Bread and butter, a timeless combination, has become a go-to when carefully arranged, for family gatherings, football parties or just an elevated snack
Butter boards, as they're called, make a tasty visual statement that can be the centerpiece of any holiday party.
The trend grew quickly this fall with TikTok and Instagram videos. Social media food gimmicks don’t always catch on (thankfully, countertop spaghetti went away quickly), but the versatility, simplicity and overall cool factor of butter artfully spread on a board with delicious toppings has given this trend staying power.
With a dairy product as a base, could butter boards have Wisconsin roots? You betcha. TikTok food influencer Justine Doiron posted the first butter board video early this fall and credited the 2017 cookbook “Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables” by Portland, Oregon, chef Joshua McFadden for the concept.
In his book, McFadden shared the simple idea of schmearing butter on a wooden board, then topping it with spices, herbs and vegetables, adding some edible flowers and surrounding it with chunks of bread. No one is more surprised than McFadden at how the idea has, um, spread.
McFadden, who is renovating a farm outside Portland, was born in Racine and graduated from Union Grove High School. He credits his Midwestern family for an early awareness of the power of sharing a meal and growing fresh ingredients.
“Growing up, we sat at the table, which is important, and there were always big gardens. My grandma had a garden and fruit trees,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, McFadden had no idea a pre-dinner nosh would become 2022’s most talked about food trend.
“We started doing butter boards for dinner parties and big groups. It was a really fun way for people to come to the table and have something to go to right when they sat down,” McFadden said.
Access to home-grown ingredients sparked McFadden’s creativity. “We were inspired by the little moments on farms, things like seeds and different herbs, sprouting vegetables and edible flowers. It’s that simple. I never thought I’d be talking about it,” he said.
McFadden shared his proven approach to butter boards: “Use room temperature butter, and then start thinking about texture. Then add fresh ingredients like the flowers and herbs. It’s a technique more than a recipe. Every time you do one, it’s different.”
McFadden’s second book, “Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way With Grains” was published in 2021, and he’s working on a third book focusing on pasta.
Could McFadden inspire any future food trends? Only time (and TikTok) will tell, but if history is any indication, it's a good bet. He's also credited with launching the now-ubiquitous kale salad, when McFadden was a chef in New York City.
All about that base
Amanda Mattefs is a perfect choice to create Wisconsin-themed butter boards. She’s the founder and cheesehead in charge of Charcuter-Me at 770 N Jefferson St. in Milwaukee. She approaches each board as blank canvas for creative expression. Mattefs was excited to try her hand at butter boards.
“About a month ago, people started sending me butter board videos and asking if I’d seen them. It’s not charcuterie, but it’s the same concept ...,” Mattefs said. "It was a fun thought to use the awesome spreads and different local cheeses as the base of a board rather than butter.”
While Mattefs plans to keep her focus on meat and cheese boards, she’s open to creating butter, spreadable cheese or pâté boards on request.
“The butter board is a fun trend, and it can taste really good, especially if you get creative,” she said.
Mattefs recently stopped by West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe for inspiration and ingredients. She found enough of both to make three boards: a butter board featuring Velvet Bees honey butter, praline pecans and hot honey by Flour Girl & Flame pizzeria. For the two remaining boards, Mattefs let her charcuterie obsession guide her choices.
“Since I was little, I remember (charcuterie) being at parties,” she said. "The meats and cheeses are tried and true here in our state.”
With Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Liver pate as a base, Mattefs added chutney, garlic stuffed olives, radishes, carrots, sea salt, thyme and edible flowers to create a savory work of art.
“Who doesn't like simple bread and butter? Now we’re making it more creative and fun,” Mattefs said.
Churn it up
Making butter from scratch is easy with a food processor, or take a lidded glass jar and get an arm workout while you shake it up, old school. Beth Graf, former caterer and owner of My Family Roots Catering, has a crowd-pleasing process that lends itself to a variety of flavor combinations.
“Homemade butter has a lighter, fluffier taste, and it’s smooth on the palate,” Graf said. “The heaviest cream gives the most butter, and all it takes is heavy whipping cream and agitation to make the butterfat separate from the buttermilk. People have fun experimenting with flavors and take pride in making butter themselves.”
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Butter boards and Wisconsin go together. Joshua McFadden inspired them