One of the most endearing memories of my childhood is my father staring down at me, as I sat in front of the breakfast plate. More often than not, he would have a resigned look on his face, before he said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s all going to be one big pool of mash inside your stomach!”
The reason he’d keep saying this is because I have a bit of an OCD complex when it comes to food. I like my food neat and compartmentalised. I don’t like the curry running amok on my roti or rice, until I have mixed it. I divide my food proportionally and, without my knowing it, there are these complex mathematical equations running around in my brain that are passing messages through my central nervous system telling me just how many spooons of gravy need to be mixed with one-fourth of the rice on my plate, so that the rice is not too soaked and not too dry.(I think Goldilocks just gave up her title rights!)
The second dimension to the OCD is the need to eliminate all burnt or odd-looking (read fried tomatoes) pieces of food. That’s where my father’s harangue comes from. As a child, with the school bus just about to brake in front of my building, my parents would often find me scraping off bits of ‘burnt’ dosa and chapatti. I think they tried everything short of physically dragging the chair and the breakfast table to the ground floor of the building so that I don’t miss the bus. That’s how much time I spent at the breakfast table in the morning. If there was food that I didn’t like, my mother’s efforts were a bit like the cliche of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. That said, I do eat my food a lot faster than some people I know (if you’re reading this, you know who you are).
Bear with me a little. This isn’t some hunger-provoked stream of consciousness writing. It’s just that my old man’s words have been coming back to me over the last few days. Reason: the debate between using salted and unsalted butter in a recipe. I have tried both and never quite realised the difference it makes to a cake. It’s probably the amateur in speaking, but my vote lies with salted butter.
There are emotional and practical reasons for this choice. Practical reasons first: there is no benchmark in unsalted butter. What I mean here is that there is no Amul of unsalted butters. Moreover, for people like me who don’t know how to make butter, unsalted butter can burn a neat little hole in the pocket. Third, unsalted butter is not found easily in all parts of Mumbai. We don’t have Tescos and Aldas yet, and the ones that come closest to supermarkets are injurious to your health. If you don’t believe me, go to Big Bazaar when they’re having one of their ridiculous sale days or on the first weekend of the month. Salted butter is easily available even in small, hole-in-the-wall stores that dot every neighbourhood.
Now the emotional reasons. It IS Amul butter, that utterly butterly delicious butter on which a whole generation of my countrymen have grown up. A confession: when I was a kid, one of my ambitions (apart from being a railway announcer) was to be the Amul girl. In baking, till date, the use of salted butter has never really affected the taste of anything that I have made, in spite of the fact that the quantity of sugar I use is less than what the recipe calls for.
Here’s an interesting recipe you can try: mix 200gms of icing sugar with 100gms butter (go ahead, try the salted one) and 2-3 tablespoons of Old Monk dark rum. It’s a recipe that assuaged any doubts I had about using salted butter in baking. It was not to sweet, and there was a hint of saltiness in the frosting that blended well with the aftertaste of the rum.
The important thing is that it doesn’t matter whether you add unsalted or salted butter to bake a cake. As long as you add butter (and not ghee), you should be fine. Moreover, making a cake, or cooking anything, is an extension of a person. The happier you are when you are making it, the better it will taste, irrespective of whether the butter is salted or unsalted. It’s like one of those warm fuzzies that you send out to people you love.
p.s.: If you liked this post and live in Mumbai, do stop by at the blog over the weekend to find out about a surefire butter-lover’s test.
p.p.s: Typically, I used salted butter to make a lovely birthday cake for a family friend. Turned out great. More on that this weekend.
p.p.p.s: Why have I spent 700 words and one hour eulogising butter? Fairly simple – I love it. (I also have a waistline that proudly displays my love).