Forget leaving out the stick overnight when you can have soft butter in 10 minutes.
Credit: Photo: James Ross / Getty

Holiday baking season is quickly approaching, and most of those cookie recipes require softened or room temperature butter in order to get a light, tender crumb.  

Some sources say you can accomplish this in an hour in a warm kitchen. Ina Garten prefers to leave her sticks out overnight. Others give guidance on how to successfully microwave it—but I find the potential meltability to be too risky.

More often than not, I forget to leave butter out altogether. But in the time it takes for me to pull together all the ingredients I need for cookies, I can have perfectly softened butter. That is to say, in about 10 minutes. Here’s how: 

Pour tepid water (about 90°F) into a bowl and add as many sticks of butter as you need. (Anything more than 1 pound, however, will cool the water too dramatically and will take longer to soften.) The sticks are already wrapped tightly enough that the water won’t seep in; in fact, they’ll float. Leave them alone for 10 minutes, turning them over from time to time.

In the end, you’ll have butter that’s ready to be dumped into a mixing bowl, where it will be transformed into something magical. Bonus: This trick works for cold cream cheese in the foil wrapper and cold eggs. Happy baking!