Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

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Many baking recipes call for “softened” butter, or room temperature butter. The reason for using softened butter is that you want to beat the butter (also called “creaming the butter”), either with sugar or without, and it’s very hard to beat a cold stick of butter.

The best thing to do to soften your butter is to put it out on the kitchen counter for an hour before you have to use it. But sometimes we don’t think that far ahead. One popular solution is to put the cold butter in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. The problem with microwaving butter is that the microwave can heat the butter unevenly, and tends to over-soften or even melt the butter in places. You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.

Here’s a simple trick to soften butter quickly using some wax paper and a rolling pin.

Tip: How to Soften Butter Quickly

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Method

Just put the stick of butter between two large pieces of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, press down on the butter. Roll it out they way you would roll out a pie crust. When the butter is about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, lift off the wax paper and peel away the butter (before it gets too soft to peel).

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Voilà! Softened butter, ready for beating.

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This trick was taught to me several years ago by (I think) my neighbor, pastry chef Evie Lieb, who, if I am recalling correctly, told me that she learned about it from a collective of Bay Area bakers called the "Baker's Dozen".

Links:
Butter Holds the Secret to Cookies That Sing - New York Times article on butter in baking, including "Never use a microwave: it will melt it, even though it will look solid. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed."

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Showing 4 of 54 Comments

  • Kristi Balibrera

    I stick the butter in between my bra for about 15 minutes lol.

  • Mary Ann

    If you use the microwave to soften butter, and it gets too soft, take several ice cubes and push them through the butter with a fork. The cold from the ice will harden the butter; you can add more cubes if needed. The water separates naturally from the butterfat. After the butter is the consistency you need, pour off the water and use the softened butter.

  • Alex

    I couldn’t find my rolling pin or wax paper so I settled on a new strategy. Take a large plate and a stick of butter, still wrapped, on the plate. Peel the wrapping off and flatten the wrapping out onto the plate. Then take a butter knife and slice the butter into several pieces, until your entire stick is all sliced up. Place all the pieces onto the wrapping so that they won’t stick to your plate. Now wait a little bit (30mins, an hour?) and you should have relatively quick softened butter!

  • Tammy

    I just put the stick of butter between my boobs (wearing a sports bra)! lol It worked!!!!! I’ll just neglect to tell anyone thats how I softened my butter shhhhhh!

  • Barbara

    I totally just smashed my fingers… and I blame you. lol… I suck at baking and cooking, but have decided to make my weakness into a strength while I have some free time. I have been baking millions of cookies in an attempt to find the perfect recipe. My husband is getting fat from it, so we decided to advertise on facebook that I would send my cookies to activated Navy memebers (my husband is a reservist and has a lot of people he keeps in touch with). Well a guy he knew from school just asked if he could get some sweet happiness in a box. My husband asked me to make them and send them while he was at work to avoid any more weight gain on his part. I forgot to get the butter out and let it soften so I jumped on the computer to find an easier method. Your page was the first to come up. I set up the plan as suggested… went to roll out my butter, knew I would need a little muscle so I pushed super hard… and BAM! the rolling pin jumped off the cube and my fingers are now throbing. I know it isnt your fault I am a dumbass that doesn’t know how to bake well… and it isn’t your fault I am seriously buff… and I know it isn’t your fault I held the rolling pin incorrectly…. but yet… I blame you! After I stopped swearing and approached your method again, it worked just fine… but still my fingers hurt. :)

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