Churn baby churn: butter-heavy recipes, from indulgent gnocchi to satisfying shortbread

We are in the midst of a butter boom. One of the few upsides to this stupid year is that people are cooking at home with more regularity, and the knock-on effect is that butter sales are soaring. In the US, butter production has returned to levels last seen in 1943. This is brilliant news, because it gives us all an excuse to cook massively butter-heavy dishes again. It’s worth pointing out that none of these can even remotely be considered health food. But that’s by the by, because they are all very delicious.

Semolina gnocchi with butter, parmesan and sage
Rachel Roddy has a gnocchi recipe that doubles as an opportunity to gorge yourself silly on butter. The gnocchi itself is made with semolina, rather than potatoes, that is first enriched with butter and cheese before being baked in – that’s right – even more butter and cheese. “This is not a dish you see very often in trattorias,” Roddy writes, “but it is one that lives on in homes and deserves to be better known”.

Butter chicken

Then, of course, there is murg makhani, or butter chicken. Discovered by accident by a Delhi restaurant after leftover chicken was mixed into a buttery tomato sauce, the dish has since become a classic. Gymkhana’s recipe for chicken butter masala is the perfect example, rich with ginger and chilli and thickened with almond paste. If you want to add even more butter, do as the Australians do and put a great big buttery pastry lid on top.

Extra-buttery mashed potatoes
There is some debate about the maximum amount of butter you can add to mashed potatoes. My mum, for example, would scrimp and use the merest sliver, but there are sites that recommend a whopping, Escoffier style 1:1 ratio of butter to potato. A happy middle ground can be reached thanks to Bon Appetit’s Dawn Perry, who uses 340g of butter for every 1.8kg of potatoes she cooks. With the addition of about 350ml (a cup and half) of whole milk, this is enough to make the spuds qualify as “extra buttery”.

Buttery onion soup

French onion soup is another sterling outlet for your surplus butter. The trick is to find the right recipe. While some will call for a mere smattering of the stuff – I’ve seen some recipes require just 50g per kilo of onions – the Epicurious recipe for buttery onion soup is another matter entirely. Scale it up and it would require close to 500g of butter per kilo of onions. As if you need to be told, this is quite rich.

Brioche loaf
If the prospect of baking your own bread doesn’t fill you with terrifying flashbacks of the spring lockdown, then it might be a nice idea to try your hand at Dan Lepard’s brioche recipe. It’s extremely messy and nightmarishly difficult – he promises an exasperated “oh my goodness” moment in the middle of the butter addition phase – but if you persevere, the rewards are rich and decadent.

Shortbread
If you’d rather direct your butter mountain towards something more biscuity, Nigel Slater’s shortbread recipe seems like a decent enough outlet. Not only does he use a tremendous amount, he also browns it first. Heat your butter for five minutes until the colour changes, then return it to the fridge to harden and you’re left with something that, as Slater says, “brings all its sweetness to the fore”.

Sable cookies
But perhaps the satisfying heft of shortbread is not for you. If you’d prefer something a little more delicate, but no less buttery, Martha Stewart’s sables should do the trick. Stewart says that the biscuits are “delicious plain, dipped in dark chocolate, or sandwiched with jam”. Best of all, the quantities in her recipe makes more than 100 biscuits.

Apple charlotte
Felicity Cloake’s perfect apple charlotte recipe uses a comparatively small amount of butter, but it’s important to note how the butter is used. Some of it, as you would expect, is used to cook the apples. The rest of it is melted, tipped into a baking tray and used to soak eight slices of bread to saturation point. Imagine.

German butter cake

And then there’s butterkuchen, perhaps my favourite recipe here. Served at weddings and funerals in north Germany, it is sometimes called Freud-und-Leid-Kuchen (joy and sorrow cake), and is made with a yeast dough. Once the dough is rolled out into a pan, you poke dozens of holes into it, then fill the holes with cubes of butter before cooking. Joy (butter!) and sorrow (probably a heart attack) await.

Hot buttered rum

Finally, if by some miracle you still have any butter left after all this – and you don’t fancy giving Nigella’s double-buttered toast a try – you should probably just tip it into some booze. Jamie Oliver’s recipe for hot buttered rum is a textbook example of the form. Spiced, sweetened, melted butter and a hard hit of alcohol. After the year we’ve all had, you deserve this.