The Right Way to Soften Butter
Have you seen the words ‘softened butter’ used in a recipe? If you bake, I’m sure you’ve seen it. Softened butter is used to make baked goods like cookies and cakes. So many recipes call for ‘softened butter’ but what is the right way to soften it? There are several ways to soften butter and none of them are necessarily the right way, but there are ways where you may not get the results you’re looking for.
Why does butter need to be soft in order to be ‘creamed’ with the sugar? Have you ever tried to ‘cream’ them when the butter wasn’t soft? It doesn’t work all that well.
When you cream the butter and sugar together you might think that you’re just mixing them, but it’s much more important than just mixing. When you cream them you are helping with the leavening which will help your baked goods be light and airy. Creaming them causes little air bubbles which will help your baked good rise.
If the butter is too soft or too cold and hard, your baked goods might not turn out the way you were expecting. And if the butter is too soft, your cookies could spread and not hold their cute little cookie shapes and your cakes could be too dense. If it’s not soft enough, you will have chunks of butter that don’t mix well with the sugar and therefore no air bubbles to help it rise.
The Right Way to Soften Butter
- One of the best ways to soften butter is to place it on the counter and wait for 30 minutes to one hour for it to become soft. The reason it is one of the best ways is because you can’t over melt it unless you forget about it. Set a timer and gather all the ingredients while you’re waiting. An hour will pass by before you know it.
- Butter should not be exposed to light, heat or air as it will go rancid. Keep it covered as you bring it to room temperature. I call this SOOTF-straight out of the fridge with the wrapper on.
- You’ll know it is the right temperature when you can easily make an indent with your finger. That’s it. Press it with your finger and if it makes an indention, your ready to bake!
- You can use the microwave to soften it but be careful. The microwave will heat the butter from the inside and it will be a melted mess in a matter of seconds. This poor half stick of butter was heated for 20 seconds on 100% power and look at it. It won’t work for cookies or cake.
- If you want to melt the butter in the microwave you can set it to defrost, adjust the power to 10% and melt it for 10 seconds at a time. Check it and watch it carefully so it won’t end up looking like mine.
- You can also grate it so the smaller thinner pieces will come to room temperature almost immediately. This is my second favorite way to soften butter. It’s almost foolproof and that works for me.
- Another popular way is to place it between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it flat with a rolling pin. When you roll it flat, it will be thin and warm up faster.
- Or you can take out your frustrations and beat it with the rolling pin or cut it into small squares.
- Some people will place it in a warm water bath but I’m going to be 100% honest. I don’t trust myself to do that. I know I will melt it.
As you can see there is more than one way to soften butter and it’s really important to your recipes that it’s the right kind of soft. Be Goldilocks. You know, not too cold, not too hot, but just right! It will make your cookies and cakes turn out the way they should. Nice, fluffy and airy just the way we like them!
Do you ever wonder what the difference is between salted or unsalted butter? Click to find out!