Baking Basics

I forgot again……

So every baker has probably experienced this scenario…. you’re in the kitchen standing at the counter ready to start baking. You pulled all the ingredients out that morning, laid the recipe down in front of you on the counter to begin baking, but low and behold, you forgot to pull the butter out to let it soften.

This is every constant battle that we struggle with. That darn sneaky butter…..

But alas, I have pulled together some of the top methods for softening butter quickly that won’t ruin your recipes or steal too much of your time as I know how eager we all are to get baking.

Now many people will simply resort to throwing the butter into the microwave and nuking it for a few seconds. While that does technically work (if you get the timing right), you have to be careful to not melt the butter versus softening it.

Basically, when recipes call for softened butter (roughly 99.5% of them), they are using a creaming method in which the sugar and butter are mixed together in such a way that the sugar cuts little air bubbles into the butter to further add some extra volume to the intended recipe. The baking powder and/or soda in the recipe uses these bubbles to create a light and fluffy texture due to this creaming process.

If you melt the butter first, not only do you not have those air bubbles, but there’s water in butter, so you’ll end up getting some gluten development when you mix in the flour and create a more “chewy” or softer texture.  It can’t form the necessary bubbles and the sugar dissolves as a result. Additionally, coating the flour with melted butter also helps prevent more gluten development, in addition to the water, creating a denser cake.

However, if the butter is too cold, it will not be malleable enough to be creamed and have the same result as the melted butter.

Soooooo, I’ve found several alternative methods to use instead of the default microwave:

  1. Cut the butter into small chunks: By cutting the butter into smaller chunks, it allows for more heat to interact with the butter and thus warm faster, especially if you lace the chunks near a heat source such as a warm stove. Generally, since I have to pre-heat the over, I place the butter chunks on top of the stove while preparing the rest of my ingredients.
  2. Pound/roll the butter: Personally, I haven’t tried this method as you have to be careful not to overbeat the butter too much. Simply place the butter in a sealabvle bag or beatween two sheets of parchment paper and beat the butter 4-5 times each side or roll the butter out flat (1/8 to 1/4 in thick). This softens the butter while still keeping it cool enough for the recipe and wont ultimate deflate your recipe.
  3. Use a double-broiler: If you’re really in a hurry, merely pour a few cups of very hot water (just below boiling) into a double boiler or a sauce pan with a metal bowl nested inside. Put the butter over the water bath and allow to soften. Not favorite method of mine as it can soften too fast and turn into a melted mess, but it does soften faster than the other two methods.
  4. Cheese Grater: Similar to the first method, you can use a cheese grater to grate the butter down into small pieces so it can soften faster. This method is especially helpful for pie recipes that call for cubes of butter for the pie crust.

Rule of Thumb (no pun intended) is that butter is officially softened and ready to use when it can be easily squished between your thumb and forefinger.

Now that we have this all cleared up, we can all get going in the kitchen so…

On your mark, get set, BAKE!!!! (Sorry, been watching a lot of Great British Bake-Off)

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20 thoughts on “I forgot again……

  1. Such a wonderfully written article.. will definitely take some cues from this. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Keep up the good work.. Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I only needed to see the image of butter underneath “I forgot” to start giggling. Oh yeah. Been there.

    “Now many people will simply resort to throwing the butter into the microwave and nuking it for a few seconds.”

    *puts on poker face to end all poker faces*

    These are great time-saving tips I’ll have to use in the future. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am THE WORST at this. I’m saving these tips. I always end up putting the butter on top of the toaster while I toast something, which sort of works but not really.

    Liked by 2 people

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