Cheese, it is said, is milk’s leap toward immortality. As true as that may be, butter takes it at least halfway there. Butter was discovered, not invented: a container of raw milk, carried by horse or a rickety cart over a bumpy road, turns itself into butter, as it is the simple process of agitation that causes the cream to separate and solidify.
In Sonoma County’s earliest years, dairy farmers made their living by selling butter, not milk, because of the lack of refrigeration needed to distribute fresh milk. The whey, sometimes called buttermilk, was fed to other farm animals, especially pigs.
Butter concentrates milk’s flavors, and its character depends on what the cows, sheep, or goats eat. Animals that graze on fresh grass produce the richest, most nutritious, and most delicious milk. It is a gift of sunlight, captured by tender blades of spring grass.
Sonoma currently has three commercial butter producers: Clover Sonoma, Straus Family Creamery, and Petaluma Creamery. Local butter is truly one of our sweetest, freshest treasures in spring.
Makes about 24 squares Butter mochi highlights the voluptuous texture of spring butter better than almost any other sweet, and it is very easy to make at home. It’s also naturally gluten-free.
• 2 teaspoons butter, at room temperature, to line baking pan
•1 pound mochiko (sweet rice flour)
• 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 12-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk
• 5 large farm eggs, well beaten
• 4 ounces local butter, melted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut a sheet of parchment or wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and secure it in place with a dab of butter. Lightly coat the paper as well as the sides and corners of the pan with butter.
Put the mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and stir with a fork to blend well.
Put the coconut milk into another medium mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the beaten eggs, and whisk together. Add the melted butter and vanilla, mix thoroughly, and add the dry ingredients, whisking or mixing with an electric mixer until very smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, set on the middle rack of the oven, and bake until the mixture is set but not too firm, about 1 to 1 ¼ hours. The mochi should have a golden crust over the top. Remove from the oven and cool until you can handle the pan. Invert the butter mochi onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, invert onto a work surface, and slide back onto the rack.
Let cool to room temperature, cut into squares, and arrange on a platter. Enjoy right away or refrigerate, covered, until 30 minutes before serving. Butter mochi will keep refrigerated for about three days.