Easter is exactly one week away and I’m stocked up on butter and ready to bake. If you’re like me, you probably keep deciding and changing your mind on what you’re going to make in the dessert category. I always change my mind several times until I’m under the wire. Then I end up making too many desserts.
There are three important rules to follow when baking with butter…
- Always use unsalted butter. It’s always a good idea to start with unsalted butter when baking. Then you can add salt to the dry ingredients to obtain the correct amount of salt needed for the recipe. You see, even if you were to use salted butter, all brands of salted butter vary in the amount of salt used. There’s even a variance between the name brand and generic salted butter. Therefore, it’s a guessing game as to how much salt you using in your recipe. That’s why it’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Always use room temperature butter. This is very important. Unless a recipe specifically calls for using melted butter, you should use room temperature butter. Don’t be tempted to soften the butter in a microwave. Anytime butter is softened in a microwave, it tends to partially melt. Let’s say you’re making chocolate chip cookies and the recipe calls for room temperature butter. Once you mix the ingredients, the recipe directs you to refrigerate the dough for 1/2 hour before baking. The cookies are supposed to be thick and cakelike. Using room temperature butter and refrigerating the cookie dough will result in thicker cookies that don’t spread. If you were to use melted butter, the cookies would spread and be too thin.
- If a recipe calls for using room temperature butter, make sure that all of your refrigerated ingredients are also at room temperature. Using cold ingredients such as eggs, sour cream or milk, will cause the butter to solidify again, and that’s what you don’t want.
SO WHAT IS ROOM TEMPERATURE BUTTER AND WHY USE IT?
Room temperature butter is about 65 degrees. It’s the perfect consistency for creaming. Most recipes for baked goods start by creaming together the butter and sugar. Room temperature butter is capable of holding lots of air, and the more it’s whipped the more air it incorporates. Also, when you add sugar, the sugar aerates the butter as the two get creamed together, creating air pockets. Then once you add leaveners such as baking powder or soda, the air pockets expand, even more, resulting in your recipe being light and fluffy.
WHAT HAPPENS IF BUTTER IS TOO SOFT?
If you microwave butter to soften it, you are actually slightly melting the butter and warming it too much. Butter that is softened beyond room temperature cannot for air bubbles when creamed or whipped. If you add sugar to it, the sugar will simply dissolve instead of whipping air into the butter. This would be fine if a recipe calls for melted butter, and you want the results to be thin cookies or a dense cake, but if the recipe calls for room temperature butter, that’s what you want to use.
WHAT HAPPENS IF BUTTER IS TOO COLD?
Cold butter is solid. It’s not capable of creaming with sugar or any other ingredient. If you try to blend it with other ingredients, you will end up with small chunks of cold butter in your mixture. The cold butter chunks cannot be aerated and the end result will be baked goods that are not light, airy and fluffy.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be running around like a crazy person this week, trying to do 5 things at once in the kitchen, and I’ll probably forget to lay out my 15 sticks of butter to soften, but no worries here…
HOW TO QUICKLY SOFTEN BUTTER TO ROOM TEMPERATURE…
3 easy steps…
- Fill a tall glass or jar with boiling water. Allow it to set for 1 minute and pour out the water. Wipe the water residue from inside the glass or jar.
- Place the glass or jar over a stick of butter.
- Allow the glass or jar to remain over the butter for 10 minutes.
The result is perfect room temperature butter.
I hope you have lots of fun making all your favorite Easter desserts, and before you start stressing, remember that most desserts can be made in advance.
Just remember to use room temperature butter when your recipe calls for it and you’ll have perfect results.