Grandma’s Best Tricks for Baking with Butter

Grandma knew that everything was better with butter. Check out these tips for baking with the real deal.

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Big & Buttery Chocolate Chip Cookies
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Accept No Substitutions

There is no substitution for the flavor and performance of butter. Margarine, shortening and other alternatives are just no match for the real deal (big and margarine-y chocolate chip cookies just doesn’t have the same ring to it—so try our Test Kitchen’s favorite big and buttery chocolate chippers).

Also, because baking is very precise, it’s crucial not to alter recipes that call for butter. This ingredient plays an important role in the flavor, texture and bake of all sorts of recipes.

If you find yourself without butter, don’t reach for a tub of margarine—just try some butter-free recipes and make sure to add a few pounds of the good stuff to your grocery list.

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Cream Butter for Several Minutes

When it comes to creaming butter, sugar and eggs for recipes—everything from chocolate chip cookies to Grandma’s German apple cake—don’t ever worry about overmixing. In fact, creaming these ingredients along with the butter can help give your bakes an airy texture. Creaming helps incorporate air into the ingredients which means lighter bakes. Cream ingredients for at least five minutes.

Once you add flour though, keep an eye on your mixer. Overmixing flour can lead to tough, chewy bakes.

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Learn How to Soften Butter Fast

Even Grandma would forget to take the butter out of the fridge to soften sometimes. Good thing she knew all the ways to soften butter quickly (including a technique that makes use of Gran’s favorite rolling pin!) for adding to cookie doughs and cake batters. To soften butter fast, cube it into small pieces. Smaller bits will soften within about 15 minutes—enough time for the oven to preheat and for you to measure other ingredients.

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Never Skip a Butter Sale

Good butter can be pricey. When you see it go on sale, don’t hesitate to buy a few extra pounds (just one of many money-saving tips from Gran). Even if you don’t need it right away, extra is always good to have on hand for baking emergencies.

And if you can’t use it by the expiration date, just toss it in the freezer where it will keep for up to a year.

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Use Butter for Golden Brown Bakes

Making a pan of rolls or a loaf of bread? The best way to get a golden brown finish is to brush the tops of these bakes with butter. Not only does it add gorgeous color, but it also adds flavor. If you want to take it a step further, add some herbs or cheese to your melted butter and brush away.

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Making Pastry? Grab a Grater

If you’re making biscuits, pastry or pie crust, you’ll often see that recipes call for cubed butter. You can also use grated butter. Break out the box grater and grate very cold (even frozen) butter on the side with the largest openings. This will create small bits of butter that are easy to incorporate into the dough.

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Know Where Your Butter Comes From

Back in the day, Grandma might have known the farmer or creamery where her butter originated. Now, we don’t expect you to be acquainted with your local dairy farmer, but you can still learn where your butter is from. The site, Where Is My Milk From?, allows you to enter the code on the side of your butter box or stick of butter to find out which dairy your dairy is from.

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Don’t Beat Frozen Butter

Very cold butter is essential for making pastry and pie crust. But when it comes to beating frozen butter into other recipes, steer clear! Not only is cold butter hard to incorporate into batters and doughs, but frozen butter can also actually bend and warp the attachments on your hand and stand mixers. You’ll ruin your recipe and your favorite kitchen gadgets.

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Always Keep Butter in the Butter Dish

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, it is safe to keep butter out at room temperature. And why should you? For topping all of your fresh-made bakes! There’s nothing better than good butter spread across a warm muffin, biscuit or slice of bread. Try to spread cold butter on a homemade bake and you’ll make a mess. So keep that butter in a covered dish (or butter bell) on the counter. You’ll be happy when you reach for these muffins in the morning.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.