Butter temperature can dramatically affect the texture of baked goods, but terms like “chilled,” “softened,” or “melted and cooled” are imprecise.
To clarify the nomenclature in our recipes, we came up with the following temperature ranges and tactile clues. (For best results, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer.)
Tactile Clue: Unyielding when pressed with a finger and cold to the touch
Common Application: Pie dough
Method: Cut into small pieces and freeze until very firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
Result: Cold butter melts during baking, leaving behind small pockets that create flaky layers
Tactile Clue: Easily bends without breaking and gives slightly when pressed
Common Application: Cake
Method: Let refrigerated butter sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes
Result : Properly softened butter is flexible enough to be whipped but firm enough that it retains the air incorporated during creaming
Tactile Clue: Fluid and slightly warm to the touch
Common Application: Cookies and bars
Method: Melt in small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl and cool about 5 minutes
Result : Melted butter is the key to chewy cookies and bars