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Baking Basics: Temperature of Ingredients

By Cook's Illustrated Published October 2003

Temperature plays an important role in the behavior of an ingredient. Here are the most important tips and techniques we use to ensure successful results when baking.

Cakes and cookies often require softened butter (65 to 67 degrees) and room-temperature eggs and milk. Softened butter creams easily, and room-temperature eggs and milk are more easily incorporated than cold. The additional mixing necessary to incorporate cold ingredients may adversely affect the batter and ultimately, the texture of the baked good.

Judging When the Butter is Properly Softened

A. The butter should bend with little resistance and without cracking or breaking. B. The butter should give slightly when pressed but still hold its shape.

Warming Butter and Eggs Quickly

If you can't wait an hour for butter and eggs to come to room temperature on their own, here's what to do.

Cut butter into 1-tablespoon pieces and then place in a bowl wrapped in a warm damp kitchen towel. Alternatively, place on a plate and microwave at 10 percent power for 1 minute and continue to microwave as needed. Eggs are even easier to warm—just put whole eggs in a small bowl of warm water (about 110 degrees) for about 5 minutes.

When properly softened butter should bend with little resistance.

Softened butter should give, but hold shape when pressed.

To warm butter quickly, one option is to place in a bowl wrapped with a warm damp kitchen towel.