January 18, 2022

Nyman: Butter makes it better

Butter not only adds incredible flavor to everything it touches, its unique properties are key to preparing many classic sweet and savory dishes. We all know that butter is delicious, but it is more than just a tasty fridge staple. This creamy dairy ingredient is responsible for the texture and quality of many favorite holiday foods. Here’s a look at the science behind butter being irreplaceable in baked goods and more.

Butter is the reason that pie crusts are flaky. Butter contains water, something missing from baking ingredients such as oils. As pie dough is baked and the butter melts, the water creates steam, which is trapped in the dough, creating air pockets. Once the dough has cooled, these air pockets become delicate layers of flaky crust. A perfect pie crust cradles any type of filling like cream, fruit, chocolate, and nuts. When done right, pie is the ideal portable dessert to bring to any holiday party.

Butter is the reason that layered cakes can stand up. Most American butter is comprised of 80% fat, 5% milk solids and 15% water. The water strengthens the gluten in the baking flour, resulting in a crumb with more substance than a cake made with oil. This stronger crumb allows it to support more layers. Just think, without butter-enhanced cake, there would be no layered wedding cake! Not to mention buttercream frosting — another layer cake must-have!

Butter is the reason that cookies are tender. The fat in butter inhibits the formation of tough gluten, leading to more tender results. The higher the proportion of butter to other ingredients, the more tender the cookie, and the more it will spread as it bakes. Cookies are all about texture, so once you nail the right one, you will be ready to whip up batches of buttery-tender cookies with confidence throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Butter is the reason biscuits are golden crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The milk solids in butter contain sugars that caramelize in the oven, leading to a deep golden biscuit top and bottom. In addition, the cold butter creates large flakes in dough, forming clusters of steam that lead to the pull-apart quality of biscuits. Biscuits are a holiday staple whether you are serving biscuits and gravy for breakfast or biscuits with dinner. Making them with butter will ensure a golden finish!

Butter is the reason that sauces are smooth. When you whisk flour into melted butter for a roux (the base of many sauces), the butterfat coats the particles of flour, separating them and making them less likely to form lumps when additional liquid is added. Sauces are meant to enhance every dish, and lumps ruin that magic trick. Whether you are attempting béchamel, gravy, beurre blanc, or other sauces this holiday season, butter is a must-have for smooth success!

Make sure to stock up with butter and get reinspired with your favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes this season. And, of course, don’t forget to have a “dairy” good time at all of your holiday gatherings this year!

Join the “Butter Me Up” Campaign on Facebook and Instagram @STLDairyCouncil or visit www.stldairycouncil.org for more information about butter. You can always reach out to the St. Louis District Dairy Council: call 309-681-4629 or email mnyman@stldairycouncil.org.

Ooey Gooey Butter Cookies

This dairylicious cookie melts in your mouth and is the perfect example of how butter makes it better. Add this recipe to your lineup of holiday treats along with plenty of ice-cold milk!

Servings: 24 cookies


1/2 cup salted butter, softened

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for rolling cookie dough


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, beat butter, cream cheese and granulated sugar until blended.

Add in egg and vanilla.

Add in flour, baking powder, and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar. With the mixer on low, gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Using a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop dough and then roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place approximately 6 dough balls on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake until they no longer appear wet on top, 8-11 minutes. After about 5 minutes, place on wire racks to cool.

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.