Baking Basics - How Butter Affects Baking Cookies
Have you ever wondered why the same recipe can give you different results? Quite often, it's the result of the ingredients being used. In today's tip Thursday, we will discuss how butter affects baking. I have a few tips that I know will help you with all your future baking.
- Have you ever decided to bake cookies at the last minute?
Then you realize the butter is too hard. So, you stick it in the microwave but instead of putting it in for 10 or 15 seconds you put it in for 30 seconds. Then, you realize that part of the butter is way too melted and some of it is still quite firm? Me too!! More often than I'd like to admit.
- Have you ever made a cookie recipe that was not supposed to spread and yet the cookies spread too much? Or cookies that are too dry and crumbly?
Did you know that quite often your butter is the main culprit?
I started baking at a very young age and have learned a lot in baking by trial and error as well as my fair share of failures. Lucky for me, I am a person who questions and learns from my mistakes. That is why every time I fail, instead of blaming the recipe, I look for things that could be wrong with the ingredients. For example, my macarons have the same ingredients and same measure every single time, and yet there have been times when I've never got the results I was expecting.
Speaking of my trials, errors, and failures, I can tell you that I have learned so much over the years. So, today I want to help you understand how your ingredients affect your baking. Today's tip Thursday is dedicated to the topic - How butter affects baking - especially cookies.
How butter affects baking (Save/Pin)
Butter is made from cream. You can make homemade butter by simply churning cream until it separates into liquid and solid. The liquid is buttermilk while the solid is butter. Butter is naturally unsalted and the salt is added later for preservation. The churning decides how much liquid you keep in the butter. Often, homemade butter has less fat content and more liquid, so it's best to use on toast or for simple cakes. Store-bought butter with high-fat content has a longer shelf-life than homemade butter. For the best-baked good, choose as much high-fat content as possible.
Butter vs. shortening or margarine
Butter adds flavor to cookies. That is why we always prefer butter over margarine or vegetable shortening, etc. But butter has a lower melting point than shortening or margarine. That is why butter cookies spread a lot more than cookies made with shortening. So, if you want a thin spread-out cookie, definitely go with butter. But if you are looking for a firm crisp cookie, try shorting or even margarine.
Different types of butter
You may have noticed that even the type of butter you use can affect your baking. For example, a tender, flaky pie crust or buttery cookies.
That is because some premium kinds of butter have a higher fat content, with less moisture than regular supermarket type butter. These cookies with less-fat content butter will usually be thinner because they spread out more. They will also be more buttery, crisp and crumbly.
If you are making homemade puff pastry, croissant or laminated dough, it is very important to use good European butter because of it's high-fat content. Otherwise, when the butter is spreading during the process you will know the difference. In fact, some European kinds of butter, are already cultured with flour added in them, so you can use them for laminated dough easily.
Salted and unsalted butter
You will notice that most baking recipes will say use unsalted butter. That's because most manufacturers add different quantities of salt, making it hard to decide how much more salt you need. So, the best practice with baking cookies, or any dessert for that matter, is to use unsalted butter. This keeps you in control of how much salt is in there.
Tips for baking cookies
- Always, soften butter to room temperature – The butter must be firm room temperature, not soft room temperature.
When creaming firm room temperature butter – it will start slow but it will cream beautifully.
You must cream it for about 2 to 3 minutes.
- When creaming soft room temperature butter, it will cream very fast into a sloppy mixture, struggling to combine the sugar. Cookies with this mixture will spread more easily. Furthermore, if you cream this for 2 to 3 minutes you will most definitely have flat spread-out cookies.
- Cookies with soft butter will be chewier.
- Dry and crumbly cookies most often can be the result of not creaming your butter and sugar. This results in sugar granules that melt in the cookie making them crumbly and eventually dry.
- A good practice is to chill your cookies before you bake them (this is for most cookies unless the recipe states otherwise).
This helps the cookies hold their shape better as the butter firms up and the flours absorb the moisture in the cookie. Thus giving you a better texture in the cookies.
What is the right temperature for butter?
- What is firm room temperature?
It’s soft but still holds its shape. When you indent your finger in it – it will make a hole but not spread.
- What is soft room temperature?
Typically happens in places with high humidity. The butter has softened to almost to a melt. If you indent your finger in it will spread.
Finally for today's Tip Thursday
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