Baking Tips: How To Soften Butter

microwaving-butter

Betcha didn’t think Christmas cookie baking could be improved with your microwave.

This weekend, the ladies in the Warner family attempted to start a tradition of Christmas cookie baking.

Baking Christmas cookies takes a lot of planning and shopping and measuring and mixing and of course, baking (which includes cooling and sometimes rotating, if your oven lacks convection).

My soon-to-be sister-in-law chose to make these Russian Tea Cakes for the first time ever. The recipe calls for a cup of softened butter, but because we were making 6 dozen instead of 4 dozen, we needed a cup and a half of softened butter (that’s a lot). And although I am  horrible baker, she asked me a question I could actually answer:

How do you soften butter without melting it?

Because of our early morning start, the butter I brought to my mom’s was still refrigerator-hard. So we needed to intercede.

Perhaps your experience with softening butter in the microwave involves you — nose pressed up against the glass — nuking the flavorful fat ingredient in short intervals and praying it doesn’t melt.

Softening gone wrong

Softening gone wrong

But that’s not how it’s supposed to be at all.

Soften a stick of butter by microwaving it for a minute at 10% power.

Soften a stick of butter by microwaving it for a minute at 10% power.

To soften our cup and a half of butter, we microwaved each stick for a minute a piece at 10% power.

Based on your microwave, you might want to amp up to 20% and adjust the time or even use the defrost setting (which is 30% power).

Later, we also adjusted our microwave power to soften cream cheese for Peanut Butter Balls (which are amazing, by the way).

Microwave power levels can also come in handy for reheating foods, I’ve found. Foods like pizza and French fries revive less soggier when microwaved longer at lower power.

Try it out!

Share your tried and true baking tips in the comments section below. 

Microwave Odor? How to Get Smell Out of Microwave

Microwave-CleaningYou know how sometimes you microwave food and it ends up smelling like something you made last week?

No one wants broccoli vaguely reminiscent of burnt popcorn or that super greasy pizza.

But as much as you clean it, you just can’t get rid of that darn stinky odor in the microwave.

Until now.

Removing Microwave Odors

Frigidaire passed along this odor-removing solution that requires little more than pushing buttons.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • grated lemon peel
  • several whole cloves

Combine all ingredients together in a glass measuring cup and boil for several minutes in the microwave on full power. Allow the hot mixture to sit in the microwave until cool (this is when the magic happens).

Wipe interior with a soft cloth.

Voila!

Simplify Cooking with Appliances that Multitask

Buy based on how you cook most days.

When buying appliances, people often focus on two days of the year: Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What matters at that moment to you is finding a range whose oven accommodates a massive turkey.

Or, thinking about overflow casseroles and Christmas cookies, you opt for double ovens.

But what about the other 363 days of the year? If you’re not a serious baker, that second oven sits cold. And warming up that range with the huge oven capacity for a couple of baked potatoes wastes time and energy.

Appliances that Multitask

Instead, a trend we’re seeing is assembling a team of appliances that can work alone during normal operations but also can multitask for occasional holidays and parties.

So instead of a giant range, combine a double oven range and convection microwave.

The smaller upper oven of the range can be used for one-dish meals. Come Christmas, you can bake a dessert up top while a roasts monopolizes the lower oven. The convection microwave can bake a casserole.
A convection microwave also works overtime when paired with a single oven, perfect for those who won’t make enough use of a double oven.

Better yet, make that second oven a speed oven for the ultimate versatility.


This GE Advantium cooks up to 4 times faster than your grandmother’s oven – covering all 4 bases: warming/proofing, true convection, sensor microwave (that can rotate a 9×13 casserole on its turntable!) and of course, speed cooking.

Are Your Thanksgiving Leftovers Safe to Eat?

leftover Thanksgiving sandwich

Because leftovers only remain safe to eat for four days, you’re going to want to eat up all your turkey, stuffing and gravy by Monday.

(The importance of Thanksgiving leftovers as immortalized in pop culture by the Friends Moistmaker episode)

To ensure your Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat, you should freeze them as soon as possible. If you throw the leftovers in freezer-safe bags or containers, they will be good to eat for another six months.

Food technically remains safe to eat forever if it’s frozen. It just loses flavor and moisture over time.

Reheating Leftovers

The USDA wrote these guidelines for safely reheating stored leftovers:

  • When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165° F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.
  • Thaw frozen leftovers safely in the refrigerator, cold water or the microwave oven. When thawing leftovers in a microwave, continue to heat it until it reaches 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Any leftover “leftovers” thawed by the cold water method or in the microwave should be reheated to 165 °F before refreezing.
  • In a real hurry? It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of a soup or stew) or in the oven or microwave (for example, casseroles and combination meals). Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short.

Make sure to occasionally stir foods when microwaving them, because foods won’t heat evenly (especially if you don’t have a turntable) and cold spots will develop in which bacteria hasn’t been properly killed.

Follow These Microwave Safety Precautions

We love microwaves, but some methods of microwave cooking and reheating can be harmful or downright dangerous. This becomes especially important knowledge for college students now away from the watchful eye that kept them from blowing up the house for 18 years.

Microwave Safety Tips

Here are some basic microwave safety precautions, adapted from the USDA and Food Network.

DON’T put metal in a microwave…ever. You will cause sparking and potential damage. This includes aluminum foil and those portable coffee mugs.

DO microwave by number. Avoid plastics No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7, as these could leach chemicals into your foods. Plastic wrap and Styrofoam can also melt. Transfer to a different container and use a glass lid to cover the food.

DON’T heat acidic foods, like tomato sauce, in plastic containers.

DO choose containers made of glass, ceramic or plastic that’s made for microwaving.

DON’T cook large cuts of meat on full power. Instead, use medium power (50%) for longer periods to ensure heat reaches the center without overcooking outer areas.

DO stir or rotate food halfway to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.

Do you have any other microwave safety tips? Share them in the comments below!