The Best Butter Temperatures for Baking

Brooke Newberry
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The big “best chocolate chip cookie recipe” debate will never end.  Cookie favoritism is based on textural interpretation and preference.  Crispy, chewy, soft, underbaked, brown on the bottom, etc.  How do you like your cookie?  Butter temperature predestines a baked good’s consistency.  Here are a few temperature guidelines (all is subjective, of course).

Chilled ButterChilled Butter

Use in piecrusts (butter doughs), crisps, tarts, biscuits, scones, and streusel toppings are absolutes for cold butter use.  Chilled pieces give that crumbly, flaky texture that you’re forever trying to achieve with these sorts of pastry shop goods.  Many recipes call for room temperature butter in cookie recipes, however, if the butter is a bit cooler it allows the cookie to hold its shape and keep it from loosening and flattening out.  A good middle ground for cookies: cool to the touch and just warm enough to be pliant.

Room Temp ButterRoom Temperature Butter

Use in cakes.  Neutral temperatures let the sugar macerate the butter, allowing the two to easily be creamed together.  A good creaming is crucial if you want a lighter, really well structured cake.  To test the softness, use a butter knife to cut into the butter.  If the butter offers little resistance, it is soft enough to cream.  Properly creamed butter will turn off-white and the resulting texture will be higher in volume, thick, and creamy – a bit like mayonnaise.  Stop there.

Melted ButterMelted Butter

Most popularly used in brownies.  Melting the butter yields denser and fudgier brownies.  Melted butter can also be used in certain cakes, it’s not un-heard of, but it’s just not as popular as creaming.  Melting butter for cakes means you are making a trade: instead of getting a rise you’ll be getting a more compact cake – perfectly acceptable for certain flavor combinations. A staff writer’s grandma used melted butter for her famous crispy pecan chocolate chip cookie recipe.  “They spread out on the sheet a bit, were super crunchy, the chips broke out of the cookie base like the Hulk, and they left a guilty sheen on your fingers. “  You see – it’s really up to preference, or our Grandmas.

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