I find myself in this predicament a LOT! I need SOFT butter for my toast or for baking purposes and all I have is rock-hard butter in the fridge. Since I never have the patience (or the forethought) to simply let the butter come to room temperature on its own, I usually resort to putting it in the microwave. I actually have it down to my own “science” of sorts and it works pretty well. Five seconds on High, rotate stick of butter, five seconds more, rotate again, five seconds more.
Unfortunately, while this method works OK on my toast, it hasn’t worked very well in my baking attempts. The other day I read something that explained a lot about my baking “fails” of the past. The problem with microwaving butter is that it heats the butter unevenly, and tends to over-soften or even melt the butter in places which alters how effective it is in a given recipe. NOW they tell me! :-) You want pliable butter for beating, not almost melting butter.
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So what’s a procrastinating, impulsive, would-be baker like myself to do?
Here is the answer in 4 simple steps!
Put a stick of butter between two large pieces of wax paper.
Using a rolling pin (even one with a huge crack in it will work!), press down on the butter.
Roll it out like you would a pie crust.
When the butter is about 1/4-inch thick, lift off the wax paper and peel away the butter (before it gets too soft to peel).
So how can you tell if the butter is ready? Take a piece of butter between your thumb and finger and squeeze it a little. You should be able to make an impression in the butter with your fingers, but it should still provide some resistance. The butter should feel more waxy than greasy. If it gives way without any resistance, the butter is too soft. Get it back into the refrigerator for a few minutes until it passes the test.
What is your preferred way to soften butter quickly?