You Can Make Most Cookies With Cold, Hard Butter

Photo: Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian, Unsplash

At this very moment, seasonal bakers around the world are bookmarking cookie recipes, tracking down special ingredients, and panicking when they realise they forgot to leave the butter out to soften. Welcome to cookie swap season.

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Full disclosure: I absolutely hate making cookies. Pie crust, pâte à choux, meringues, custards, and even caramel are a freaking breeze by comparison because cookies demand more patience and precision than I’m ever interested in expending.

I mostly hate all the waiting — for the butter to soften, for the dough to chill overnight, for the dough to warm up enough to be scooped or rolled or what have you. Surprisingly, when it comes to cookies, skipping the softening step altogether is more than a shortcut; it actually makes everything a lot easier.

Starting with rock-hard butter probably violates every last baker’s instinct you’ve got, but I promise it’s the way to go. If you’re using a stand mixer, chunk up your cold butter, toss it into the bowl with your sugar, and bash with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until it starts to smear the sides.

Proceed with the recipe. A food processor makes things even easier, though: chuck cubed butter in with the rest of the ingredients in and pulse until the dough starts to ball up—no creaming required. I learned this from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen and have been preaching the cold butter cookie gospel ever since.

It’s a life-changing technique; I willingly made cookies for Christmas last year, and they were divine.

Cold butter doesn’t just speed things up. It also results in a dough that’s warm enough to immediately roll out or scoop, but not so warm that it melts as soon as you touch it. Whether you’re making sugar cookies in festive shapes or slice-and-bake sablés, you can freeze the rolled-out dough indefinitely for on-demand cookies.

If you’re still unsure about trying this with your favourite recipe, I say do it anyways—Deb says cold butter hasn’t failed her yet, and I’m inclined to trust her.


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