Room Temperature Butter: What is it and how to achieve it (quickly!)
Room temperature butter is key to baking, but what is it and how do you know if your butter is ready for baking? Learn this simple trick for achieving room temperature butter quickly!
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What is considered room temperature butter?
Room temperature butter is so important for all baking; whether you’re making a deliciously buttery vanilla cake or the perfect chewy and soft chocolate chip cookies. It’s also the most important component in making vanilla buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting, and chocolate buttercream.
Using room temperature butter is the key to fluffy cake textures and soft and the melty chew of a cookie.
But what is considered room temperature butter? Room temperature butter is considered to be 65°F (18°C), which is considerably cooler than actual room temperature (which is normally around 72°F).
This is also, obviously, warmer than the butter sitting in your 32°F refrigerator, and definitely cooler than melted butter, which is a liquid form.
If you want to be super precise, you can use an instant read thermometer; however, you can do a quick fingerprint test! Your butter should be easily indented but not squishy or overly softened.
Why use room temperature butter?
You might see a recipe (many dessert recipes on this blog, in fact!) call for room temperature next to it, and there’s a really important reason for that.
Some recipes, like pie crust recipes or scones, call for cold butter (or even frozen butter!), while other recipes, like brownies, call for melted butter. And then we have the somewhere in between recipes, usually the cakes, cookies, frostings, and breads!
The temperature of the butter plays a crucial in combining ingredients in the recipe. When butter is softened enough, it emulsifies with sugar, creating a really fluffy and consistent texture. The butter being a fat helps to trap air in the dough or batter while making it.
When the trapped air is heated, it expands, along with the help of leavening agents. This helps to create that fluffy and soft texture in the crumb!
What’s more, room temperature butter is crucial for combining room temperature ingredients in general (this is why recipes call for room temperature eggs even, and yes, the same applies with vegan egg replacements!). Have you ever tried to mix cold with warm ingredients, and either something, like the butter, splits, or your batter is wonky? This is because room temperature ingredients combine much more easily than cold ingredients.
Avoid a stodgy texture, and just use room temperature! It’s worth the patience!
Do the same rules apply for vegan baking?
Yes, it actually does! Many vegan butters, Miyoko’s in particular, act quite similarly to regular conventional butter. This is because they’re formulated to have a similar fat to water ratio and properties that are similar at varying temperatures (soft at room temperature, hard in the fridge, completely liquid when heated).
My top favorite vegan butters for baking and cooking (in recipes and frostings) are Miyoko’s European-style butter and Violife’s block butter. Earth Balance is alright- I personally don’t like the taste that it leaves in recipes, and find that Miyoko’s and Violife have a much more “buttery” flavor.
I would stick away from using any tubs of vegan butter, or margarine, or spreadable vegan butter in recipes (except for when a recipe creator has deemed it okay to do so!).
Coconut oil also acts VERY differently at room temperature than even vegan butter. This is because it’s a solid fat (100% fat!), and is completely solid at room temperature. It also easily melts and is rock solid when frozen or chilled. I would not recommend swapping this in 1:1 for butter.
Is room temperature butter safe?
The USDA has deemed it safe to leave butter out for up to a day’s time.
How to achieve room temperature butter easily:
The unfortunate part of room temperature butter is that you really do need to be patient during the softening process. I recommend placing the amount of butter needed for the recipe covered and on a plate on the counter for 2-3 hours, depending upon how cold your kitchen area is.
After 1-2 hours, you can see how your room temperature butter is doing. If it’s still very cold, a few more hours will do. If it’s softening quite quickly, then you can probably achieve room temperature in 2 hours.
The secret trick for quickly getting room temperature butter:
I get it. Sometimes your schedule is tight, and you just want to get baking! Unfortunately just heating the butter in the microwave blindly won’t do it.
You’ll end up with overly melted butter and still not even softened butter in other parts.
The secret trick for getting softened butter quickly is to slice the butter into pats of butter and into a microwave-safe bowl. This maximizes the surface area exposed, which will yield a much more even temperature throughout the butter.
Next, you will microwave in 2-3 second intervals ONLY.
Butter melts FAST in the microwave. You should be able to achieve room temperature butter that’s easily indented but still slightly cold in just 1 interval, but 2 intervals max.
Once accomplished, you can use your quickly softened room temperature butter in your stand mixer or bowl immediately!
BONUS: My Top 5 Tricks for Vegan Baking
I hope this helps with your endeavors in baking! I know that learning to bake can be a curveball, but hopefully this helps you to feel more confident with every new recipe you try!