If you've ever tried to cream butter and sugar for cookies using butter straight from the fridge, we understand. Patience isn't our strong suit either.
To avoid flinging chunks of sugar-covered butter all over your kitchen, it pays to soften the butter first. Aside from remembering to take it out before you decide to bake, do you know how to soften butter properly? Check out the ways we found to accelerate the process without derailing it entirely.
How to Soften Butter: What NOT to Do
Don't put the butter in the microwave. We don't care if your microwave has a special setting for butter softening, or if you watch your butter like a hawk while it's in there. Don't do it.
Here's why: when you cream butter and sugar together, the sugar helps expand the air pockets in the butter. That makes your cookies puff up. If the butter is melted, or even simply too soft, the air pockets disappear and the sugar dissolves. Then your cookies spread more than they should.
How to Soften Butter: Take It Out in Advance
We know, of course you should remember to do this, but who does? Hear us out though. Even if you've forgotten to put the butter out to soften, do it as soon as you remember.
Then assemble the rest of your ingredients, get out your measuring cups and spoons, preheat the oven, put parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on your cookie sheets, and mix the dry ingredients together. You're probably halfway to perfectly softened butter already.
How to Soften Butter: Use a Warm Glass
This smart tip via Lifehacker is definitely worth a try. Fill a glass with hot water. (Not a plastic cup, but a glass.) Cut your butter into quarter-cup portions, which is half of a full size stick of butter. Put one quarter-cup of butter on a plate, pour the hot water out of the glass, and invert the glass over the butter. Repeat for each additional quarter-cup of butter until all of your butter is softened.
How to Soften Butter: Use a Warm Microwave
Sally's Baking Addiction offers another method using a glass of hot water. Don't microwave the butter, but microwave a glass of water instead. While the water is in the microwave, unwrap the butter and put it on a plate. When the microwave beeps, take out the water and put the butter in. Close the door and let it sit. The residual heat will soften the butter without melting it.
How to Soften Butter: Chop It, Grate It, Pound It
This post from Craftsy covers five other ways to soften hard butter fast, and how well each of them works. Their top recommendation is to pound it with a rolling pin. Put the butter in a strong plastic bag first, or between two sheets of waxed paper. Two other recommendations are to cut the butter into smaller pieces with a knife, or to grate it with a hand or box grater.
We think the disadvantage of using a rolling pin or grater is the potential for a mess, so we'd opt for cutting the butter into smaller pieces. In fact, we'd take out the butter as soon as we remember, cut it into pieces, and then carry on with the prep work while the butter softens.
Regardless of what method you choose, remember that a little bit of patience upfront will result in better-looking and more delicious cookies later!