The best baked goods start with knowing what to do with a stick of butter.
Even expert bakers screw up every now and then in the kitchen, and often you can trace those disastrous baking results, including sunken cakes and flat, chewy cookies, back to the incorrect use of butter. If baking is truly a science, then consider butter to be the key transformative element that adds richness and a heavenly depth of flavor to your pastries and desserts. But, because of its unique properties, if you use the wrong kind of butter or mix it with the wrong ingredients, your baking experiment can end in total failure. For the perfect texture and rise every time, make sure you’re not committing these six baking and butter errors. Trust us, those pie crusts, brownies, and pound cakes are guaranteed to come out of the oven more moist and delicious, just like mama taught you.
1. You used butter at the wrong temperature.
Always use room-temperature ingredients, unless the recipe calls for cold or melted butter. If butter is too cold, it won’t cream properly with sugar, which can impact the softness and fluffiness of your cake or cookies. Just be cautious when putting butter in the microwave to quicken the softening process. You don’t want it to become too soft. However, you would use cold butter when baking pastries and making pie dough.
2. You didn’t follow the recipe to the letter.
About that whole science thing, there’s not a lot of wiggle room when baking. If the recipe suggests waiting for butter to cool before adding it the mixture, then by all means, just wait. Flop-free cakes are mastered when you stick to the ingredient list and don’t rely on your own scratch-baking techniques.
3. You don’t know when to use salted vs. unsalted.
Most professional chefs and bakers use unsalted butter to gauge the amount of salt that goes into a recipe. Butter is salted to keep it fresher longer. If you’re watching your salt intake and the recipe calls for salted butter, you can either adjust the amount or use unsalted butter. Remember salt should be the supporting actor, not the star of your baked goods.
4. You chose the wrong butter substitute.
Many people make the mistake of subbing in oil for butter because they’re both fats. The problem, though, is that they're not one in the same. For example, oil makes cakes more moist, whereas butter makes them more dense and flavorful. Since you can’t measure butter the same way you would oil, even when melted, it’s best to use whatever the recipe calls for.
5. You didn’t butter and line the pan or baking dish.
Ever attempted to remove a cake from the pan after cooling, but it sticks to the pan? We’ve all been there. However, all that time you just spent on mixing and baking doesn’t have to be in vain. To make sure your cakes slide easily out of the pan, we recommend swapping the cooking spray for butter. First, grease cake pans with unsalted butter. Then layer circular parchment paper on top, applying butter to the parchment and coating the pan with flour. Voila! Stuck layers and crumbly cake crisis averted.
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6. You didn’t cream the butter properly.
For light and fluffy cakes, make sure you’re creaming butter and sugar together long enough. For even creaming, use an electric mixer to cream softened butter with sugar for at least five minutes.