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I am trying to make a stable buttercream and I am using butter and shortening [in the UK we call it trex or cookeen].

However, in this cold weather the fats are not getting to room temperature.

What is the best to soften them?

I don't own a microwave.

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I have had to deal with this several times recently as the people who I bought my house from didn't see fit to have a radiator in the kitchen, so it is often cold in the winter. There's 2 things you need to deal with, one is getting the butter up to temperature and the other is keeping it there. Radiators do work, but are often too hot and if you lose track you can end up melting your butter.

What I do to get the butter up to temperature is to cut the butter/shortening up into cubes and submerge it in warm water. Not hot water, but somewhere between normal room temperature and body temperature unless the butter is fridge temperature in which case I use body temperature water.

Once I make a buttercream I use a warm water bath to keep the buttercream up to a workable temperature, basically I have a roasting tray of warm water and set the bowl with the buttercream in it. If I'm piping it I will put the side of the piping bag in the warm water, which also works when piping stiff doughs like Viennese cookie dough.

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You need to increase the surface area of the butter or fat exposed to room air.

You can do that by measuring the amount called for by the recipe, than do any of:

  • cut into small pieces with a knife, spread apart on a sheet
  • chunk it with a spoon into many pieces, spread apart on a sheet
  • roll the glob into a thin sheet (done between pieces of wax paper)
  • freeze it the night before, then use a coarse shredder to grate the frozen piece, spreading the grinds over a baking sheet

I like the simplicity and orderliness of the first method.

The easiest method of all if you can do it: store the shortening in a warmer location. Obviously, you can not do this with butter.

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Chop the fats into small cubes and leave them near (but not on) a heat source like a radiator. Chopping them small allows them to warm up more quickly and evenly.

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