Softened Butter- What You Need to Know

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | April 29th, 2023 | Cooking Basics
softened butter

Many a recipe starts with the ingredient, softened butter. It is a common ingredient in many baked goods, including this week’s new recipe. However, do you know what it means when a recipe calls for softened butter? Read on to learn exactly what the recipe requires and how to achieve it.

Is it softened butter?

There is a simple way to tell if your butter is softened. Gently press on the stick of butter. If your finger makes an indent, it is softened. However, you don’t want it to be softened so much that when you press the entire stick loses its shape. That is over-softened butter.

A recipe calls for softened butter typically to make it easier to blend into the other ingredients. Think about cookie dough. You want the butter and sugar to become one without great effort from your mixer. The two ingredients should form a new homogenous ingredient, as opposed to a lumpy creation.

How to soften butter

If you are not pressed for time, you can use the regular method of placing the butter on the counter. According to Land O’Lakes, set the butter on the counter for 30 to 45 minutes before using it, and you should be all set. You don’t want the butter to set out for much longer than that, as it will become too soft, which may impact your recipe.

Of course, when setting butter on the counter, you do have to keep variables in mind. The 30 to 45 minutes assumes that the butter has been in the refrigerator, not the freezer. Frozen butter will take longer. It also assumes that you have a typical room temperature home between 68 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is a hot summer day and you don’t have air conditioning, you will need to check it sooner. If you keep your house closer to the temperature of an icebox, you will need to allow for more time.

I need softened butter. . .NOW

There are a few ways to speed up the softening process, but they are not as reliable. If you are desperate, you can try one of the following.

  • Cut the butter into cubes- Once you have smaller pieces of butter, they should soften in under 15 minutes.
  • Pound the butter out- Remove the butter from its wrapper, place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and beat it with a rolling pin until it is a thin layer.
  • Microwave it- Unwrap the butter, and set it on a small plate. Microwave on defrost (usually 30%) in 10 second increments, turning the butter over between each session.

Go find your favorite cookie recipe, get your butter softened, and let the baking begin!

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