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The buttery, tasty benefits of ghee

This March 3, 2017, photo, shows packages of Kerrygold Irish butter on a shelf at a store in Waukesha, Wis.
This March 3, 2017, photo, shows packages of Kerrygold Irish butter on a shelf at a store in Waukesha, Wis. AP

In this column's early years I created a fat-free chocolate cake that I showcased on “Good Morning America.” Nonfat yogurt did a decent job as butter's stand-in, even though my cake lacked butter's big flavor impact.

Due to all its fat, as well as that cholesterol thing, I was certain I'd never get to enjoy butter again. Looking back it's difficult to understand how so many of us learned to fear butter. For some, even today, fear's still the correct word.

Flash forward to the 21st century where butter starred on the cover of Time magazine's June 23, 2014, issue with the headline: "Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong."

Wrong? After more studies and other studies re-evaluated, it sure seems so.

We all considered saturated fats and cholesterol the "baddies," and many of us who regularly wrote about fats spanked those "baddies" all the time, using lard, coconut oil and butter as the foods we should all avoid.

I admit it; I missed butter. Oh, did I miss it. Nothing filled the crevices of an English muffin like melted butter or topped hot popped corn quite so well. Pound Cake didn't taste as good with a butter substitute, like margarine.

Since that Time issue, butter's been back in a big way. That doesn't mean one should consume butter in unlimited quantities like the folks years ago who used to eat a pound of bacon for an Atkins high-protein, high-fat breakfast. No. And, it doesn't mean that all butters, no matter the source or type, are good for us.

The current thinking: The best butter that may promote health is butter produced from all grass-fed cow's milk. Also, better butter should be unsalted and certified organic.

My favorites these days are Anchor brand butter from New Zealand (anchorbutter.com), followed closely by Kerrygold brand Irish butter (kerrygoldusa.com). Both are widely available here and reasonably priced for their quality.

After exploring butter that gives the edge to being healthy, I discovered ghee, a form of butter that's supposed to be almost miraculously healthy. I'd never really tasted ghee with intention, until now.

First issue: where to get ghee and not just any ghee, ghee that's organic and made from milk from pastured, all grass-fed cows? Of course I headed to the internet and was fortunate to find a 32 ounce bottle of Vital Ghee brand ghee on Amazon ($42.75). Fortunately a little ghee goes a long way.

My first taste of Vital Ghee's ghee literally astounded me, the buttery flavor almost exploding on my tongue. "This is what butter's supposed to taste like," I said out loud. My mind raced thinking about all the possibilities: brownies, cakes, sauces, sautéing, whipped potatoes.

Ghee's actually butter oil because the water and milk solids that make butter, butter has been removed. Without the milk solids, ghee can safely be used to saute, because it has a very high smoke point (485 degrees -- olive oil's smoke point's 405; butter's 350). Ghee needs no refrigeration; store it at a cool room temperature. See, amazing.

My chocolate zucchini bread recipe has appeared here before, using olive oil for shortening. Using ghee creates a better texture and a bigger, butter flavor with slightly fewer calories. Give it a try.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavored applesauce

3 cups (16 ounces) grated zucchini

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

6 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup mini-morsel chocolate chips

1/4 cup ghee (organic preferred)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

For the topping

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl sufficiently deep to keep the strainer from touching the bowl's bottom and add the applesauce. Set aside.

Place the oven rack in the center position and begin heating the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a vegetable oil spray with flour, lightly spray the interior bottom and sides of two 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl mix together topping ingredients. Set aside.

By the handful, over the sink, squeeze grated zucchini to remove extra liquid, place squeezed handfuls in a small bowl and set aside.

Add flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt to a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until combined, about 30 seconds. Add chocolate chips to a small mixing bowl, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and stir and fold until coated with flour. Set aside.

Measure out 1/4-cup drained applesauce and add it, ghee and sugars to a large mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl's sides and add eggs, sour cream and vanilla; mix at medium speed for 1 minute or until well combined.

If using a stand mixer, remove the bowl from the stand, add flour mixture and using a large rubber spatula stir and fold until flour mixture is blended. Add zucchini and stir and fold until combined and then stir and fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter equally between the two pans, leveling the tops. Divide and sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the batter. Bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out almost clean. (It is OK if a few crumbs stick to the toothpick.) Remove the pans from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Turn the breads out of the pans and cool completely. Each loaf serves 8.

Nutrition values per serving: 235 calories (28.7 percent from fat), 7.5 g fat (5.8 g saturated fat), 40.3 g carbohydrates, 1.1 g fiber, 3.9 g protein, 60 mg cholesterol, 137 mg sodium.

Don Mauer, leanwizard@aol.com

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