Too frequently, I’ve intended to bake only to realize that I hadn’t taken the butter out of the refrigerator that morning. So I thought I’d give a step-by-step instruction on how to quickly and efficiently soften butter while measuring out ingredients and prepping your cake pan or cookie sheets.
I also discuss several butter-related topics, such as why it is critical to soften butter if the recipe calls for it and what function butter plays in baked products.
(Photo by Mike Meeks, Unsplash.com)
- Why Butter Should Be Softened If the Recipe Says So
- Types of Butter
- Storing Butter
- The Functions of Butter in Baking
- How to Soften Butter
- What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial for Softening Butter
- Other Methods to Soften Butter
- What is the fastest way to soften butter for baking?
- How do you bring butter to room temperature quickly?
- What happens if you use melted butter instead of softened in cupcakes?
- What to do if butter isn’t softened enough?
- What is the best hack to soften butter?
- What are 2 methods you can use to soften butter?
- How do you soften butter quickly in the microwave?
- How do you soften butter with a glass quickly?
- How long do you leave butter out to become room temperature?
- How do you melt butter for cupcakes?
Why Butter Should Be Softened If the Recipe Says So
at room temperature. A recipe often calls for softened butter since it must be whipped or combined using the creaming technique (with or without sugar). This is often used in the preparation of cakes, muffins, and other lighter baked items. While it may be tempting to use butter straight from the refrigerator, if the recipe calls for softened butter, it should always be softened.
When butter is creamed, it is combined with sugar and whipped until light and fluffy. This permits air pockets to form in the butter, increasing the volume of the cake batter.
As you add the eggs to the batter, the liquid level rises and the air spaces are filled with liquid. Once these elements combine, they form an emulsion of fat and water.
This emulsion traps carbon dioxide and steam in the baked items, causing them to rise and create a light texture.
When the ingredients for cakes or other baked products are combined at room temperature, the components will readily bind together, resulting in uniform fat distribution and texture.
For flaky pastry, pie crusts, and biscuits, use cold butter rather than melted.
In the next part, I go over butter in further depth and discuss how various varieties of butter might affect your baked products.
Types of Butter
A stick of butter is a combination of butterfat, the solid fat produced by the churning of fresh cream (along with buttermilk), water, and around 1% milk fat solids. Butter’s water content is what causes it to get rancid.
Butter sold in the United States must be pasteurized, and the label sweet cream butter verifies that it was prepared using pasteurized cream.
Butterfat concentration varies, but according to federal standards, it must be at least 80% butterfat. Many butters made in the United States include just 80% fat, but European-style butters may contain up to 84% fat. Homemade artisan butters may have even more fat, and in general, the greater the butterfat level, the higher the price!
Regular sweet cream butter from the grocery store is enough for most baked items such as cupcakes, muffins, and cookies. Higher fat butters may be saved for spreading on crusty toast or creating flaky pie crusts and light pastries like croissants.
A sweet cream butter is frequently salted, which has the benefit of having a longer shelf life than unsalted butter since the salt works as a preservative.
But, you may opt to use unsalted butter so that you may regulate how much salt is added to the dish. Using salted butter might potentially contribute too much salt to the final product, depending on the recipe.
Pro Tip: If you require unsalted butter but only have salted, you may use salted, but you’ll need to delete around a quarter teaspoon of salt from the recipe since that’s how much salt a stick of butter contains.
If you are not going to use the butter right away, keep it in the refrigerator. Always keep it covered and away from stronger-smelling meals since it absorbs scents rapidly.
Butter may be stored at room temperature for a few days, in the refrigerator for up to four months, or frozen for up to six months.
A stick of butter is 4 ounces, 8 tablespoons, or half a cup.
Swift & Company, which began packaging butter in sticks for broader distribution in 1907, is credited with inventing the stick of butter.
In the United States, there are two varieties of sticks available, owing to variances in the type of butter printer (machine that slices and packages the butter) utilized. The Eastern or Elgin-pack is produced east of the Rocky Mountains, while the Western-pack is produced west of the Rockies Mountains. These butter sticks are 3.1 inches long and 1.5 inches broad.
Both varieties of sticks weigh 4 oz and are packaged differently in the box. Butter plates are often built to accommodate the Eastern-pack butter stick.
The Functions of Butter in Baking
Butter, being a fat, has many functions in baking:
- Since fat does not evaporate or absorb heat like other liquids, the presence of butter in baked products causes them to seem moist.
- Butter also interacts with wheat by affecting the linkages in the gluten in the flour, which allows it to be tenderized. Since the fat shortens the gluten strands, this process is known as shortening, and that is why solid fats are commonly referred to as shortening.
- Fats aid in the baking process by transporting heat through the baked items while they cook, and they also aid in browning.
- As previously stated, butter aids in rising or leavening because the water contained inside the butter starts to evaporate in the oven and the steam from this remains retained in the baked products, assisting in their rise. Puff pastry rises or puffs up due to the layers of butter between them.
Butter provides taste to cakes and other baked products, and it may help baked goods last longer.
(Photo credit: Taryn Elliot; Pexels.com)
How to Soften Butter
There are many methods for softening butter, and in addition to presenting a step-by-step on how I soften butter, I also look at a few additional methods.
