If you have ever followed a baking recipe, then you probably will have encountered the words ‘softened butter’. This is often a step in many recipes, but it is a step that always goes unexplained.
These recipes expect you to know how to soften butter, however this is something that a lot of people don’t actually know how to do.
When you hear the words ‘softened butter’, it can be easy to assume that the recipe means ‘melted butter’. But this isn’t the case.
In fact, if you use melted butter in a recipe that requires softened butter, then you can compromise the entire dish. So, understanding how to soften butter is incredibly important.
In this guide, we’re giving you three different methods that you can use to soften butter, as well as telling you one recipe which you should always avoid. So with no further ado, let’s get started.
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Why would you Soften Butter?
As we have already established, the main reason that you would soften butter is that a recipe has told you to. Lots of recipes require softened butter to be added to the mixture as it ensures a good consistency of whatever you are baking.
If you were to use hard butter, or melted butter, then this could completely alter the texture of your creation. It is also worth noting that most recipes require softened butter as it is a lot easier to mix than hard butter.
So, if you see the words ‘softened butter’ in a recipe, it is very important that you follow them.
Method One – Warm Water Bath
The first method that we are giving you is also the quickest method. So, if you desperately need softened butter, and you need it quickly, then this is the method for you.
This method requires you to use a warm water bath in the same way that you would use a warm water bath to melt chocolate.
So, to do this, you need to pour a few cups of almost boiling water into a saucepan that has a metal bowl inside it. Once you have added the water to the pan, you can then add your butter into the metal bowl.
This isn’t our favorite way to soften butter, but it is highly effective. However, it is very important that you keep a close eye on the butter when it is in the warm water bath as there is a very fine line between softened and melted.
As soon as you can see that the butter has softened, remove the bowl from the water bath. This will ensure that it will not melt. But remember to be careful when doing this as the metal bowl will likely become quite warm in the process.
Method Two – Cut it Up
Alternatively, you can soften your butter by cutting it up. This method can seem quite strange, but it is actually our favorite. However, it does require you to be prepared as softening butter using this method does take a while.
To use this method, you will need to prepare your butter well before you have to use it. This method relies on the fact that smaller chunks of butter soften much quicker than larger chunks.
So, it simply requires you to chop the butter that you want to soften into small chunks before you start preparing anything else.
If you do this, then leave the chopped butter chunks near the stove, or simply in your warm kitchen, they will begin to soften.
As the softening process is not being rushed, there is no risk of the butter melting completely. This makes this method one of the safest options. Alternatively, you could grate the butter.
However, you should only consider grating the butter if it was frozen prior to preparing it. If your butter is straight out of the fridge, then you should simply chop it up, and leave it on the side until you need to use it.
Method Three – Pound the Butter
Finally, you can soften your butter by pounding it. This is a great method if you have had a difficult day, and want to let out some pent-up frustration. It is also highly effective for softening butter without melting it.
To follow this method, you need to begin by placing the required amount of butter into a ziplock bag, and seal it.
Once you are certain that the bag is sealed, you can then take a meat pounder, or rolling pin, and begin flattening the butter. Don’t be afraid to use some force, as this will just help speed up the process. So the more force, the better.
This process should only take a couple of minutes, and by the end of it you will have softened butter that is still completely cool.
Lots of other methods will raise the temperature of the butter, and this can lead to melting. But this isn’t an issue with this method.
Once you have pounded your butter, leave it on the counter for a few minutes. This will bring it to room temperature, and then it will be ready to use in your recipe.
Don’t Use the Microwave
You might have got to the end of this list, and been puzzled by the fact that ‘pop it in the microwave’ isn’t a suggested option. After all, this is one of the most common methods that people use to soften butter.
However, we would never recommend using the microwave to soften your butter. This is mainly because the microwave uses heat to soften butter, so there is a very high chance that it will melt your butter in the process.
As we have said, melted butter is completely different to softened butter, and it can completely alter the texture of whatever you are baking. So it is best to avoid using the microwave.
In conclusion, this has been a complete guide to how to soften butter with 3 different methods you can use depending on the situation in which you are baking.