1. ajparis Senior Member

    American English
    I have this term in an 18th-c source, but I'm wondering if it is used currently. I think that it is equivalent to what is (or rather was) called "a pat of butter" (about a pound traditionally, but in modern usage about two tablespoons). The dictionnary of this site gives "pat of butter" as motte de beurre, which seems close to me. The 18th-century French dictionaries typically define pain de beurre as une certaine quantité de beurre. Not much help...

    I do remember that in Little Red Riding Hood's basket there was "a pat of butter." As a child I said to myself, "what is that?" and years later saw Perreault has un pot de beurre.

    I just may drop into a local fromagerie to ask, but if anyone has any ideas they would be welcome!
  2. hersko1 Senior Member

    Paris - France
    French - France
    A "pain de beurre" could be any quantity and is indeed a synonym of "motte de beurre", usually shaped as a cone or a dome. In English I would translate it with a "loaf".
    We also use "pain de sucre" with the same meaning and, of course, for the "sugar loaf mountain" in Rio de Janeiro.
  3. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think I'd translate it as a block or slab of butter. A pat is much smaller, in my view.
  4. Donaldos

    Donaldos Senior Member

    French - France
    Il s'agit en effet d'une référence à la forme comme le signalent ces deux sources:


  5. franc 91 Senior Member

    English - GB
    The problem is that before the Révolution, every Seigneur or nobleman who held any kind of jurisdiction (and market towns) had their own mesures of weight, length and size. I think une motte or un pain would be more than two tablespoons. In Brittany they had special wooden moulds and moulding spoons for butter with elaborate designs on them. Traditionally in Spezet once a year the ladies of the parish still put an ornate sculpture of butter on display in the church using these.
  6. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    All the explanations above are correct. Modern French will probably use motte de beurre but I would think that a pain de beurre is bigger than a motte , you would make mottes out of a pain ...
    Now, as to Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, it's a pot de beurre (pot), not pat ...
  7. ajparis Senior Member

    American English
    franc91, as for these molds, do you know how far existing ones may go back or where I may find them, short of making a trip to Spezet? I'm dealing with the 1730s in Paris, but this information is important since butter from Brittany was very much on the Parisian market and was considered better than that of Normandy.

    Thanks for the other responses, but I'm trying to determine the approximate quantity, not doing a translation. Donoldos's definition is typical of what I'm dealing with, they refer to a "poids rigoureusement exact" but then don't tell you what it may be. I'm taking all modern information and 19th-c sources seriously but using them with caution.
  8. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    Of course ...
    Now, one problem is that when you Google "pain de beurre", you get "pain au beurre" as an answer, because "pain de beurre" (though correct as we have seen) is unusual or unexpected.
    I remember having seen a "pain de beurre" in my childhood (I'm 56), it was a big conic mass of butter, probably weighing 5-6 kg.
    I don't think that at that time (when I saw it), these "pain" had a given (legal) weight, like "bread" (baguette, bâtard, pain -250 g and 400 g). The "crémier" would cut a piece with a metal thread (fil à couper le beurre).
    So, back in 1730 (where measures weren't even as precise or "legal" as they became after the Revolution), I don't think these pains had a given weight. Maybe a given shape and an approximate weight, in pounds/livres (close to the £ -453g-).
    But at that time, weight units weren't even unified, you had many kinds of livres, all slightly different.
  9. ajparis Senior Member

    American English
    Aoyama's reminiscence is quite evocative and franc91's historical note on prerevolutionary measures is perfectly true, so I was tempted to think of pain de beurre generally as "a generous amount", but I went back to my recipes and was surprised by this one, which does imply that the pain de beurre is a specific quantity known to all, and somewhat smaller than what I expected. Unfortunately it does not indicate how much flour or broth is needed to get the "légère consistence". Theoretically this should make about enough to accompany a chicken or dish of that size, so I'm guessing this pain de beurre is in the neighborhood of 200-250 gr. (It's normal not to find egg yolk in this period.)

    Sauce à la Holllandaise (1742)
    Mettez dans une casserole deux pains de beurre, un peu de farine, trois gousses d'ail piqué d'un clou, des tranches de citron, une pincée de persil haché & blanchi. Mouillez avec de bon bouillon, quintessence ou consommé. Tournez sur le feu & donnez-lui une légère consistance. Otez les tranches de citron & l'ail.
  10. Aoyama Senior Member

    川崎市、巴里 (黎)
    français Clodoaldien
    In my mind, here, a pain de beurre would be "a lump of butter", close to "motte de beurre". Is it really a given quantity or just like "a fistful" of something ... ? (Especially if you would but two).
    Probably, recipes of the time weren't that precise (with g, cl, ml, kg etc).
    This being said, they had lemons (priceless at that time).

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