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Perfect your sugar cookie recipe with this guide to Butter, Temperature, and Creaming

Perfect your sugar cookie recipe with this guide to Butter, Temperature, and Creaming


Butter plays a major role in your sugar cookie recipes. Learn the nuances of butter selection, temperature considerations, and how to cream butter and sugar correctly to make your cookie recipe the best that it can be! Choose grade AA or grade A butter for your cookies. This is a grade from the US Dept of Agriculture.  

The BIG butter question: What type do I use?

The type of butter that you use in your cookie recipe make a HUGE difference in  how your baked cookies taste. Let's dig in to the Big butter question!

1. Unsalted Butter VS Salted Butter

Unsalted butter, with its clean slate, allows precise control over the salt content in your sugar cookies. Perfect for bakers who want to customize flavors and experiment with unique combinations. Unsalted butter in the perfect butter to use in recipes because most recipes have salt as an ingredient. 

2. European-Style Butter VS American Butter

American Butter:

Never use whipped butter from a tub or light butter in baking.  The moisture content is too low, and your cookies will not bake like you expect. 

 The standard milk fat percentage in the USA is 80%. That means that it contains 16-18% water and 1-2 % milk solids.  This can vary slightly by brand.  Basically, if you use a butter with a higher percentage of milk fat you will have a richer, more delicious cookie with a better mouth feel.

Land O Lakes Extra Creamy Butter contains 82% milk fat.  Stock up when it is on sale! 

Challenge butter is 81% milk fat and is made with milk from cows who have not been treated with the synthetic hormone rBST

 Regular Land O Lakes is 80.93% milk fat and is made with sweet cream.  Many bakers (including me) believe that Land O Lakes is the top choice for cookie baking because of the delicious taste. You can also often find this butter on sale. 

Tillamook has the same 80.93% milk fat and is also a great choice for using in cookies 

Kirkland (Costco) Members Mark (Sam's) both contain 80% milk fat

European Butter:

With higher fat content and lower water content, European-style butter brings decadence to your sugar cookies. It enhances richness and contributes to a tender texture, making it an ideal choice for those aiming for a sophisticated taste experience.  European butter costs more than American Butter. 

My favorite is Kerrygold butter.  This butter has 82% milk fat and is made with milk from grass fed cows.  This is my favorite butter to slather on toast and use in bulletproof coffee

3. Cultured Butter: Adding Complexity and a Subtle Tang

Cultured butter introduces complexity with a subtle tang, enriching the flavor profile of your sugar cookies. This unique option, created through cream fermentation, adds a distinctive touch to your cookies.  

Because of the high price tag of cultured butter it is better to use it in recipes where you want the butter to shine as in croissants, scones, biscuits and shortbread. 

4. High-Fat Butter (Around 84% Milk Fat): Indulgent Luxuriousness

For an indulgent experience, opt for high-fat butter with a milk fat percentage of around 84%. This choice imparts a luxurious mouthfeel, making it perfect for special occasions.  I would use this butter to eat and not in a recipe.  This is the creme de la creme of butter!

The Temperature Game: Softened Butter for Perfect Texture

Beyond butter type, the temperature at which you use it is equally crucial. Allow your butter to reach room temperature (around 65-70°F or 18-21°C) for the creaming process. Softened butter ensures proper incorporation with sugar, resulting in cookies that strike the ideal balance of tenderness and structure. 

Mastering the Creaming Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Soften the Butter: Ensure your butter is at room temperature, soft but not melted.

  2. Prepare Ingredients: Use room temperature eggs and accurately measure sugar for precise creaming.

  3. Cream Butter Alone: Begin by beating the softened butter on its own for a minute or two. This creates a smooth and consistent base.

  4. Add Sugar Gradually: Gradually add sugar to the creamed butter, allowing it to incorporate slowly. This step takes around 3-5 minutes.

  5. Achieve Fluffy Consistency: Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. This aeration is crucial for the texture of your sugar cookies.

  6. Scrape the Bowl: Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even incorporation.

Now, armed with the perfect creamed butter and sugar mixture, you're ready to make delicious sugar cookies! 

In Conclusion

Butter is the heart and soul of your sugar cookie recipe.  Do your research before you purchase and maybe even experiment by making your recipe and only changing the type of butter that you use.  Be sure and let me know if this information was helpful to you and Happy Baking!!

Here is a link to an excellent article on Butter Grading

Butter Grading: Understanding Quality and Labels - Eat More Butter


Perfect your sugar cookie recipe with this guide to Butter, Temperature, and Creaming

Perfect your sugar cookie recipe with this guide to Butter, Temperature, and Creaming

Comment (1)

Thanks . Great info

Annie Gill

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