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Time to cream it: Quick tips to soften butter for perfect confections

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There are a lot of recipes that request the butter be softened or brought to room temperature before you being. This is a simple process and there are a few ways to get your butter to the right consistency and temperature. One of the biggest problems is remembering to take the butter out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to start the baking process.

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Do you know why it is important to have the butter at the right temperature?

The reason is very obvious! It is a lot easier to cream softened butter or room temperature butter than it is a cold hard stick. Cold butter will change the way your confection bakes.

Usually softened butter is creamed with the sugar in the recipe. These two ingredients are mixed together for a few reasons. The sugar actually incorporates air into the butter or aerates it as it is being mixed. This proves will give the baked items a lighter batter, bake a fluffier cake, give cookies that crispness everyone loves and when a topping of crumbs are baked on top they are light, soft and delicate. Cold butter on the other hand will cause the cake to become very dense, cause it not to rise as it should and make cookies very chewy.

How should the butter feel when it is at room temperature?

The butter should still feel cool from being in the refrigerator but just soft enough so that when you press your finger against it an indent is left. Never try softening butter in the microwave. The heat of the microwave is too intense and melts some of the butter as it softens the rest of the butter stick. The melting actually breaks down the properties of the butter making the batter too loose and won’t cream the way it should when mixed with the sugar.

Different ways to soften butter before baking:

  • Take the butter out of the refrigerator and leave it in a dish on the counter about an hour before you plan on baking. Depending upon how warm your home is it is a good idea to test the butter every ten minutes after the first thirty minutes so it doesn’t begin to melt. You may have to start your baking ten to twenty minutes before the time you set since it reached room temperature more quickly.
  • Place the stick of butter in a plastic bag and seal it without the air. Then use your rolling pin and press on the butter until it starts to give. Roll the rolling pin over it until it gets to the right consistency you need to start your baking.
  • Use a cheese grater to shred the butter into a bowl. Cold butter will get to room temperature quickly and it will be easier to cream the butter now that it is in small pieces. Frozen butter can also be shredded. It takes a little longer but will soften fairly quickly.
  • Cutting the stick of butter into pats or cubes will also increase the speed in which the butter will soften. Leave the cut up butter pieces in a dish on the counter until it reaches room temperature.

Baked goods are always better when softened butter is used!

© 2014 Beverly Mucha / All Rights Reserved

Jackson residents can shop at any of these local grocery stores: Pick’n Save or Wal-mart for all the ingredients needed for this recipe.

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