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I once tried to make some cookies and assumed that melted butter would be the same as softened butter. It didn't work out...

Why does it make a difference if you use softened or melted butter? Seems like it all ends up the same if you beat it into a recipe...

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related : cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3168/… –  Joe Mar 14 '11 at 2:15
    
Chemistry and science. Its annoying but its complex. –  Barfieldmv Mar 14 '11 at 8:03

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Basically, when recipies call for softened butter, they use the creaming method; the sugar and butter are mixed together in such a way that the sugar cuts little air bubbles into the butter. These little bubbles can add some extra puff to the cookies.

If you melt the butter first, not only do you not have those air bubbles, but there's water in butter, so you'll end up getting some gluten development when you mix in the flour and make a chewy cookie ... but more importatly, without the fat being (near) solid, the cookie will slump a lot more, and spread out before it cooks (assuming you haven't otherwise adjusted the recipe to compensate).

There are cookie recipes that call for melted butter; compare the three recipies from the "Three Chips for Sister Martha" episode of Good Eats; the "chewy" cookie uses melted butter.

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To make it even more complicated, the Cooks Illustrated Best New Recipe cookbook, after much testing, decided that their best chewy chocolate chip cookies came out after melting and then bringing the temperature of the butter back to cool/room temp (not refrigerated). This is probably so the texture is chewy, but they're brought back to "softened" to reduce spread. I tried it this weekend, and they were right - those cookies were the perfect texture, size, and shape. –  stephennmcdonald Mar 14 '11 at 5:16

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