Butter basics

  1. Only use unsalted butter :: Buying unsalted butter make life a little more difficult in the grocery store, since you’ll actually have to read the labels, but it makes a world of difference in your baking! Unsalted butter is also your freshest option; salt preserves the shelf life of items, so when you buy salted butter, you are usually buying older butter.There is no regulation by the FDA of the amount of salt per stick of butter, therefore it makes baking much more difficult to adjust the salt content. Salt is very important in baking. Even in cookies. Salt actually enhances the flavors and brings out the sweetness. Breads without salt bake of flat and tasteless; cookies seem dull and bland. Even chocolate can’t cover up a cookie with the wrong amount of salt!
  2. Freeze butter not intended for immediate use :: just as you wouldn’t leave milk in the fridge for weeks at a time until you have the need to use it, treat butter with the same respect. Freeze what you don’t intend to use within a week. Flavors from the fridge will permeate the wrapper, which will in-turn infuse your baked goods. Anyone in the mood for an onion-flavored cookie??
  3. Use butter at room temperature :: when preparing to bake or cook, always pull out the amount of butter you will be using in the recipe and place it on a plate to be brought to room temp (ideally 65º). If butter is not used at the appropriate temp, it will have detrimental effects on your baked goods. If it is too cold, the butter and sugar won’t cream properly, not allowing a cake to rise properly. If the butter is too warm, your batter will be at an incorrect consistency and will not set-up properly. If you don’t have a thermometer–get one! If you can’t, go by the bend test. If you can bend the stick of butter without it breaking, it’s ready.
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