If you’re organized, leaving butter at room temperature for an hour or so before using it is often the easiest way to soften it. However, if you’re like me and frequently forget to take it out beforehand, or you suddenly realize the kitchen is cooler than you thought, you’ll need a faster way to soften it.
Before I go into the softening technique, it’s important noting how to tell whether butter is soft enough.
As a general guideline, if the butter is cool to the touch yet leaves an impression of your finger when gently pressed, it is soft enough to cream. This is normally between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter has a melting point of roughly 90F to 95F, which is why it melts so well in your mouth or on toast!
When you test the butter, if your finger dips into it or glides around, it is too soft. Butter that is too soft cannot be creamed correctly and will not retain air once whipped. Cakes that come out of the oven too heavy might be produced by too soft butter, as can cookies that spread too much.
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial for Softening Butter
- a stick of softened butter
- a knife to cut the butter
- 2 cups (16 oz) of water in a microwave safejug
- Bowl or microwave safeplate Good for spreading out the quantity of butter needed to soften
- Kitchentimer Set a timer to ensure you don’t forget about the butter while preparing the other ingredients.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Preheat the microwave by placing the microwave safe jug with the two cups of water in the microwave.
Set the microwave on high for two minutes, then off. At this stage, the water will be quite hot rather than boiling.
Step 2: Prepare the butter: While the microwave is heating up, cut the butter into little pieces and lay them out on a microwave-safe plate or dish.
Step 3: Remove water: Using an oven mitt, remove the jug of water from the microwave and shut the door.
Step 4: Microwave the butter: Reopen the microwave door, set the dish of butter inside, and shut it. Do not turn on the microwave.
Begin the countdown on your timer.
Step 5: Check: After 5 minutes, open the microwave door and rapidly remove the butter, using the touch test described above if required.
In my microwave, it normally takes roughly 7 minutes to soften one stick, so if you’re cooking two or more sticks, check again after 10 minutes.
Other Methods to Soften Butter
Another method for softening butter, which will take longer, is to remove it from the refrigerator, cut it into little cubes, and spread it out on a dish at room temperature. It will soften quicker than if you leave it as a stick.
You may alternatively soften the butter by placing it in a dish over a sauce pan with boiling water. But keep an eye on it since it might oversoften.
Some people microwave butter for 10 to 15 seconds to soften it quickly, but this method is sometimes uneven; certain sections of the stick might be solid while others are liquified.
Some like to flatten the butter by placing it between wax paper or in a Ziplock bag and flattening it with a rolling pin. Personally, I am not a fan of this method since I believe it is very simple to overwork the butter.
I hope this lesson on how to soften butter was helpful, providing a simple approach for softening butter that will enable you to concentrate on putting the rest of your cupcake ingredients together at the same time.
Please feel free to share this guide with your friends and family, and please leave any butter-related comments in the space below.
What is the fastest way to soften butter for baking?
Prepare a Hot Water Bath
Fill a ceramic or glass cup or dish halfway with hot water (something that can fit over your butter). After a few minutes, pour off the water and rapidly cover your butter. In only a few minutes, the heat from the cup will soften your butter.
How do you bring butter to room temperature quickly?
Step 1: Fill a microwave-safe cup or dish halfway with 2 cups of water. I always measure liquids using a liquid measuring cup.
Step 2: Microwave it for 2 minutes, or until it is quite hot.
Step 3: Take the water out of the microwave.
Step 4: After approximately 10 minutes, the radiant heat will soften the butter.
What happens if you use melted butter instead of softened in cupcakes?
Melted or liquefied butter will thin down your mixture, resulting in ultra-flat, thick, and uneven cookies or cakes.
What to do if butter isn’t softened enough?
Wrap in a warm bowl.
With this approach, I usually microwave a glass or bowl, but you may alternatively heat a small saucepan on the stove. To soften butter in a glass or dish, do the following: Place the butter cubes on a dish. Fill a glass or dish with water that can be microwaved. Heat for 2–3 minutes, or until the water begins to boil.
What is the best hack to soften butter?
Just fill a cup with very hot water, drain it out, then set it over a stick of butter in this “Babs Hack.” The butter should soften after 5 minutes. This is the trick we anticipated working the best.
What are 2 methods you can use to soften butter?
The Best Way to Soften Butter
Allowing refrigerated butter to soften at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes before to usage allows it to soften.
Put the butter stick in a resealable plastic bag or between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper, then flatten and soften with a rolling pin.
More to come…
How do you soften butter quickly in the microwave?
To soften butter in the microwave, put it in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 15 seconds (defrost). Check the butter’s consistency and repeat if required.
How do you soften butter with a glass quickly?
Cup of Soup
Fill a tall, microwave-safe glass halfway with water. Warm for one minute. Remove the glass from the microwave, drain the water, and immediately set it over a stick of butter. Let the butter to soften for 5 minutes under the glass.
How long do you leave butter out to become room temperature?
Refrigerated butter might take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to soften to room temperature. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes to save time: Cut a stick of butter in half lengthwise. Turn the butter over and split it again lengthwise.
How do you melt butter for cupcakes?
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter pieces. Microwave, uncovered, on 100% power (high) for 30 to 45 seconds, depending on the size of the butter. If there are just a few little bits of butter remaining in the plate, whisk them until they melt.