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Yesterday, the Times ran one of  the most confusing Food Section stories I’ve ever read.  Julia Moskin, whose work is usually first-rate, attempted to explain how to use butter properly when baking cookies. Here’s an example of the fuzzy explanations in this piece:

For mixing and creaming, butter should be about 65 degrees: cold to the touch but warm enough to spread. Just three degrees warmer, at 68 degrees, it begins to melt.

First, how am I supposed to know when the butter is 65 degrees?  Stick a thermometer in it?  And what is “cold to the touch but warm enough to spread?”  I assume that means it shouldn’t be rock solid.  But if it’s spreadable, it’s mighty close to melting, which Moskin says is a definite no-no.

If anyone can explain how to use butter in baking in a way that’s usable and makes sense, it would be greatly appreciated!

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