Pretty much every baked recipe out there (minus pie crust/biscuit type doughs) calls for softened butter, yes? Do I ever think to get my butter out hours before I bake cookies? Of course not. Cookies are an impulsive decision.
Further, I’m not one to leave a stick of butter on the counter, perpetually waiting for the moment next week when I have fresh-baked bread to spread it on. And we all know what happens when you try to spread cold butter on bread. Holy smashed bread. I mean, hole-y smashed bread.
For years I tried to fix this problem by putting my poor stick of butter in the microwave for a few seconds. The butter be like, “No, Cuba, not the nukes!” Because let’s be honest, does anyone ever get perfect, soft spreadable butter from the microwave? Not me. Even if it looks proper, it has cleverly hidden pockets of radioactive melted butter hiding in its interior. And once butter is melted, you cannot restore it to a soft spreadable (or cream-able) state. It is forever altered. My slightly better alternative when baking was to place the stick in my stand mixer bowl and forcibly pulverize the cold butter into oblivion. This was marginally successful but generally resulted in a lumpy sugar mixture instead of a nice fluffy one.
Then one day I had a stroke of brilliance. I devised a way to soften butter quickly without melting or hammering it. And I tell you, I did not even consult the Great Brain (Google) to come up with this. Yep, me and my little brain figured it out on our own. Now I get perfectly softened butter in a matter of 10 minutes (yay cookies!). Some of you may live in climates where 10 minutes on the counter will achieve these results, but alas, not I. All day on the counter will still give me cold butter…
Anyway, here’s how you do it.
You need butter (obviously), a plastic zip-top baggie, a bowl or tall glass, and some warm water.
First, zip the butter in the baggie, pressing out as much air as possible.
Next fill a bowl or tall glass half way or so with lukewarm water. The water should feel just slightly warm to the touch; if it is very warm you will melt the butter. I use water in the whereabouts of 80-85*F. Butter melts at 90-95*. You’ll know if you didn’t get the water warm enough because your butter won’t be soft after 10-15 minutes.
Place the butter-baggie in the water. Let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Turn the butter baggie once or twice during that time so that the floating side gets to contact the water.
Meanwhile, prep the rest of your goodie-making ingredients or set the table. Or pick up play-dough off the floor. Whatever.
When you come back, take the butter out of the bag and carefully unwrap it. You will have nice, soft, spreadable, mixable butter. Problem solved, the problem is solved, we solved the problem, now everything is awesome…butter butter butter.