I have melted butter in the microwave for years without incident. Well, okay there was the fire incident, but I never made that mistake again.
Today, just as my new baking column at Recipes.ca launched, I had a series of baking disasters. The one pictured above was #3, so that should be the end of mishaps – for today at least. The first was a muffin recipe I’m creating for The Messy Baker that somehow derailed. Instead of light batter I found myself mixing something akin to melted silly putty. The next batch mixed according to plan but when I pulled the tin from the oven, its edge clipped the rack and all 12, beautifully risen muffins tumbled into the oven or onto the floor. “Rats!” I said. Or something like that.
Even mangled, the muffins tasted good, so I moved onto the popovers. The butter I’d melted earlier in the morning had solidified again, so I popped the pyrex into the microwave for 15 seconds. Twelve seconds later, I heard a POP and discovered the mess pictured above.
I said “Rats!” again. Only louder, and perhaps with a few variations thrown in.
So, exactly what happened? Science.
When butter melts the fat and liquids separate. Left undisturbed, the fat rose to the top and the liquids sank to the bottom. The fat then hardened. In the microwave, which excites the water molecules in food, the bottom layer boiled before the fat melted. Only there wasn’t enough room for the water to boil, so it shoved the fat out of the way. Rather forceibly. And what goes up, must come down.
And now, because I couldn’t ignore the dripping butter, I have a lovely, sparkly-clean microwave. Thanks, Science. You’re a real friend.
I’m going to go update my Kitchen Disasters App now. I just thought of a new entry thanks to my pal Science. You hop on over to Recipes.ca and read about how to make superior pie crust. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. After all, we’re talking pie.