It's not "bad" per se, but it is uncontrolled. It's difficult to know how much salt is in the butter (it varies by brand) so how much to compensate can be a problem, and sometimes there's more salt in the butter than required in the recipe. Just remember baking is chemistry and salt can be a critical component and the amount critical.
If you haven't made it before, and you're sensitive to saltiness, leave the recipe alone. Yes, baking is chemistry but the exact amount of salt is relatively unimportant to everything but the taste. Salt changes a couple of things in pastries (mostly the boiling and freezing point of water, but this is only slightly). Any difference from salted/unsalted butter is usually too minor and won't do anything noticable to your baking except vary the taste.
Personally, I think it'll be fine... I do it, and don't think it makes a massive difference. If its a special recipe/ a special occasion, I'll buy unsalted and do it properly. Having said that, I live in the uk, and get the impression that maybe our salt levels in butter might be a bit more consistent than in the US....
Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
What are you making? Knowing might help us give you a more informed answer as to whether it may make a difference or not. Thanks.
I'm thinking about making sablés but I have no unsalted butter.
If you want to know how salt affects baking chemistry, ask a bread baker. Just off the top of my head: Too much salt can kill the yeast. Too little and all sorts of unfortunate things can happen. Salt affects dough texture, making it stronger and less sticky. The amount regulates the texture of the crust and it reduces oxidation of the dough which affects the flavor of the flour. And by retaining moisture, it keeps bread from staling quickly.
And now I see we're dealing specifically with cookies so nevermind all that for now…
I don't think it is bad at all. I use salted butter frequently in baking- to make chocolate chip cookies, shortbread and punitions. I've also used it to make more savory scones. We also use it in our tart dough to make a sweet/salty chocolate tart. If you are going for a saltier taste- then you should diminish the salt called for in the recipe (perhaps by half) and use salted butter. If you want the good to taste the same, I would eliminate the salt called for in the recipe.
Using salted butter is a risk, since you do not know how salty it is. But I have found that most commercial brands of salted butter are really not all that salty. European brands like KerryGold and Plugra will have more salt. Vermont Cultured Butter with flaked sea salt has the most. But I don't waste the good spreading butter on the inside. Rather slather it on later =)
As for the baking chemistry in bread, salt is an extremely important, if a little temperamental ingredient. There aren't that many breads where you start with butter, though in the dough. So I don't really see how it matters. Salt is necessary in leavened baked goods like cookies, biscuits, scones, cakes, etc.
I can only speak for some cookies and pastries, but I say go for it. As I said, we use salted butter at my small bakery frequently. But there are applications where the butter and its treatment is the key element- like puff pastry, croissant dough, Pate Brisee, hot water crust dough- where I wouldn't feel comfortable using anything other than high fat, unsalted butter.
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