Baking from scratch can take a lot of organizing when you have kids at home and it's all too easy to forget an important step. One common irritation is starting a recipe, then realizing you've forgotten to thaw any butter. Getting it soft enough to use without melting it can be quite a trick. Fortunately, there are lots of methods to choose from.
Cut the frozen butter into pats and spread them in a single layer on a heavy plate or bowl. They'll soften in 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the temperature that day.
Place your plate or bowl of cut-up butter pieces into the microwave. Reduce the power to 20 or 30 percent and zap the butter for eight to 10 seconds at a time until it begins to soften. You might have to move them around to compensate for uneven heating in your microwave.
Heat a heavy glass mixing bowl under hot running water. Dry it quickly with paper towel and invert it over your plate of butter pats. The warm air inside the bowl will warm the butter quickly, especially on cold days.
Grate the frozen butter into your mixing bowl using the large holes on a box grater or the disc on a food processor. The shredded butter will soften faster, sometimes in as little as five to 10 minutes.
Put your chopped or shredded butter between two sheets of parchment paper or heavy-duty plastic. Massage it with your hands or roll it with a rolling pin, until it softens and comes together in a solid mass.
Work the butter with a mixer or food processor, once it's begun to thaw slightly. The motorized appliance creates enough friction to warm the butter and soften it.
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- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- Dairy Goodness: How to Use Hard or Frozen Butter
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.