Best Ways to Soften Butter for Baking

There are few things in this life better than a warm, home-baked cookie fresh from the oven. Even the aroma evokes pleasure (just witness the amount of candles with cookie scents). But when you get the hankering to bake cookies, there’s one ingredient that might slow you down: softened butter.

Unless you leave your butter out of the fridge, chances are you are going to have to get your butter from cold and hard to slightly warm and softened. Ideally, the butter should be around 65 degrees, not on the verge of melting but rather just enough to leave an imprint if you were to press your finger in the butter. Too warm and your cookies will melt on the pan like a snowman in summer.

Here are five ways to get your cold butter to the perfect baking temperature.

1. Shred the butter with a cheese grater. This is my preferred method; it’s messy but it works. Place a box grater over a plate and grate the butter using the coarse grating side (so, not too finely shredded). Once shredded, the butter will come to the right temperature in 10 minutes or less.

2. Cut the butter into pats. As with shredding it, this method basically breaks the butter down into smaller sizes so that it will soften faster. The smaller and thinner the slices, the more quickly it will get to the proper temperature.

3. Beat it. If you have a high-speed, stand mixer, you can basically whip your butter to the correct temperature. Just place the stick or sticks of butter in the mixer with either the flat paddle or whisk and turn the speed to medium high. The butter will disperse along the sides of the mixer, so use a spatula or spoon to press it back down periodically. Don’t add other ingredients until the butter is at the correct temperature, though.

4. Microwave it. If your microwave has varying temperature settings, you can try this method. Cut the stick of butter into halves or thirds and microwave it for one minute at 20 percent power. If it’s still too hard, microwave it in 20-second intervals, still at 20 percent. This is my least favorite way to get the butter to the right temperature because it’s easy to go from almost-there to melted. And if you melt the butter, there’s no going back. Which brings me to my final point…

5. Give in and melt it. Softened butter allows for cookies that are just the right texture–soft and not too crumbly. But there are some recipes out there that utilize melted butter and the addition of more flour or another dry ingredient to keep the cookies from melting out of shape. Christina Tosi, the chef/owner of Momufuku Milk Bar, adds powdered milk to her melted-butter cookie dough batter to produce a chewy, perfect cookie; other recipes call for cornstarch.

And one final tip: To keep the butter the right temperature for every batch of cookies you make, be sure to let your cookie sheet cool down. A hot cookie sheet will melt your butter before you begin the baking process.

Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

I love to be in the kitchen, maybe because I don’t get enough time in there, but regardless when I have the chance, I get in there and bake or make cookies for my grandchildren, cook dinner for my kids or prepare some tasty treat for my co-workers. It gives me great pleasure to spend time in the kitchen because I know that many will enjoy the outcome of my time there.

Of all of the tasty treats that I will make or bake, the one that seems to get the most comments and compliments is the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. They love these cookies at work, at home and at parties. Many times people will ask me to make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies for a wedding or shower, at a graduation party or even at a church social.

I started make the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies at a young age. When I was a child, my grandmother made these cookies for our family reunions. They were in BIG demand by everyone. She would have to hide a stash of them so that they were not eaten all at once and when everyone thought that her No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies were gone, she pulled out the stash, only to see big smiles yet again.

Sadly in 1979, my grandmother passed away and somehow I obtain her recipe and started making them for the family reunions. I found that I, too, had to put a stash away for a later time in the day (or weekend) so that they would be spread out for the group to enjoy. Since that time, I’ve been requested to make them for many occasions.

Do I think my recipe is special? No. Do I think there is anything different in my No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that is not in other recipes? No, not really, but I do have a few handy tips that can help you to make good No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.

Before I give you the recipe, please let me give you a few helpful hints:

1. Do not double the recipe. It never seems to work for me because of the formula of the ingredients and the amount of heat and boiling that it requires. If you need to make more than one batch, simply make them individually. It really doesn’t take any more time and they will be perfect each time.

2. Be sure to use the timer. The recipe will call for bringing the ingredients to a boil. Make sure it comes to a complete full boil and then start the timer for one minute. You do not want to over cook or under cook these cookies. Over cooking them will result in crumbly, dry cookies. Under cooking them will give you a runny mess.

3. Let Stand for One Minute: I typically let my cookies in the pot for about one minute before dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper. This gives it a little cooling time and will not drip as much.

4. Shape them for appeal. After dropping them by spoonful on the wax paper, I take a fork which has been dipped in cool water, and press them around the sides to give them a more round appearance and eliminate the round oatmeal edges that tend to spread. Then I press the top lightly to flatten the top without squishing the cookie. Dip the fork in cool water often to keep it from sticking to the cookies.

5. Lift the Wax Paper to loosen. After the No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies have hardened (several hours later), you can remove them from the wax paper more easily, if you list the wax paper off the counter or table top so that they are not stuck. They will easily peel from the wax paper.

6. Store in air tight container. For longer lasting cookies that will not dry out, keep them in an airtight plastic storage container. Keeping them on a plate with plastic wrap is good, but a container that is air tight works better.

The recipe for No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies that I make follows:

1 stick of margarine
2 cups of sugar
½ cup of milk
Combine in a sauce pan, cook ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the margarine is completely melted and the sauce comes to a hard boil, boil it for one minute, stirring occasionally.

½ cup of peanut butter

One melted, add:
4 tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Mix well and add
3 cups of 1-minute oatmeal.

Stir well. Let stand and then drop by teaspoons on wax paper. Yields approximately 42 cookies