasoning so don’t go buy a $20 a pound butter if that isn’t your norm.
And in that rare case you can’t find butter on your store shelves, you could use the Kitchen Aid recipe for making butter from cream. It isn’t necessarily less expensive but it is a cool party trick to pull out.
Baby Butter Boards. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo.
Just because social media started this trend on gigantic ornate boards, it doesn’t mean we can’t buck the trend!
Look in your cabinets and think about how to innovate little individual butter boards. I have all sorts of decorative plates and boards that would look impressive on a holiday place setting. Why not fill those personal plates with a smear of butter and herbs so your guests can double dip to their heart’s content?
I was at a TJ Maxx the other day and saw a shelf of coasters that screamed “make me into a baby butter board.” To ease up on clean up, cut parchment to cover the wood. It is also a nice way to utilize common items that might not necessarily designed for food.
The baby boards also help manage that person who swoops over the top of the board and takes off all the good toppings. (You know who you are!)
Little boards have less waste in the end. I have been putting about 2 tablespoons of butter on my small boards. It is just enough for a giant chunk of French bread or a big hearty dinner roll.
Piping a design is more work and definitely requires more butter. This one took about 8 tablespoons of butter so I’d say it would serve about 4 as a bread/butter side for an intimate holiday dinner.
As you can see, butter boards are really what you want to make of them. Simple points to remember for success:
- Butter must be soft so it spreads easily. (An hour on the counter seems to work in my house.)
- 2 tablespoons of butter per person is a great guide to how much butter you need.
- Board is just a suggestion. Any flat surface will work.
- Your flavors on top must make sense. Chef Lisa said “Think about all of the tastes: salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami when contemplating your butter creations.”
- Leave a little bit of a bare edge on your board so the swoop doesn’t end up all over the table.
- Accompany the board with hearty breads and crackers. I’m not sure how banana or pumpkin bread would hold up.
- Bigger boards aren’t always best.
- Have fun.