The holiday season is upon us and we all have a million and one things to do this holiday season. Baking treats is a priority, of course– and we always try to prep as much as possible by reserving enough time for all the holiday goodies we’ll churn out of our kitchens. But guess what? We’re human. And we’ll forget to lay out our butter ahead of time. It’s still in the fridge, hard as a rock. So aggravating! We’ll make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. Then our butter and sugar never cream properly and our cookies spread everywhere. It’s a disaster.
Sound familiar? Let me help. It’s the return of baking basics!
Why Softened Butter?
First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe.
Most baking recipes begin with creaming butter and sugar together. “Butter softened to room temperature” is not listed just for fun. There’s legitimate science involved. Butter, a solid fat, is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy baked good. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter with trapped air = a uniformly textured and proper tasting baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. This results in clumpy frosting, chunky cheesecake, dense cake, flat breads, and oily muffins.
In other words, complete recipe failures.
It’s literally my #1 baking rule: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It’s *that* important.
Did you know that room temperature butter is cooler than you think? Here’s my entire page dedicated to the importance of room temperature butter if you’re interested.
For most baked goods, nothing beats softened butter– and the best way to always have it on hand is to just lay it out on the counter ahead of time. But we forget. No offense butter, but you’re not a priority in my day.
How to Soften Butter Quickly
There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following works like a charm each time. And it couldn’t be easier. Here’s what you’ll need:
- butter, sliced into small pieces
Step 1: Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
Step 2: Microwave it for 2 – 3 minutes until boiling.
Step 3: Place butter into a heat-proof bowl or plate and into the microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. The microwave drawer so cool and sorta kinda futuristic looking!) Remove water from the microwave.
Step 4: Close the microwave to trap hot air inside. Butter will soften in 10 minutes.
Then you can use it in your recipe.
Keep in Mind
The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. In other words, you don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. You want it slightly spread out so all the pieces can warm up quickly and evenly.
There ya go!Print
Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick!
- 2 cups water
- butter (sliced into pieces)*
- Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
- Microwave it for 2 – 3 minutes until boiling. Remove water from microwave.
- Place butter pieces into a heat-proof bowl or plate, then place into the microwave.
- Close the microwave to trap hot air inside. Butter will soften in 10 minutes.
- The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. You don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. You want it spread out so all the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.
And there we have it! Perfectly softened butter, the base for millions of recipes. Including my perfect vanilla buttercream!