Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: How to clarify butter faster, with less fuss and mess.
Here’s an easy method for clarifying butter that yields more than the traditional saucepan method does and with less fuss. The butter is cut into several chunks and melted it in a narrow glass container in the microwave, without stirring. After it rises once or twice, it settles into three perfect layers.
I use full power in my 800-watt microwave: try medium power in a larger watt oven. In any case, keep watch. Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon-sized chunks (for even melting with minimal spitting) and put it in a heatproof jar or Pyrex measuring cup that is taller than it is a wide; a 1 cup Pyrex measure or similar size jar is perfect for 1 stick of butter. Choose a container tall enough so that the butter can rise without overflowing.
Heat the butter until it is melted and rising: let it rise towards the top of the container, then stop it. If the butter is not separated almost perfectly with foam on top, clear yellow clarified butter in the middle, and a little watery liquid on the bottom, let it settle down again, and then microwave and let it rise once more (watching carefully). The second rise should give you perfectly separated layers!
Remove the butter from the oven and let it set undisturbed for a few minutes (or longer, but not long enough to re-solidify the butter). Tilt the container and spoon off and discard the layer of foam. Pour and/or spoon the clear clarified butter into another container, leaving the watery liquid behind. Clarified butter keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Alice's most recent book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, doles out delicious dessert recipes that don't take hours of prep (a lot of them don't even require turning on the oven) -- everything from lattice-free linzer to one-bowl French chocolate torte.