October 20, 2014

A Cooking Light reader recently shared an interesting baking tip with us that you may have spotted on Pinterestshredding butter straight from the freezer instead of waiting for it soften at room temperature can save you some serious time in the kitchen. So, we asked the question: Can shredded butter make better cookies?

To find out, we tested a full-fat cookie recipe (Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies), which has enough butter to show results. Light recipes don't use very much butter, making differences hard to detect. We made the same recipe three times, treating the butter differently in each one.

In the first test, we hand-shredded frozen butter using a box grater. In the second, we machine-shredded the frozen butter using a food processor. In the third, we softened the butter at room temperature and then cut it into pieces with a knife. At the end, not only did we have more cookies than we knew what to do with (Cooking Light staffers didn’t complain!) but we also found differences between all three methods. Here’s what we discovered:

Test 1: Hand-shredded butterWhile this method was simple and fast, we found that holding the butter with our hands during grating warmed it up quite a bit. The batter was loose and greasy, probably from using my hands earlier, so I worried about the cookies maintaining their shape in the oven. While they did spread out a little, this batch held their shape much better than we expected. Tasters liked these cookies, finding them soft and chewy.

Test 2: Machine-shredded butterWe liked the idea of using the food processor to shred the butter because it would prevent our hands from touching it. Because the butter stayed cold, it was difficult to cream with the sugar. Our batter had a few chunks of unmixed butter and it was also stiffer than the first test cookies. Even so, these cookies kept their shape the best as they baked. Aesthetically, I thought these cookies looked better than the other tests—they had some “meat” to them, and the chocolate chips peeked out from the top. Tasters found these cookies crunchier than the other two batches.

Test 3: Softened butterThis butter required a bit of planning ahead, but we found it the easiest to work with. It creamed beautifully with the sugar, resulting in a smooth batter that reminded us more of the first test’s batter. However, because the butter was the softest, the cookies spread like pancakes in the oven. So, in terms of looks, these cookies weren’t the prettiest. They also had a glossy sheen that neither of the previous batches had. Many tasters actually preferred these cookies, comparing them to the softness and chewiness of the first batch.

Conclusion: While there was essentially no variation in flavor, there were definite aesthetic differences between each of the three batches. If you usually keep a stick of butter in the freezer, then give the hand- or machine-shredding methods a try. Keep in mind, however, that many Cooking Light recipes use a minimal amount of butter for nutrition purposes, so this method might not be worth the effort. And while we liked the results from shredding the butter, we think the most important factor is the recipe itself. If it’s a delicious, carefully thought-out recipe, then it’s going to make a great chocolate chip cookie. (And these were certainly tasty!)

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