The new year is marked by resolutions, often about healthier lifestyles. A new series backed by Fonterra looks at the nutritional and lifestyle benefits of dairy – and at some of the old views now being slowly discarded. Today: A taste for butter.

New Zealand butter, says Kiwi-born 'global baker' Dean Brettschneider, is now melting the hearts of Asians as it melts in their mouths.

Things have changed - especially the taste test. A few years back, stories abounded about the Asian palate not reacting well to the taste of butter.

"That's because baking was driven by local interests who were interested only in a low price point - meaning the product was, well, pretty horrible," says Brettschneider - the baker who translated his New Zealand beginnings into a global business incorporating Shanghai, Singapore, Manila, London and Copenhagen, plus a healthy TV career and consultancy to the likes of celebrity TV chef Rick Stein.

His brand - 'Global Baker, Dean Brettschneider'- includes a chain of artisan bakeries (Baker & Cook) in Singapore, a fine case study of changing Asian tastes.


"I am looking out my window now at a $19m house," he says from his office in Singapore, the country in which he now spends about 80 per cent of his time. "That's in a street of about 500 similar houses."

It's an illustration, he says, of how Asia's burgeoning upper and middle classes and economic upsurge drives a desire for quality.

"Previously the baking locally was driven by big chains focusing on a price point - and when you build a bakery product around price, flavour can suffer. It did. Now our customers come in wanting croissants, Danish pastries and cakes and they are seeking the flavour that butter and New Zealand butter gives them."

Brettschneider uses that word 'flavour' a lot. He says consumers seek it and are also driving a change towards natural ingredients: "I do a lot of consulting around the world, for big supermarket outfits like Tesco and to the manufacturers who supply them. What I am hearing is that more and more markets want butter in their baking now.

"That's because they are hearing their customers wanting wholesome, honest, clean food.

Around the world, people are looking for the experiences their grandmother used to give them - simple stuff which tastes good and they prefer the taste of butter."

Brettschneider deals in taste and quality: "When you are making bread dough, if you are not using butter, the alternative is a functional element, making up about 2 per cent of the whole thing. But if you use butter, it makes up 15-20-30 per cent - so it becomes an ingredient, not just a functional element."

He says New Zealand has done a "great job" in communicating a clean, green image: "You just have to mention New Zealand butter and people get a picture of that cleanness and greenness and healthy cows eating grass. It sounds normal to us but, in other parts of the world, cows are not fed on grass and it makes a difference."

European and American butters tend to be paler in colour, without New Zealand butter's creamy and rich appearance.

Brettschneider also holds baking classes and says among his best tips on butter use are: room temperature and understanding of its melting point: "Butter is always better if it is used at room temperature."

For example, making cookiesmeans the butter should be removed from the fridge before it is used. If making pastries, whether short, sweet or flaky, it should be used cold. It melts at a lower temperature than butter substitutes and "if you understand that, you can really get the best out of it."