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How to soften butter to room temp when your house is kept cool?

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Hi! So, I am preparing to bake some cookies this afternoon and the recipe calls for 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened, which I take to mean room temp. Well, we keep our house at about 64 degrees when home, cooler when we're out. The last time I left butter on the counter for over a day, it was barely "softened"and creaming it with sugar was not so easy. Any suggestions? (We don't have a microwave).
Thanks!

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  1. My advice would be to cut the butter up into small pats and put it in the bowl where you will be creaming it. It will certainly be workable by this afternoon. Alternately, you might search out cookies that use melted butter!

    2 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      yeah, i do that a lot!! recently, i made some oatmeal cookies out of Joy of Cooking and accidentally melted the butter all the way, instead of softening it. Well, the cookies turned out to be so crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, they were wonderful! So next time I'll just melt it again!

      1. re: saintp

        My friend and I did this in 6 th grade. Heated the butter in the microwave, stirred in the chocolate chip which also immediately melted. The cookies were good even if not what we were aiming for.

    2. Sometimes I stick the butter on top of the stove while it preheats, occasionally (if I forget to take the butter out of the freezer) I put it, still wrapped, in the oven for a very short time during the preheating. Also, if you cut it into chunks, it will soften quicker.

      2 Replies
      1. re: elfcook

        If it is just out of the freezer, you could shred it with a cheese grater which is a bit easier than cutting into chunks.

        1. re: Cathy

          +1 on using a box grater. Not only will it soften quicker, but the smaller bits will cream like a dream, too.

      2. you can sit it on a plate over a bowl of very hot water, cut up or grated.

        1. We don't have a microwave either.
          What I do is fill a bowl or cup (depending on volume of butter) with boiling water.
          I leave for 5 mins and then discard the water and place upside down over the butter (on a plate obviously) until it softens.
          It's probably best to warm the plate your'e putting the butter on by running it under warm water if this is going to be quire cold.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Paprikaboy

            i like those 2 suggestions....right now i have the butter cut up in a bowl, with the bowl set over a heating grate....just have to keep an eye on it so it doesn't start to melt. although at 64 degrees, that could be a while!

          2. I sometimes put a stick of butter in a ziploc bag, then let the bag hang out in the hottest water that comes out of your faucet (in a pan or bigger bowl).

            1. we keep our house at 64, and the butter should be fine for creaming. i don't know why you had the problem earlier with creaming it.

              if you heat it, you will melt it, and that is not what you want to do.

              as suggested above, cutting it up should help it cream better. cut it now, set the pats in a bowl on the counter, then you should be just fine by this afternoon.

              TAKE THEM OFF the heating grate.

              1. Put them in the bathroom when you shower.

                Take them out an hour afterwards.

                Room temp butter. Clean Chowhound.

                Win. Win.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Clean Chowhound, dirty butter. Never takeany food into a room containing a toilet. Every time trhere's a flush, particles are ejected into the air and onto surfaces. You can't see or feel them, but it really happens. Ick.

                  1. re: zeldaz51

                    I usually don't flush either before, during, or after a shower.

                    1. re: zeldaz51

                      Any your sponge is most likely the best bacteria harboring device in your house, ever wash your dishes/counter?

                      1. re: zeldaz51

                        I hate to agree but this is true. I work in healthcare and this is why there are never any toilets in the sterile areas of the hospital--- flushing causes aerolisation of the toilet water. Unless that toilet lid is sealed and you have never flushed the toilet in that room ever, wouldn't recommend storing food -however shortlived -in a bathroom .

                    2. If you have radiators try putting the sticks in a covered glass bowl, on top of a towel/s and then on top of the radiator. The towel should let enough heat surround the bowl to get it at room temp.

