If you have been baking for a while, then you have probably noticed that many recipes call for butter to be softened.
If you’re like most people, then you have probably wondered why the butter needs to be softened in the first place. Does it really make a difference to the recipe and how it turns out? The answer, in a nutshell, is yes.
You have probably also wondered how to soften butter. In truth, there is no one right answer to that question. Instead, there are several methods on how to soften butter that you can try.
To learn more about how to soften butter and why it matters, keep reading.
Why Does Softened Butter Matter?
First of all, many people who see “softened butter” in a recipe just ignore the fact that the butter needs to be softened. They just toss in butter straight from the refrigerator, thinking that the softness factor can’t possibly matter.
However, these people are wrong. There are many reasons that softened butter is important.
A recipe that calls for softened butter is relying on the creaming method for proper baking. Basically, with this method, sugar and butter have to be cooked together. Doing this, however, allows air to enter the butter if the butter is too solid. This can result in a puffier, denser final product, which is the opposite of what you typically want when baking soft, moist treats.
When the butter is softened already, it is not “packed” as tightly, and air bubbles can’t enter the butter as easily. So, you create a softer, more delicious, and less puffy treat when you choose to use softened butter.
You can still get okay results with butter that has not been properly softened, but why not take the time to soften butter if the results are going to be that much better because of your efforts?
So, How Do You Soften Butter?
Obviously, taking the time to soften your butter is important since it will determine how your final recipe turns out
However, this begs the all-important question of just how do you soften butter?
As you might expect, there are several different methods out there. Some bakers absolutely swear by one method, while others use a variety of techniques depending on what they feel like doing and what they’re making.
Here, though, we’ll focus on some of the quickest and easiest methods for getting soft, perfect butter.
Cut it Up and Put it on the Stove
One thing you should understand about butter is that it is much more difficult to soften when it is in its whole stick form. In this form, it’s more dense, thus making it more difficult to melt.
It makes sense, then, that cutting it into smaller pieces or squares is a wise way to get it to soften. If you have some time to burn, you can just cut up the butter and allow it to soften slowly and naturally.
However, if you’d like it to soften a bit more quickly, place the butter slices on a plate on top of your pre-heating oven. Don’t place them on a range, just on top of the oven. The heat from the stove will help the butter pieces to soften more quickly.
Try this Easy Microwave Trick
If you have a microwave (and who doesn’t in today’s world?), you can use a simple “microwave hack” to soften your butter.
Just like with the above tip, you will want to start by cutting your butter into small pieces or slices and placing them on a microwave-safe plate.
Once you’ve done that, fill a microwave-safe container with two cups of water and set it to boil. You may have a boiling function on your microwave that you can use, but if you don’t, it usually takes around three to four minutes, depending on your microwave, for this amount of water to boil.
The second the water is done boiling, remove it and toss it. Be careful. As you can imagine, the container is going to be hot.
From there, place your plate of butter slices into the microwave and close the door. Leave the butter inside for about ten minutes. The steam from the water will take care of the softening for you.
As you can see, there are a lot of great methods for softening butter, and softened butter truly is important. You can try these methods if they work for you, but do be aware that there are lots of other methods out there. So, check out all the possibilities, and either choose one that works for you or vary your butter-softening routine based on your needs.