Whipped or light butter in baking

whipped buttersWhen it comes to recipes, it is usually best to match the ingredient list as closely as possible. Use large eggs, when a recipe calls for them. Use buttermilk, rather than a substitute if you can. You’ll usually get the best flavor and the most accurate results this way.

The biggest temptation – these days, it seems – is to substitute lower fat ingredients in place of their full-fat counterparts in the name of health. Low fat or skim milk in place of whole milk doesn’t have that much of an impact on a finished cake, since it really only reduces that fat content slightly. Most of the fat comes from butter (or oil) and products like “light butter” and “whipped butter,” both of which appeal to consumers as spreads for toast and bread, seem like tempting substitutes for the real deal.

The problem with whipped and light butters is that they’re not going to give you the results you want. Real butter is 80% milk fat and 20% water. This ratio is crucial to producing tender cakes and cookies, as well as flaky pie crusts and pastries. Whipped butter is made by creating air pockets in standard butter (this makes it easier to spread) and can be up to 1/3 air. If you try and substitute this product, you’ll end up with far less butter than you should – and a less tender, less buttery product. “Light” butter generally has more water and/or fillers added to it to replace butterfat. This is a poor substitute for real butter because recipes don’t account for fillers and the extra water (and other ingredients, for that matter) is not going to contribute to a perfectly textured product.

Use the real thing and take smaller bites, if you’re wanting to cut back on the fat content in some of your baked goods, or look up a recipe that is lower in fat to begin with. If you want to try the substitutes, be aware that they’re not really going to be comparable to the same recipe made with real, full-fat butter.

3 comments

  1. I can recommend a really good product for baking–Earth Balance non-hydrogenated natural buttery spread. It’s mostly organic, non-gmo, vegan, non-dairy, 100 calories per tbsp, 11 g fat…they have a web site on the container: http://www.earthbalance.net

    I’ve used this as a substitute for butter in recipes and it works great. I’ve made awesome shortbread cookies, banana breads, cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, gravies, it creams well in recipes, I’ve made all sorts of things with this product. It tastes very buttery and doesn’t have bad ingredients.

  2. I agree, but will say I tried using Smart Balance in place of real butter to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies this weekend in an effort to cut out the cholesterol. It’s the best recipe I’ve ever used and have been using it for about 3 years. I thought the Smart Balance would make the cookies spread too much when baking but they didn’t and the cookies were really delicious.

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