How to Soften Butter
Plus, why you actually need to.
Whenever I want to express gratitude to people in my life, I bake them a batch of cookies. It’s a simple treat that goes a long way in terms of delivering sweet vibes. However, even when baking with the best of intentions, there have been more than a handful of times when I’ve neglected to take my butter out of the fridge to soften. The journey to a quality cookie (or cake), usually starts with the butter. When you come across a recipe that calls for room temperature butter, it’s referring to butter that’s at a temperature between 65°F and 70°F.
Why Does Butter Need to be Room Temperature?
A recipe usually calls for softened butter to be creamed with sugar in order to create the base of your baked good. This process not only combines the two ingredients, but also incorporates air into your batter, which allows your cookies to be uniform and fluffy, and your cakes to be light and airy. When butter is softened, it becomes pliable enough to retain air incorporated in the mixing process. If butter is too hard, it is impossible for it to capture air. That said, if your butter is too soft (as in, melted with a few semi-solid lumps), it cannot retain the air during whipping. Therefore,to achieve an ideal consistency in your final product, your butter has to be just right. Room temperature butter should be soft and flexible enough that it will not clump in between the paddle or blade and the bowl of your mixer, but it shouldn’t be so soft that it does not hold its body.
How Do You Bring Butter to Room Temperature?
The easiest way to bring refrigerated butter to room temperature is to simply let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes, on average. However, this time is relative, depending on the current climate outside and the temperature in your kitchen. If you’re in cooler climates, it can take up to an hour and a half. If you haven’t planned ahead and don’t have the flexibility to allow your butter to come to room temperature on its own (obviously, it happens), here are a few other methods for quick softening:
Naturally, your first instinct may be to pop the stick(s) of rock-solid butter into the microwave, however, doing so will typically yield butter that’s melty on the outside and still hard on the inside. Instead, cut the butter into cubes, place in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for 10 seconds. Check the firmness, and continue microwaving in 5-second intervals if needed. Another microwave method that I’ve seen from bloggers is to keep the stick of butter in its paper, place it on a plate, and microwave it in 5 second intervals, rotating the butter a quarter turn each time, until softened.
If you like to buy in bulk and recently scored a discount on butter, you will most likely want to store at least part of your bounty in the freezer. When working with frozen butter, use a box grater to shred the butter into thin pieces. It should soften fairly quickly at room temperature from there.
Related: How to Know When Butter is Softened
Place your stick of butter is a plastic zip-top plastic bag and roll it flat with a rolling pin or another cylindrical object, such as a wine bottle. Allow the butter to sit out on the counter for a few more minutes to reach room temperature.
Warm a glass or ceramic bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat source using a folded kitchen towel, dry off any excess water, and place the bowl over your stick of butter to create a warming dome. Allow the bowl to stay in place until it has cooled and the butter has softened.