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How To Soften Butter

Have plans to bake but forgot to soften the butter? You’re in luck because this guide will teach you how to soften butter using various methods.

Whether you’re whipping up a batch of cookies, baking a cake, or preparing a savory compound butter, softened butter is a must. If you tend to store butter in the fridge or even the freezer, softening it can take quite a bit of time, which can put a damper on plans. Fortunately, there are several easy methods to soften butter quickly without compromising its texture or flavor. From simple kitchen tools to clever techniques, learning how to soften butter can save you time and frustration. In this article, we’ll explore serveral methods for softening butter in a pinch so you can return to cooking without delay.

How To Soften Butter

What Is Softened Butter?

Softened butter is butter that is 65-67°F. For those who prefer to be less specific, you can tell butter is softened by pressing into it with your finger. If your finger creates a dent but the butter retains its shape, it is perfectly softened. However, if it gets squashed and buckles under the pressure of your finger, the butter is a little too soft and should return to the fridge for a bit to firm up.

Is Softened Butter Important?

Softened butter is suggested for some savory dishes primarily due to convenience. It’s soft (of course) and easy to work with, making achieving a smooth consistency easier. As for baking, its purpose is more crucial. In addition to providing structure to finished baked goods like cookies and cakes, it plays a vital role in aeration, which assists in leavening and coating flour particles that result in the desired texture. Depending on the recipe, this can be flakiness, tenderness, etc.

Top Five Ways To Soften Butter

Grating Is Great

Grating takes the number one spot on the list of ways to soften butter because it doesn’t require any special kitchen equipment (everyone has a cheese grater, right?), and the method works quickly. The main reason is that you’re breaking a stick of butter down to small shreds that only need a few minutes to soften, even if previously frozen. Here’s how to soften butter using a grater:

  1. Grab a box grater and a stick (or sticks) of butter, depending on the amount needed.
  2. Carefully grate the butter into a bowl, onto a cutting board, or a piece of parchment using the largest or second-largest holes on a box grater. Be very careful as you reach the end of the stick to avoid injury. Fingertips are not the secret ingredient of any recipe.
  3. Use as desired.

Riding The Micro-wave

Most think to zap the butter briefly to soften it fast, but this often leads to melted butter unless it was previously frozen. Instead:

  1. Add 2 cups of water to a microwave-safe measuring cup or another container. Also, unwrap the butter and transfer it to a heat-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave the water on high for 2 minutes and 30 seconds or until the water is boiling and releases steam.
  3. Remove the water from the microwave, place the butter into the microwave, and close the door quickly so you don’t lose much heat.
  4. Leave in the microwave for 10 minutes (do not run the appliance).
  5. Voila, softened butter. The steam and residual heat do all the work for you.

Steam Will Do

This method uses a DIY double boiler setup to soften butter in record time. First, place a heat-safe bowl over a saucepan with an inch of water. Once the water is simmering:

  1. Reduce the heat and place the butter in the bowl on top.
  2. Leave the butter to soften for a few minutes, but watch it closely to ensure it doesn’t melt.
  3. Remove the butter from the bowl; otherwise, it will soften further.
  4. Use as desired.

Some also suggest a water bath (bain-marie) type setup where the bowl is put directly into hot water, but this tends to come with inconsistent results. Often, the outside is too soft while the inside remains quite firm.

How To Soften Butter With Steam

The Pound And Flatten

This method entails pounding a stick or sticks of butter wrapped in plastic with a rolling pin until softened. Doing so warms the butter through friction and increases its surface area while also thinning it out. Furthermore, it is perfect for those days when you can benefit from releasing a little aggression. Here’s how to soften butter with a rolling pin and plastic wrap:

  1. Place the butter between two pieces of plastic wrap or a plastic zipper bag. If using plastic, press the sheets around the edges to create a seal so the butter doesn’t escape when you start hitting it.
  2. Firmly hit the butter with a rolling pin or even a meat mallet to flatten the butter. To reduce the amount of noise, place a kitchen towel underneath.
  3. Stop once the butter is softened, and continue with your recipe.
How To Pound and Flatten To Soften Butter

The Faster Old-Fashioned Way

As you probably know, the old-fashioned way to soften butter is by leaving it on the counter for an hour or two before baking your cookies or cakes. Although it takes some time, it’s a low-effort method that always gets the job done. If you don’t have an hour to waste, you can cut the butter into cubes and then leave the cubes on the counter at room temperature to soften. Expect softened butter in 20-30 minutes at most. To soften it even more quickly, cut the cubes really small.

Softening butter is easy, and there are several ways to do it. Whether you’re looking for a super quick solution or have some time to spare, there is a method for you. Best of all, each method only requires basic kitchen equipment. Now that you know how to soften butter, what will you make next? Cookies, a fluffy cake, enriched bread, or smooth compound butter? The options are endless!

How To Soften Butter Quickly

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Monique McArthur
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