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I live in northern NY and my kitchen is cold a great deal of the year - so mixing butter into bread dough takes much longer and typically leaves large chunks of butter in the dough. I often have to take it out of the mixer and kneed out the butter chunks by hand.

The last few times I've made an enriched dough (in this case brioche and rum baba) I've added the butter to the milk and warmed them together until the butter melted and used this in the dough instead.

I did not notice a difference - it kneaded and baked the same as before. (The baba's were my best batch yet - beautiful crumb, delicious). But just because I didn't notice a difference doesn't mean there isn't one. So my question is - am I missing something?

Can anyone elaborate on what difference using melted butter makes in the finished bread? (Does it change the structure, taste, texture etc?)

The only relevant comment I've found on using melted vs softened butter was from ATK testing it in a doughnut recipe; they said it made the dough feel greasy - but I did not find this to be the case.

Edit: I found a comment in another post, here, explaining how fat inhibits gluten development - this suggests a difference in the dough depending on when the butter is added, but not between solid or melted butter. Nevertheless, it does seem relevant so I linked it.

2 Answers 2

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This Youtube video compares adding softened or cold (but flattened with a rolling pin) butter to a white dough that had already been kneaded for 3 minutes. The amount of butter was 24% the amount of flour, both by weight. The dough was then kneaded for another 7 minutes. For melted butter the butter was added at the start and the dough kneaded for 10 minutes. In all cases a strong dough developed after 10 minutes.

After baking the three loaves looked very similar. The presenter said he would be happy with any of them. No comment on the taste.

The presenter points out that usually butter is added with other enrichments, such as eggs or sugar. In this case, he found that the dough made with melted butter required at least 5 minutes more kneading than the other two. This seems reasonable because, while all fat hinders gluten development, melted butter will coat the flour most quickly. More kneading time is obviously inefficient and risks over-fermentation.

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I càn tell the difference. Kneading is supposed to work the butter in, if you practice a lot then you know what's happened to the dough by heart and it's not a worry anymore.

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    Can you please explain what the difference is? If you say you can tell the difference, please describe it for our users, thanks.
    – Stephie
    Apr 10, 2023 at 21:06
  • I suppose it tastes like the bread has grown a bit more and has more character and richness.
    – turtledna
    Apr 11, 2023 at 17:56
  • Which version has “more character and richness”, with melted or with soft butter?
    – Stephie
    Apr 11, 2023 at 19:27

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