I'll admit that until a few years ago I did not know the "butter in Canada" story. It's all about fat content. I read that Nadège of Nadège Patisserie struggled with some of her creations when she first came to Canada around 2009. The problem? Fat content in our butter. Turns out that "Canadian butter is uniformly made with a government-mandated 80-per-cent fat content, while most butter in Europe – the stuff that makes for great pastries – starts at 82 or 83 per cent." Thanks to Stirling Butter that problem is solved and their 84% butter (salted and unsalted) is becoming easier to access - try Whole Foods or Longo's or Denningers.
This past Christmas I struggled with a cookie recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I made them more than once since they were a hit, but the process was annoying - the batter did not come together as described in the usually reliable ATK recipes. In a communication with ATK, they confirmed that they always use "European Style" butter - aka higher than 80% fat content. I also emailed President's Choice about their "Normandy Style" butter - sounds "European" doesn't it? But... they confirmed it is only 80%.
Storing butter? We all have butter storage on our fridge doors, yet some claim this is not ideal. (I still do it.) For longer periods, freezing is recommended, where butter can keep for up to one year. Butter tips also stress the importance of wrapping - in the fridge you want to prevent absorption of other odours / flavours; in the freezer you want to prevent the same, plus freezer burn. On the counter? Apparently fine, though your "room temperature" makes a difference - a warm room / summer temps can make butter almost too soft. I like it out of the fridge just long enough to make it spreadable.
Room Temperature? Mentioned so frequently in recipes... What is that!? Our rooms are not likely to be the same temp either in winter or summer. Thanks to America's Test Kitchen, here's a YouTube answer. (Hint: it's 65-67 degrees. You can measure that accurately with a Thermapen, or do the "bendy" test demo'd in the video.) Especially in some baking tasks, it's important that butter not be too hard or too soft. Need to quickly Soften Butter? Click here.
Salted / Unsalted? Chefs prefer using unsalted so they can control the amount of salt in the dish. Every baking recipe I have ever used always calls for unsalted. Unsalted has a shorter shelf life - no surprise - salt is a preservative. There's some buzz on the internet that salted butter could be older and less fresh. BTW - I hope we are all over "total fat avoidance" phobias. In moderation, some fats are good for us - even necessary - just Google "fat is good for you". And take a peak at Jennifer McLagan's book - Fat. [Check out my February 19 blog entry on Butter.]