Let me tell you a story of how a dented bar of goat butter started my culinary odyssey.
I had never much thought about goat dairy as a food group, beyond the infrequent chunk of feta in a Greek salad or crumble of chevre on a salade composee in some gourmet ghetto. It's probably because my background is in French pastry where cows play a much bigger role than do goats. So when that foil-wrapped brick of goat butter landed in my hand while standing on aisle 15 amidst the dairy coolers here at Oliver's in Cotati, it did not initially murmur “dessert”. Who knew goat butter would be so transformative or suggestive?
I took it home and thought “I need to bake something with this.” The flavor of the butter was sweet and subtle, with only a hint of goat tang and I wanted a simple recipe to accentuate this. A buttercream would be perfect, since butter is its chief flavor. I streamed boiled sugar syrup onto whipped egg whites, gradually added softened goat butter into the mixer and flavored the glossy, creamy mass with vanilla bean. With a small offset spatula, I mounded this silken cream on tiny cashew meringues, forming sloping walls with pointed nipples festooned with edible gold leaf. They were, in a word, amazing. The buttercream was ethereal, held its shape beautifully and dissolved on my tongue. I was smitten – it was the finest buttercream I'd eaten in the last 30 years, 28 of which were spent working as a pastry chef. Now I was really intrigued. What else could I make? How would goat dairy behave in other recipes?
I went online and started to obsessively read about goat dairy products, wondering why they had never crossed my path in all of the years I'd been baking. I checked out the website of Meyenberg Goat Dairy products, and read about them in news articles. Reta Sanden, a company spokeswoman informed me that “goat milk is the milk most consumed worldwide. It can be used by those with cow or soy milk sensitivities and by gourmet cooks. It is also used by leading animal breeders, wildlife rehabilitators and zoos for nourishing species from elephants to exotic cats. It is also the closest to human milk in its makeup, which makes it easier for many to digest.”
After speaking to Sanden and reading everything I could find, I decided to run my own tests on baking with goat milk products. I adapted recipes for Madeleines, puff pastry, pastry cream, a cooked milk glaze and dried cherry scones, in addition to the earlier buttercream.
So back to my odyssey – aromas of butter and sugar are now filling my kitchen. The puff pastry is resting on my flour-dusted counter, about to go in the fridge for its initial chilling when the timer goes off for the madeleines. Goat girl is multi-tasking.
After the Madeleines cooled, the goat butter flavor was imperceptible. While the texture was tender and light, I wanted to be able to tell goat dairy was involved so I added a goat butter icing to accentuate the flavor. That did the trick!
I then modified a scone recipe, substituting goat milk butter for cow, and replacing the heavy cream with goat's milk. I also added dried cherries, brushed the tops before baking with goat milk and heavily sanded them with sugar. The contrast of the sugar with the zest of the goat's milk was superb! The finished scones were light, moist and delicious and were declared a total success by the executive chef and the head cheese buyer, a French connoisseur of all things delicious.
The puff pastry was labor-intensive but produced fantastic results. Goat milk butter has a lower melting point so I was careful to keep my dough well-chilled during each of the folds in the dough. It had perfect, even lift in the oven and was buttery and crisp. Its flavor was restrained and that feature made it versatile, appropriate for either a sweet or savory application. I made it into three different products: heirloom tomato tarts, aged goat Gouda cheese twists and the piece de resistance – classic Napoleons filled with goat-milk pastry cream.
I loved every single product that I tested. There doesn't seem to be a category of baking that goat dairy is incompatible with. It behaves predictably in common recipes, tastes fantastic and because of its low melting point, it really does melt in your mouth.
Classic Madeleine Recipe:
Adapted from joyofbakingblog
Start with this item so the butter has time to cool down.
- 4 oz goat butter melted and cooled
Take the three following dry ingredients and sift together.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine eggs and sugar in mixer with the paddle. Beat to combine and then turn the mixer on high for 4-5 minutes until mixture is pale and thick.
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
Add to egg mixture.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Fold dry ingredients into whipped eggs in 3 stages, being sure to fold thoroughly before adding next third. When all dry ingredients are in, add a bit of the egg mix to the melted, cooled butter and stir until combined. Then fold the butter mix into the egg mix in thirds, folding gently but determinedly until completely combined. Chill batter for at least one half hour or longer. Prep Madeleine pans by thoroughly brushing with melted goat butter, filling with flour and then tapping out the excess flour.
Set oven at 375; bake 10-12 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Do not over bake.
Goat Butter Glaze:
- 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
- 4 oz (I stick) goat butter, melted and warm
- 8 teaspoons goat milk
Place all of the powdered sugar in a bowl. Pour melted goat butter over sugar in bowl. Stir until beginning to smooth and begin adding the milk slowly, whisking. Add milk until the icing is the desired thickness for dipping Madeleines in, while keeping icing bowl over warm water in a double boiler to stay loose. It will thicken and lose its gloss quickly without the double boiler. Dip Madeleines into glaze and place on icing screen to dry. Add sprinkles or other decorative elements while glaze is still sticky if so desired.