Recipe: Butter or margarine – which is better for baking?

|February 20, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Butter or margarine??? Which is better for baking?

I have a lot of people asking me questions about baking with butter and margarine and shortening and oils. Today I will tackle the butter versus margarine questions.

“Family recipes that had been made for generations are not turning out“…… which is what most are saying.
Of course they aren’t.

How about if we take a step back in time.
Most likely your grandmother or great-grandmother used lard in her baking.

During the war, oleo was popular. You got a little packet of a yellow colored powdered substance that you had to knead into the oleo to make it yellow.

Then margarine came around.
Butter is an edible emulsion of butterfat, water, air, and sometimes salt – made from the churning of cream; used as a spread as well as in baking and cooking. Basically made from dairy and salt.

Margarine was the inexpensive alternative to butter – made from oil or a combination of oils through a process called hydrogenation which helps the animal fats/vegetable oils emulsify (corn oils, sunflower oils, soybean oils, etc.) Years ago – it was primarily made from beef fat – known as oleo fat or “oleo“ especially during WWII when butter was scarce as well as expensive and oleo was the best substitute. At first oleo was made from beef fat, and then it was supplemented by pork and other animal fats as well as vegetables oils – coconut oil, olive oil, and cottonseed oil.

Margarine is to be at least 80% fat, derived from animal fats or vegetable oils, or the blend of the two. Approximately 17% is liquid – either pasteurized skim milk, water or soybean protein fluid. The remaining percentage is salt which is added for flavor. During World War I coconut oil was favored; in the 1930’s, cottonseed oil was used; in the 1950’s, soy was used.

In the 1960’s tub margarine and vegetable oil spreads were starting to hit the markets – and it’s been down hill since. The animal fats have been eliminated in most cases and now margarine is no longer the margarine we know from years ago. The processes they have come up with for making margarine have changed dramatically – it’s more of a chemical process than a food process – number one reason we stick to butter.



I’ve got an interesting article for you to read:

Pass the butter ~ ~ ~ ~ This is interesting.

DO YOU KNOW…the difference between margarine and butter?

Read on to the end…gets very interesting!

Both have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams compared to 5 grams.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of! butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.

Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few only because they are added!
Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.


! And now, for Margarine….

Very high in trans fatty acids.

Triple risk of coronary heart disease.

Increases! total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)

Increases the risk of cancers up to five fold.

Lowers quality of breast milk.

Decreases immune response.

Decreases insulin response.

And here's the most disturbing fact…. HERE IS THE PART THAT IS VERY INTERESTING!

Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC..

This fact alone was enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

You can try this yourself:
Purchase a tub of margarine and leave it in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will note a couple of things:
* no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)
* it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow. Why? Because it is nearly plastic. Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?


Years ago we were able to buy "real" margarine that you could easily substitute for butter in any recipe. Times have changed, everything is different, now the government has their nose in everything that has trans-fats or fats in it. Oils are used – making up well over 65% of the margarines made today.

That is the reason we are butter people in my house.

That plus the fact that margarine is one step away from becoming plastic.
You cannot bake with today's so-called margarines and have anything turn out the way you want.

Depending on the recipe – if baking – you can use applesauce in place of fats – or you can just use butter in place of margarine.

Whatever our opinion is on the above article – it’s your opinion. I really didn’t need that article to say that I prefer butter – and that I prefer it even more now because of the change in margarines.

I used to be able to find a decent margarine up till about 8 to 10 years ago. It held up well in cooking and baking – but as all things – it changed and is no longer as good as it was.

I don’t do spreads or soft margarines – I don’t need more over-processed foods in my system.

Yes, I realize that butter is more expensive, but it does give the results you want.

And, I still enjoy making my own butter – it’s so simple and it is so good. Sometimes I make it lightly salted; sometimes I make it unsalted. If making salted, I add the salt at the very end – I want that buttermilk for baking! I look for heavy cream on sale and then I make my butter.

A few years ago I lucked out – if you want to call it that. I went grocery shopping and of course, I needed heavy cream. To my disappointment, all the cream (and there was a lot of it!) was going to expire in 2 days. Here I am standing in front of the dairy cooler looking at dozens of pints of heavy cream – all with the same date. Sure, they say you can still use a dairy product 7 days after the expiration date but why should I chance it? I don’t believe it and I am not about to find out if it’s true.

Lucky for me – the manager was having a walk-through with the big heads from the main office. No better time to approach him in front of his bosses and ask if they have any heavy cream in stock that is not going to expire the next day. It did not go over too well – and the whole entourage waltzed into the cooler to check it out. There was absolutely NONE and I needed 4 pints to make my butter for a dinner I was having.
One of the heads asked what I needed it for – and I told him. He asked me if I make butter often (which I do) and he asked if I ever freeze it. Which I do. So he made me an offer I could not refuse! Each pint I bought (took off their hands) they would give to me for TEN CENTS EACH! They were kind enough to stack them neatly in a crate and carry them to the register for me and inform the cashier that I was to pay a dime for each because of the date.

The cashier had no idea what I was doing with it – but she did say – I hope you use it all before tomorrow is over with! I sure did. I made butter for my dinner and I froze the rest. I used the buttermilk for biscuits for my dinner and I also baked other goodies with it. All that for $3.50 – that’s right – 35 pints of heavy cream at ten cents each.

The store was glad to get rid of it – I was glad to have it. What can I say? I still check out the dates on the heavy cream when shopping – hoping for another break.


The Tollhouse Chocolate Chip recipe has been popular for decades! Many make the cookies and they just “schmooz” all over the tins. It’s the margarine. Use butter – you’ll get better results.



Some butter notes:

Butter Measurements:
1/4 stick = 1/16 lb = 1/8 cup=2 tbsp = 6 tsp = 28 grams
1/2 stick = 1/8 lb = 1/4 cup = 4 tbsp = 12 tsp =57 grams
1 stick = 1/4 lb = 1/2 cup = 8 tbsp = 24 tsp = 113 grams
2 sticks = 1/2 lb = 1 cup = 16 tbsp = 48 tsp = 227 grams
3 sticks = 3/4 lb = 1-1/2 cups = 24 tbsp = 72 tsp = 340 grams
4 sticks = 1 lb = 2 cups = 32 tbsp = 96 tsp = 454 grams



How to clarify butter:

It's the milk solids in butter that cause it to brown and burn. Remove them and you've got clear, golden oil.

To clarify butter, melt it in a small saucepan over very low heat. Let stand, off the heat, until the white milk solids sink to the bottom of the melted butter.
Carefully pour off the liquid butter and strain through damp cheesecloth.
Store in refrigerator in a covered jar.



Making ghee (used in Indian cooking):
Usli Ghee

In a large frying pan, melt 1 pound unsalted butter over very low heat; this should take about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium. White foam will begin to form on the surface and the butter will start to crackle.
This indicates that the moisture is beginning to leave the milk solids. Cook for 10 minutes without stirring.
When the moisture is completely gone, the crackling will stop and the foam will subside.
Using a wooden spatula, stir the liquid constantly until the butter solids begin to brown. Immediately turn off the heat and let the brown residue settle to the bottom.
When the melted butter is cool, pour the clear liquid into a jar through a double layer of cheesecloth.
One pound of unsalted butter will yield 1 1/2 cups of usli ghee. Ghee will keep in a well-sealed jar for about 2 months at room temperature and 5 months in the refrigerator.


And do I still use lard? Yes I do. But throughout the years – even that has changed!

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