How many times have you gone to make a recipe and it's called for room temperature ingredients? Have you been tempted to just use ingredients straight from the fridge? Does it really matter if your eggs are cold and your butter is solid? Keep reading to find out if room temperature ingredients really do matter!
I'm fairly sure that all home bakers out there have done it at one time or another. We've decided to have a baking afternoon, chosen our recipe and then realised all the ingredients we need are in the fridge.
And I'm pretty certain that if you're like me and incredibly impatient, we've all used straight from the fridge ingredients too! But while we might think it doesn't matter, butter is butter however warm or cold it is, I'll let you into a secret... it does matter.
As we know baking is a science. And if your oven temperature is important then so is the temperature of your ingredients if you want the perfect bake.
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What does room temperature mean?
If we're thinking in terms of actual numbers, then room temperature is 20C, about 70F. But I'm not expecting you to get out a thermometer and test every ingredient before starting to bake.
I want you to think about room temperature as being not cold to the touch.
If you've made any of my recipes before, then you'll notice that I mention when ingredients should be at room temperature or softened. This is usually for ingredients such as butter and eggs, as well as crème frâiche, soured cream, milk and egg whites for meringues.
Let the butter warm up until it is soft enough for you to push down with your finger and make a dent in it. Don't let it go too soft so that your finger pushes all the way in, as you can end up with a greasy bake.
Leave the eggs out at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. When they are up to temperature they shouldn't feel cold to touch or too warm. Too cold or too warm eggs can both affect the results of your baking.
For milk, double cream, cream cheese or yogurt
Measure out the quantity you need into a separate bowl or container then leave to come up to room temperature; this is usually 15-30 minutes. Don't leave milk, cream, cream cheese, yogurt etc out for too long otherwise they can spoil.
TOP TIP: If a recipe asks you to use room temperature butter then the other ingredients should be room temperature as well; unless the recipe states otherwise.
Do room temperature ingredients really matter?
Ingredients being at room temperature really do matter; for a number of reasons.
Yes, they help incorporate air
Firstly and most importantly they help give your bakes and cakes that lightness and airiness that we are looking for; rather than being dense and heavy.
When eggs, butter, milk, cream, cream cheese, yogurt and other dairy ingredients are at room temperature, they will form an emulsion when we beat or whip them. As they form the emulsion, air is trapped which expands during baking resulting in a perfect fluffy cake.
Yes, they give an even texture
Secondly, if your ingredients are at room temperature they will combine better, giving you a smoother cake batter and that gives you a more even texture when baked. If your ingredients are cold, you can end up with a lumpy or dense texture.
Think about when you add cold eggs into a cake batter, and you'll notice the batter will often curdle. You can 'fix' it by adding a tablespoon of flour, but starting with room temperature eggs will reduce the risk of curdling.
Yes, they help the baking process
Finally, and one not everyone tells you about, if your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin the baking process, they are all at the same temperature. This means that those first few minutes in the oven the batter isn't working to get up to temperature for all the necessary reactions to take place, which can also affect the baking time.
Think about your ingredients being at room temperature, the same as preheating your oven, and your bakes will have the best chance of being a perfect bake!
How to bring ingredients up to room temperature
The easiest and best way to bring your ingredients up to room temperature is to take them out of the fridge before you begin baking. How long you need will depend on where you live, time of year etc. If you live in a warm and humid climate, it might not take too long.
As I'm in the UK, during the summer I will take my ingredients out about 30 minutes to 1 hour before I need them. Whereas in the winter, I will take them out 2-3 hours before or sometimes over night for butter and eggs. For milk, cream and yogurt, these come up to temperature quicker, so I will give them 15-30 minutes.
But if you forget or are in a rush, here are some quick tips...
How to bring butter up to room temperature
f you are in a rush, you can quickly microwave butter to help soften it; but you need to be careful. Don't allow the butter to get too warm as you will end up with melted or greasy butter.
Cut the butter into about 10 equal pieces, place on a microwave safe plate and microwave in 5 second blasts at 50% power. When the butter starts to feel soft your butter will be ready to use.
If you want to speed things up but don't want to use the microwave, cube the butter and place on a plate then let the butter come up to temperature. The increased surface area of the butter cubes, will help accelerate the softening.
How to bring eggs up to room temperature
If you keep your eggs in the fridge, then this is a quick way to bring them up to room temperature if you are in a hurry.
Fill a bowl with warm tap water and sit the eggs in their shells, in the water for 15 minutes while you prep the rest of your ingredients. The water should be warm not hot - you don't want to cook the eggs!
After 15 minutes, the eggs should be at temperature, no longer feel cold and be ready to use.
When should I use cold ingredients?
There are times when a recipe will ask you to use chilled, cold or fridge-temperature ingredients. And just the same as room temperature ingredients help texture, so do cold ingredients - when stated.
You will often find that cookie, pastry or scone recipes will ask for you to use chilled butter. This is because the cold butter will help define layers, such as for flakey pastry, or help prevent your chunky cookies spreading out into thin puddles when baked.
HANDY HINT: If the recipe calls for fridge-temperature or chilled cubed butter, measure and cube the butter then pop back in the fridge until needed to prevent it getting too warm before using.
So hopefully you now know why I say it's important to use room temperature ingredients in my recipes to get the best results.
Baking is a science and some magical reactions take place when you mix everything together and pop a cake batter in the oven. By starting off with room temperature ingredients we make sure that we give our cakes and bakes the best possible chance they have of turning out perfect.