How Many Dots Are in a Stick of Butter?

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What exactly is meant by "dot with butter?"

OK, it's complicated, so stay alert. For every six square inches of surface area use one tablespoon of butter, cut into 10 equal pieces, and place each segment no less than eleven-sixteenths of an inch apart horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

The other option is to cut or squeeze off little bits of butter — the size of a pea or two — and put them here and there on top of whatever it is you're cooking. Depending on how much you like butter and (somewhat harder to judge) how much the dish needs the butter (for flavor and texture), you decide how much to add and how close together the "dots" should be. For a stuffed haddock dish we make that serves six, we probably use two tablespoons of butter. You might use that much for a cobbler, too, depending on its size.

You might also think, in this fat- and calorie-conscious day and age, that this is a recent ploy by nervous recipe writers to avoid saying, "cover the top with huge amounts of butter," but it is not a new device. For centuries recipe writers have left certain judgment issues up to their readers' discretion — "dot with butter" being among them. It has no exact meaning, but the gist is that the dish will taste better if you sprinkle little bits of butter here and there on the top before popping it into the oven.

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