It's an idea so simple that it's hard to believe nobody has thought of it before. Butter boards are without question the best way to welcome guests to a party with low effort and high impact.
Imagine seeing a stick of butter, a knife and a sleeve of crackers on a table. Who is that lazy of a host? But soften the butter to room temperature — spring for the fancy butter with the goldenrod hue — spread it onto a cutting board, sprinkle it with flaked salt, a little cracked pepper and maybe some chives and voilà! Fancy host status and Instagrammable appetizer achieved.
The butter board trend exploded in popularity on the social media platform TikTok, which is filled with short tutorial videos from creators like Justine Doiron touting recipes with alluring images of food. Doiron's butter board is credited as the one that launched the trend (she uses the handle Justine Snacks), although she attributes it to chef and cookbook author Joshua McFadden. He first proposed the idea of using butter as a serving vessel in his 2017 James Beard Award-winning cookbook "Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables," written with Martha Holmberg.
Now the butter board trend has, of course, already been overcomplicated both on TikTok and in mainstream platforms like the New York Times, which suggests using a marble or slate surface. Suddenly layers of expensive ingredients are piled up on top of the creamy layer of butter: figs, bouquets of edible flowers and heirloom turnips. But what you need to know is that it is so, so easy, especially here in the land of fantastic dairy.
Butter is a blank canvas for pretty much anything and is best embraced with a sense of culinary adventure. Salty, savory, sweet: Think of toppings that would go into building a great piece of toast or sandwich. Butter fat is a natural flavor conduit, and the reason so many chefs tout "fat is flavor."
But butter boards do come with a couple of concerns. Is it safe to leave butter out that long? According to the USDA, salted butter is safe at room temperature for up to 48 hours. Another concern is rising costs. Going into the holiday season, butter prices are rising and some news outlets are already declaring a butter shortage. Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes has said the cost of their butter is up 30% over last year.
Still there are silver linings. Local producer Hope Creamery has butter back on store shelves after an absence over the summer. And if you're in a pinch, it's shockingly easy to make butter at home with a mixer and heavy cream. (Just turn it on and basically wait; it's dairy magic. Use the leftover buttermilk for morning pancakes.)
So, how to build a better butter board? First, start with a good, wooden cutting board that's clean and dry. Assemble a few favorite ingredients (see suggestions below). Next, follow your heart: There is no wrong way. Serve with knives, crusty bread, gluten-free crackers or a wide selection of crudités; Radishes, in particular, pair well with butter.
You don't have to stop with butter, either. Explore other spreadable toppings: hummus, cream cheese or even sweet/salty nut butters. The world is your board to decorate.
Butter boards to try
Each suggestion is for a quarter-pound of butter or one stick, softened at room temperature.
Sweet and spicy butter board: In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of honey with 1 teaspoon of chili crisp (or hot sauce). Drizzle over salted butter spread a frosting-like layer on the board. Garnish with orange zest. Serve with a sliced baguette, crackers and strawberries.
Umami bomb: Top spread butter with freshly cracked black pepper, onion salt, chives and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with cubed sourdough and cucumber slices.
Pickle dipper: 4 to 6 sandwich pickle rounds (depending on your pickle threshold), 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh dill, a thinly sliced small shallot and lemon zest. Serve with rye crisps.
Hazelnut chocolate butter: Use an offset spatula to swipe the hazelnut chocolate spread into flower petals. Serve with pretzels, raspberries and strawberries.