                      1. That temp is probably about where you want your butter for creaming. From Fine Cooking:

                        Research shows that it’s best to bake with butter that’s about 65°F, which is actually cooler than room temperature in most homes. So how do you tell if your butter is the right temp? Short of using an instantread thermometer in a stick of butter, I like to use the thumb method. I learned this from master baker Carole Walter, author of the cookbooks Great Cakes and Great Cookies. She suggests holding a wrapped stick of butter in your hand and pressing firmly with your thumb. There should be a slight indentation. She refers to this butter as “slightly firm,” a more descriptive (and practical) phrase than “room temperature.”

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Becca Porter

                          Know what, Becca? That is great info to have. And funny, too, because I just found this in my feed from Cooking Light--which says much the same, but gives some additional info that may be of interest:

                          http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-1...

                          It's funny to me because I bake a fair amount--even sugar cookies, which is the example Cooking Light provides--and my cookies never spread like parade floats. I'm either lucky or my butter was the right temp (I suspect the latter, though never factor out my general luckiness). In any case, I'm glad to have the straight story from both Fine Cooking and Cooking Light so we won't have to wonder about our final results. Happy baking to all!

                        2. A lot of good suggestions in this thread.
                          But I'd say this is a good reason for getting a microwave oven -- a used one can often be had for $20, depending on your area. New ones for under $100.

                          A quick way to soften up butter, cream cheese, and ice cream, apart from all the other uses.

                          1. Yep, it should have worked fine. My (programmable) thermostat is set for 60 to 65 degrees and I don't have a problem softening butter. More likely, I fail to start it early enough so then I do the box grater thing which always works quickly, esp. in conjunction with a few seconds in the nuker or over a bowl of boiling water.

                            1. Put it in the oven with the light on for 10 mins - my oven is around 95-100 degrees when the light is on, which should soften butter up in a hurry.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: biondanonima

                                Thank you so much for all the suggestions. I've never tried the grating, but that sounds like a great idea. I also really like the shower idea. Good use of multitasking!! So, I did take the butter of the heat grate, it feels about right, but I forgot to buy the decorating sugar needed for the recipe. I guess the butter will stay out overnight and I will make them tomorrow!!!

                                1. re: saintp

                                  Actually, this time of year, since I bake so much, I'll often leave 2-3 sticks of butter out of the fridge overnight in case the baking urge hits.

                                  1. re: pine time

                                    This. I always have 2 sticks-1lb out at any given time, though our new microwave has an amazingly accurate butter softening program.

                                2. re: biondanonima

                                  "Put it in the oven with the light on for 10 mins - my oven is around 95-100 degrees when the light is on, which should soften butter up in a hurry."

                                  Yup, this'll do it

                                3. Put it in a bowl, in the oven with the oven light on. The first time you do this, check it every 15 minutes or so and keep track of how long it takes to soften. works like a charm!

                                  1. With a stand mixer, I just beat it on low a few minutes. You can also put it between wax/parchment paper and gently pound/roll it.

                                    1. well, i baked the cookies today. the butter had been out of the fridge all day yesterday and most of the day....prior to creaming the butter and sugar, i did let it sit on the heater grate for about 5 minutes. it creamed beautifully. it really makes me wonder what the problem was the last time i tried!! i made cranberry pistachio icebox cookies from epicurious....just sliced off 4 of them to see if they turn out good enough for our xmas eve party. thank you to everyone for the great suggestions!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: saintp

                                        How did those cranberry pistachio icebox cookies turn out, saint p?

                                      2. If I'm in a hurry and need the butter to soften quickly, I will put it on top of my stove or inside my oven. I don't bother turning either the stove or oven on, because of the risk of having the butter soften and melt too quickly and unevenly. Also, it helps to cut the butter into large chunks as another person suggested..

                                        1. My microwave is broken. I have been know to put the butter in stainless steel bowl or cup and put under broiler for a few minutes until softened. Keep it at a good distance from the heat.

                                          1. Just put the wrapped stick of butter in your pants pocket for about 20-25 minutes.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: BeePowers

                                              Riiiiiiiight...is that a stick of butter in your pocket are you just happy to see me???! GONG! ;P

                                              1. re: BeePowers

                                                Just not your back pocket. And don't sit down, whatever you do....

