we're entering into the holiday season jam packed with baking, decorating, shopping and entertaining, which means lots of recipes, and not quite as much time. it's during this frenzied season that i kind of dread seeing the words "butter, softened" or "butter, room temperature" within a recipe. especially when my sticks are chilling in the fridge, hard as rocks...ain't nobody got time for that.
unfortunately, the texture of butter is crucially important in baking. if a recipe calls for softened butter, a melted or hardened variety just isn't workable. your end product will suffer, and all we want for christmas is a season of struggle-free goodies.
thankfully while the texture of butter may be non-negotiable, you can get your butter to your desired softness in a snap. you have a couple options for a quick fix:
1. you can use the grater method, which has some other fringe benefits, but i find this to be messy. (and it leaves me with one more item to clean. no thanks.)
2. you can place the butter in a ziplock bag and leave in warm water (not hot!) until softened, but again...that's a few more materials than i care to use.
3. however my most preferred method, takes only twenty seconds and a microwave:
simply pop your butter still in it's wrapper (do not use this method for foil-wrapped varieties and if you have the option, turn your turntable off) into the microwave laying on it's side. heat on high for 5 seconds, turn clockwise onto the next side (1/4 turn), microwave for another 5 seconds, turn and microwave again and then repeat once more.
remove your butter from the microwave, pop it out of it's wrapper, and you're ready to rock.
i know, it's almost TOO simple, but this has really saved me on several occasions and felt it was worth a share.
happy [holiday] baking!