When Cameron Dunlap was working his first executive chef gig — running the kitchen at Northwest Portland gastropub 23Hoyt — he wanted to design some recipes that would be simple, easy to nail, and good for chefs just starting out in his kitchen. So he came up with the idea for a compound butter to serve with brunch carbs like biscuits or pancakes: a combination of the two quintessential waffle toppings, butter and maple syrup. Thus began the reign of Dunlap’s salted maple butter, which has traveled with him from restaurant to restaurant. “I look for recipes that are easy to train, easy to replicate,” he says. “We came up with it, it came out great, and it’s now something I can take up with me wherever I go.”
Compound butters, or butters given extra oomph via add-ins like herbs or spices, are already a foundation of countless restaurant menus: Cooks slather herb butters on whole chickens before they hit the oven, rib-eyes come topped with an ice-cream-like scoop of gorgonzola butter, baguettes get a swipe of garlic-parmesan butter to become garlic bread. But countless home cooks rely on the usual, plain stick in the butter dish, spread on a piece of boring morning toast. No one should live that way, especially when it is ridiculously easy to just make your own compound butters.
Dunlap’s salted maple butter is a great place to start: Combine one pound of room-temperature butter with a cup of real maple syrup (we like this bourbon-barrel-aged version), plus two teaspoons of Jacobsen flake salt. Throw it in a food processor or stand mixer for five minutes, and boom: salted maple butter. It lasts for at least a month in the fridge, though Dunlap says that it’s best spread (and eaten) at room temperature. Dollop it on waffles, serve it alongside buttermilk biscuits, spread it on the bread of a breakfast sandwich, or just use it to up your toast game.
This maple butter can be the entry point to other compound butters around the house: Swap maple syrup for pomegranate molasses or date syrup, add a little espelette or sumac, and then gently move into the world of savory butters, mixing in chopped leafy herbs, spices, or garlic. Dunlap uses a number in the kitchen at his latest gig, running the Fireside, from a green castelvetrano olive compound butter for grilled bread or a garlic-gorgonzola butter for steaks. But the key throughlines in any recipe, according to Dunlap, is that room temperature butter, salt, and a little liquid. “I like to add enough liquid so the butter is thinned out,” Dunlap says. “It melts a lot easier than traditional butter.”
But beyond that, Dunlap says that this recipe is intentionally customizable. “You should taste a little bit, even if it’s just the butter, to make sure you can taste the salt and taste the maple syrup — some people would want a little more maple or a little more salt,” he says. “The correct amount of ingredients for everything is ‘until it tastes delicious.’”