                                              2. It's hard for me to understand why people don't leave their butter out at room temp to start with, but if I need more than is handy that way, it's easy to either use a low power setting on a microwave, such as a power lever of 1 or 3 for 20-30 seconds; or on the rack in my oven with the light left on. The former is instant, and the oven light takes a few minutes.

                                                I also proof bread dough in my oven with just the light on. It keeps it out of drafts, off the counter, and in a nice warm environment which yeast loves.

                                                For people who are opposed to owning a microwave oven, it is not dangerous to be around. It gives off less radio waves than you radio does. If you can afford to be entertaining company, then certainly you could pick up a little cheap one at Sam's Club. It also cooks several foods, like fresh vegetables in a more healthy way than even steaming - the quicker you can cook a fresh vegie, the more nutrition it retains. There are no excuses not to have one. I do the majority of all my cooking in one - it makes my food healthier, saves me time, and I have many fewer dishes to wash.

                                                As to the health concerns of eating butter,or leaving it out on the counter, it takes several days for butter to turn rancid. My grandmother always insisted that margarine was healthier than butter, but in fact the animal based fats are much easier for our bodies to digest than artificial substitutes. (Our bodies know what to do with natural fats, but not artificial ones.) Of course, all in moderation. Some of the healthiest people around are cooking with lard, kosher recipes often call for chicken fat, and on and on.

                                                I am a chef, and encourage everyone to replace their margarine or trans fat substitute with the real thing. Life is too short to not appreciate the advantages of real butter, and the convenience of a microwave oven. I got better things to do with my free time than wait for butter to soften up on the counter, or boil food to death on a cook top. I have wedding cakes make, parties and dinners to cater, etc.

                                                By the way, Happy Holidays to everyone. Enjoy your family and friends. Count your blessings, even in the darkest hours. Celebrate!!!!! Eat a nice slice of fresh bread with real butter on it. You only live once!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: chubbybunny63

                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/358557

                                                  "It's hard for me to understand why people don't leave their butter out at room temp to start with....
                                                  As to the health concerns of eating butter,or leaving it out on the counter, it takes several days for butter to turn rancid."

                                                  Well, you're assuming that everyone uses a fair amount of butter regularly.
                                                  For those of us who only use butter intermittently (in my case, weeks go by without any being used), leaving it out at room temperature would be a waste.

                                                  1. re: racer x

                                                    Please note that I used the word "understand". My concern would be what you use instead of butter - I just hope it's not a trans fat which is very dangerous to our bodies. If you do any amount of cooking, what would you use in sauces and gravies to enrich them and smooth them out? What do you put on your toast, or bread for a sandwich? etc. etc.

                                                    I'm into healthy, and of course all things in moderation. I just can't "UNDERSTAND" how anyone could live without butter out and ready to use.

                                                    Most of my friends use butter as well, but they keep it in their fridge, which was the original topic of conversation here. I hate it when I have to try to spread hard butter on a piece of bread and it ends up with holes in it.

                                                    As an aside, when I cater, I always whip butter for the rolls or bread. It not only is a nicer presentation, but it whips a lot of air into it and makes it increase in volume. People use less, and as a fairly expensive item, makes it go further. This is a trick I learned when I was a Pastry Chef at the Thousand Islands Resort - but then I had to whip about 10 pounds a day and pipe it out into rosettes for service.)

                                                    Thanks for your reply. Happy Holidays!. Now I have to go and use some butter to make creme puffs for a party I'm catering tonight.

                                                2. Please don't assume by my previous post that I do the majority of my cooking, like roasting meats, or making a casserole, etc. in my microwave. I don't. But I use it for many things other people would grab a sauce pan for - like warming up tomato soup. I always serve tomato soup (usually with a grilled cheese sandwich) in a coffee mug. I pour the concentrated soup (like Campbells, if I don't have time to make from scratch) into a few mugs, add the water to each, stir, add some fresh lemon juice and freshly grated pepper, stir, and heat in the microwave. I do have to stir midway, to combine, but it's still a lot quicker than waiting for a pan to heat up on the stove and having another pot to wash.

