In fact, I’ll even go one step further and say this is the preferred method to soften butter, especially in a home kitchen where you are making small batches. Otherwise, by the time the inside of a stick of butter is the correct consistency/temperature, the outside could be too soft. With smaller chunks, you have less chance of uneven consistency.
Why is this so important? Many recipes require you to soften butter, but not bring butter all the way down to room temperature. This is crucial for the creaming step of cookies, for example. In my experience, if you’re butter is too soft when creaming — no matter how long you chill your dough — you’re cookies will spread too much. Also, it could be my imagination, but once my butter goes to room temperature, it’s “ruined forever”. Even if I put it back in the fridge and leave it on the counter again, I’ll never get the right consistency. When I cut up the butter, it comes to temperature faster and I’m less prone to forget about it.
I saw these dates on clearance at Wal-Mart and was compelled to purchase them… because they are from Pakistan, of course. I halved the cookie recipe on the back and the cookies still came out really well. By the time I measured the other ingredients, got the baking sheets ready, and put all the other shopping away, the butter was ready to go. On cold days, if you cream your butter right and don’t overmix your batter, you don’t have to chill your dough. (In fact, I hope to write a whole post as an argument that chilling dough produces a different, not necessarily better, result.) In the two pictures below, one set of cookies was baked before chilling and another after chilling. Can you tell which was which? Also, as shown you can reuse jam/jelly jars to gift cookies. It really puts a smile on someone’s face. Another tip: if you want to test the quality of your ingredients, omit the cinnamon (or other spices) from your oatmeal cookie recipe. Then you can really tell if your fancy organic oats or raisins or what have you are worth it.