I am in good company when I say I’ve done some holiday baking this season, and probably also in good company when I admit that I have no patience for waiting. Waiting for butter to soften at room temperature? No patience at all. Waiting for cookies to cool? Well I have burned my tongue many a time. I’ve been curious though; why does the butter have to soften to room temperature? Can I substitute margarine? Since I’m filling in for Lindsey for a few days, I thought I’d do some research on the subject. I found a lot of buttery information!
The folks at TheJoyofBaking.com made it pretty clear:
“When room temperature butter is used in your recipe this means your butter should be between 65 degrees F (18 degrees C) and 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). This temperature allows the maximum amount of air to be beaten into your batter. This creaming or beating of your butter or butter and sugar creates air bubbles that your leavener (baking powder or baking soda) will enlarge during baking. Most experts recommend 4 to 5 minutes of creaming the butter for maximum aeration.”
So what about when I am making a pie crust, and I’m have to slice in cold butter then cut it into the flour with two knives? They have a reason for that too:
“Cold butter is used in some baking (pie crusts). With this method the butter is not absorbed as much by the starch in the flour and layers result when baked creating flakiness.”
Mm, yes, flaky pie crust! Fluffy cookies full of air bubbles!
Does it make a difference if you use lightly salted butter or unsalted butter? Apparently you are supposed to adjust the amount of salt you add to the recipe depending on which you choose. Really? I’m more of a dash of salt person than a measure out a ¼ teaspoon of salt person. Maybe I should use half a dash?
Margarine versus butter? Well, watch what you are using. Spreads shouldn’t be used in baking because their fat content can vary. Margarine makes cookies spread out during baking a bit more than butter will (flat crispy cookies). Make sure your margarine contains at least 80% fat to use it in baking. Why do you need the fat? According to baking911.com, “It structures formation by coating and shortening gluten strands in baked goods. It retards the development of gluten strands, thus contributing to tenderization.” Basically, it affects the texture of your baked goods.
Want to know more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/Butter.html#ixzz0ZxX8VTUC