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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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