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I've seen a lot of recipes, particularly for things like quick breads, that call for combining melted butter with milk and eggs before mixing with dry ingredients.

Of course, if the milk and eggs are cool the melted butter will immediately solidify. Is there a technique for this that recipe writers are assuming I know? Or is it just intended that there be little droplets of solid butter suspended in the batter or dough?

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Beside the fact that the combination of all the ingredients will preclude the butter from staying around in droplets, all ingredients you use in baking should be room temperature unless specified otherwise. So you have to warm up your milk when baking. –  rumtscho Mar 28 at 12:31

2 Answers 2

Melting the butter and mixing it with milk or other liquid ingredients is almost always done as part of the muffin method, where a muffin, cake or quick bread batter is formed by mixing dry ingredients together, wet ingredients together, and then quickly combining the two.

In practice, the butter is not going to mix with the milk. It is going to mostly float on top, and stay liquid. You will have sufficient time to combine the wet and dry mixes, and create the batter.

Putting them together just makes it easier to form the final batter. It would work just as well if you made a dry mix, then added the remaining liquid ingredients (usually milk, eggs, and maybe some flavoring), and then the melted butter. When you stir the dry and wet mixes together, the butter is going to become fairly uniformly mixed into the batter.

Note that many quick breads are made with oil, which is treated the exact same way, even though melting is not an issue. The only reason to use butter is because the flavor is desired for whatever item is being made.

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IMHO butter acts as a spacing agent. Maybe I'm not using the right term but essentially butter is the reason your baked good is nice and fluffy. It goes away in the baking process.

You want the butter globules in your dough. Here's why:

When the dough is heated in the oven, the butter evaporates or gets absorbed and leaves behind little air holes in the bread.

A great example is croissants which requires an obscene amount of butter but comes out super flakey and holey.

It turns into stream which assists in leavening.

Source: http://www.completelydelicious.com/2012/02/ingredient-spotlight-how-fats-are-used-in-baking.html

Personally, for a healthier alternative I usually substitute 1:1 apple sauce because it provides a similar result, though slightly denser baked bread/muffin/spongey thing. With apple sauce you can also reduce the amount of added sugar plus the result will not taste "apple-y".

This was already discussed in better detail here:

Why can applesauce be used in place of oil?

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Why the -1? Please provide a reason. –  Pdxd Mar 28 at 11:23
    
I've modified my answer to provide my reasons. Please reconsider your -1. –  Pdxd Mar 28 at 12:00
    
I also added a -1. Different types of baked goods function in completely different ways. Your explanation is true of laminated dough, but completely false for any other type of dough. And in laminated dough, butter is never combined with milk. –  rumtscho Mar 28 at 12:29
    
Thanks for your feedback. I'll do a bit more research. –  Pdxd Mar 28 at 14:09
    
Completely false for any other type of dough? Pdxd's explanation is exactly what happens in the case of quick-breads, too. I don't get the downvote. –  JoshieSimmons Mar 29 at 3:21

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