Walnut Cranberry Compound Butter

Walnut Cranberry Compound Butter
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molded cranberry walnut butter
Perfect for that holiday table!

Since Thanksgiving is coming up and we know we’ll be having some nice crusty bread, we decided to make a compound butter — basically, butter with other ingredients incorporated. What better to mix in for T-day than cranberries? Plus, perhaps some walnuts. So, we looked around, with the goal of finding the proportions of each ingredient.

As you’d expect, we found a recipe for cranberry walnut butter, and it sounded like just the thing, so we made up a batch. But, we went a bit further; we’ll show you how we molded the butter into nice leaf shapes, perfect for an autumnal feast.

Walnut Cranberry Compound Butter

Walnut Cranberry Compound Butter


  • 30 g (1/4 cup) walnuts
  • 12 g (1 Tbs) brown sugar
  • 4 ounces high-quality butter, room temperature
  • Zest from 1/4 orange
  • 3 Tbs cranberries

Abbreviated Instructions

Place walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking or stirring often, until nicely browned and the skin is starting to flake off, 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Use your fingers to rub off more of the walnut skin.

Once completely cooled, place walnuts, brown sugar, butter, and orange zest into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

If filling molds, use a small spatula to press the butter mixture into any crevices in the molds, but do not fill molds completely.

Transfer butter to a small bowl.

Finely mince cranberries and fold into butter.

If filling molds, use a spatula to press butter mixture into the partly filled molds to fill completely. Scrape butter clean from the surface of the mold and freeze solid before removing from molds, then refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Scrape butter onto a piece of parchment and shape into a log. Refrigerate. To serve, slice into disks and let butter come to room temperature.


Ingredient discussion:

ingredients for compound butter
Just a few ingredients can turn your butter from something no one notices to a star!

We went all out on the butter for this, buying Kerrygold Irish butter. It’s an amazingly bright yellow, making you think it might be colored (many butters are colored with annatto, or they have this mysterious “natural flavor” added), but, nope, this is bright yellow because the butter comes from cows that eat grass. As they should.

Procedure in detail:

Toast walnuts. With so few walnuts, we just place them in a small cast iron skillet (any heavy skillet will work), and set it over medium heat for about 10 minutes, shaking or stirring the nuts often so they don’t burn. Let the nuts toast until the papery skins are starting to flake off, then immediately remove the nuts from the pan so the residual heat doesn’t keep toasting them. As they cool, use your fingers to remove more of the papery skin — it tends to be bitter.

Process. Once the walnuts have cooled completely — you don’t want to melt the butter — place them in the bowl of a food processor along with the brown sugar, butter, and orange zest. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture is nice and smooth.

molding compound butter
Press in some of the very smooth butter (without the cranberry pieces) to make sure the design is filled.

Partially fill molds. If you’re using molds with a design on top, use this smooth butter to partly fill the molds so you’ll get a nice impression of the design. We used a small offset spatula to scoop a bit of butter into each mold, pressing it  into every nook and cranny.

folding in cranberries
By chopping and folding in the cranberries, you can be sure the bits are roughly the same size.

Fold in cranberries. Chop the cranberries as finely as you can, and fold them into the butter mixture. This is probably easiest if you transfer the butter to a small bowl first. But, whatever works will be fine. We actually think it would be fine to put the cranberries into the food processor and give it a couple of pulses, but we didn’t do that, so we can’t be sure that the cranberries will chop evenly. You might have big chunks, along with pink butter.

molding butter
Really pack in the butter to eliminate air pockets; afterwards, scrape away the excess butter.
molding butter
Removing all the excess butter from the mold will make sure there’s no “shelf” of butter at the bottom.

Finish filling molds. Scrape the butter and fill the molds completely, pressing the butter in with some force. You want to squeeze out any air bubbles, and make sure that every corner is filled. Don’t worry about butter on top of the mold at this point; worry more about filling the cavities completely. Once filled, scrape the excess butter off the mold.

Make a log. If you have excess butter, or if you’re not using a mold, you can place the butter on a piece of parchment or waxed paper and shape into a log. Once shaped, refrigerate until needed.

Freeze. Place the filled mold in the freezer for several hours to harden the butter. When it comes time to unmold the butter, you might have to use some force, so leave it to freeze solidly, and don’t try to rush it.

Unmold. Depending on your mold, the butter might just pop out, or you might need to invert the molds just a bit. Once unmolded, carefully wrap and place in the refrigerator until needed, or, if you need to store it longer, place in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator the day before use.

Serve. We suggest placing one of the molded butters on each bread plate and letting it warm to room temperature before serving with bread.

Well, we haven’t had the molded butters yet, as it’s not Thanksgiving. However, we did try some of the leftover butter: it’s a little sweet, a little tart, and slightly savory. We like it, and, you have to admit, it’s pretty easy to make. It’ll add that special touch to a holiday table. Five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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