                                                  The next time you head for the stove, stop and think if there's a way to use your microwave instead. There might be, and it will save you time and dishes to wash. My time is too valuable to waste on timely chores that I can find a better way to accomplish. I'm a single parent, a Speech and Language Pathologist and a chef/caterer.

                                                  Thanks for taking the time to read.

                                                  1. I saw a chef on a cooking show using a blow torch on the outside of his Kitchenaid mixer bowl to soften the butter. Not quite sure how well the bowl will take the heat, but I guess it's one way to soften without a microwave.

                                                    On the other hand, if you buy organic butter you'll probably notice that it never gets so hard that it can't be softened very quickly and easily with a mixer or even a wooden spoon.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Transplant_DK

                                                      Yeah, I've seen pastry chefs do that on Food Network challenges to warm the butter in a Buttercream frosting. I don't think the bowl would be affected, and sometimes my kitchen is so cold in the winter, it might be a good idea for me to try.

                                                      Kitchen Aid also makes a copper bowl that fits under their regular bowl which cold hold ice to cool the ingredients. It would probably also work with hot water to warm the ingredients in the bowl.

                                                      1. re: Transplant_DK

                                                        Seems like overkill.

                                                        1. re: racer x

                                                          I guess some of us, referring to chefs, are a little but hard to understand. If you have any passion for something, I hope you do the unusual also to achieve a superior outcome.

                                                      2. I bet if you tried baking with your butter at 64*,it would work fine .I think room temp butr is mostly a stupid myth from Cooks Illustrated. Maybe for buttercream, u need warmer butter. Mom used to beat it with elec. mixer for a few mins and she made incred.shortbread.wha ever.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: hetook

                                                          Along the same line, in making Spritz cookies this year, I reread the directions that came with my 1960s era vintage Mirro press. It instructed to cream the butter directly from the fridge if using an electric mixer, but to bring it to room temperature if creaming by hand. Granted that overheated butter is more of a problem with a cookie press, but I wonder to what extent the directions to bring the butter up to room temperature are a remnant of when most bakers creamed the butter by hand. I remember those days -- using a wooden spoon & pressing the butter against the wall of the bowl -- and softening the butter was essential.

                                                        2. I've softened a stick of butter by leaving it on the top of the coffee machine.

                                                          1. Straight out of the fridge, put the stick of butter in a ziplock baggie. Massage it with your hands or roll out with a rolling pin. The butter becomes soft and pliable in no time.

                                                            1. Thank you for this thread! I am so glad I remembered reading it. We are finally doing Christmas and Hanukkah tonight and I am spending the day baking and forgot to take butter out last night. I keep our house in the 50's so it takes forever here too. I cut up a couple of sticks earlier this morning and hopefully I can cream them in an hour or two when I need them.
                                                              I found a great easy recipe on food network for chocolate whoopie pies with salted caramel filling that I will need it for.
                                                              Already made peppermint marshmallow/chocolate frosted brownies and have crushed a package of oreos for triple chocolate balls that I found on jello's website. I wanted to do stuff I hadn't done before but has to be mainly chocolate for our family. Later I'll make chocolate chip and m & m cookies and maybe some sugar just in case too much chocolate doesn't thrill everyone.
                                                              Happy Holidays and New Years CHers!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: julesrules4food

                                                                MMMMMMMmmmm I'll be over in an hour! Sounds divine! Happy Holidays and Happy Celebrations to you and yours. Have a great dinner.
                                                                :)

                                                              2. Use whatever method is successful for proofing yeast dough I guess? Proofing box? in the oven with the light on?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: rasputina

                                                                  At work I have a proofing box for croissants in the AM while I'm baking off muffins for breakfast. At home I don't have the luxury of owning a proofing box, so the oven off with just the light on is the perfect heat level to proof yeast doughs. I've also in years past used the microwave to do this, a low setting for a few seconds, and then leaving the covered dough in the microwave free from drafts.