"European style" is a descriptor applied to butter more and more often these days. One of the most popular brands, Plugra, is appearing in more and more grocery stores alongside the regular butter, rather than being confined to the specialty stores it originally appeared in. The difference between the European-style butters and standard butters is the butterfat content. Regular butter has 80% butterfat and 20% water, while butters like Plugra have about 2.5-3% more butterfat. This gives them a slightly creamier, richer taste. In a direct comparison, the flavor difference is noticeable on toast, which is the most convenient way to taste-test butter without taking a bite out of the stick.
But is the difference noticeable when cooking or baking? For cooking, unless you are making a particularly buttery dish, I have to say that I could not tell the difference. Baking is another matter. A taste test between two batches of chocolate chip cookies (made with the same recipe) using both normal and European-style butters revealed that the European-style, higher butterfat cookies had a more buttery taste. The cookies were slightly more delicious than the ones made with standard butter because of the enhanced butter flavor. Especially considering that the prices for the two types of butter are much close than they were 5 years ago, it is definitely worth using Plugra or another European-style butter over the standard butters.
[Photo by Nicole Weston]