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How butter works: why recipes call for cold, soft or melted butter

What you use will either give tenderness and lift, flaky layers, or soft density.

Lesson one: soft butter
When butter and sugar are creamed together, air is incorporated evenly in the base of a batter or dough. Soft butter creates tenderness and lift.

Use it in: cakes and soft cookies.

For best results: make sure butter is fully at room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, cut butter into tiny pieces and it will quickly soften.

Related: Salted butter vs. unsalted butter

Lesson two: cold butter
Cold butter is ideal for baked goods that should be crisp. Butter that’s straight from the fridge doesn’t get fully incorporated into a batter; instead it gets broken down into small pieces throughout your dough. Since butter is about 18 percent water, steam is released in those pockets during baking, which helps create flaky layers.

Use it in: scones, pie crust, biscuits and crispy cookies.

For best results: grate butter or use a food processor or pastry knife. Handle dough as little as possible, and if it starts to feel warm, pop it in the fridge.

Related: How to make better pie pastry

Lesson three: melted butter
Because melted butter has already released much of its water content, it makes the finished treats soft and dense, as well as flavourful. Use it in loaves and brownies.

Use it in: loaves and brownies.

For best results: let melted butter cool to room temperature before incorporating.


How to cream butter and sugar:

7 cupcake recipes to indulge your sweet tooth
How to make perfectly shaped muffins and cupcakes
Perfect pastry: How to braid pie dough

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