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Ask The Experts...

Ask the Experts...About Baking with Butter

Q:  Is there a reason to use butter instead of margarine when called for in a recipe?

Dear Baker:  Most bakers consider butter irreplaceable for its flavor and performance.  Butter tenderizes and adds flakiness.  It creates a golden brown color and crisp texture.  Butter makes cakes light and helps hold the shape of cookies. Butter is also a flavor carrier; it carries the flavor of vanilla, almond, herbs, spices and fruits and vegetables added to baked goods.

TIP:  Tub spreads and reduced fat stick margarines contain more liquid and can’t be substituted for butter in most recipes successfully.  

Q:  What does a recipe calling for “softened” butter mean? 
Dear Baker:  Remove the butter from the refrigerator and let it stand for at least 30-45 minutes at room temperature for easy mixing with the sugar or other ingredients. The butter should still be “bendable” or “pliable” and not melted or “gooey” soft, so avoid softening it in the microwave. The stick of butter should still hold its shape.  (It should register a temperature reading of  65° F. or colder.) 

TIP:  Short on time?  Cut the stick into chunks and let them sit at room temperature about 15 minutes.  OR, place an unwrapped stick of butter between two sheets of waxed or parchment paper and flatten with a rolling pin.

Q:  Should I use salted or unsalted butter? 
Dear Baker: Both are the same Grade AA quality butter, and you can use them interchangeably.  Recipe developers, or you, determine a preference for the taste of using one or the other in a recipe.

TIP: If you need to control dietary sodium, simply substitute unsalted butter for salted to reduce sodium 90 mg for every tablespoon (14g/1/2 oz) of butter used.

Q:  Can you substitute butter for shortening one for one?   
Dear Baker: In most recipes, yes, but shortening is 100% vegetable fat and butter is 80% fat.

TIP: Bakers sometimes use half butter and half shortening in some recipes so they get the flavor of butter and some of the characteristics of shortening too.

TIPS: Visit Baking Tips and Techniques

Q: What is “creaming” and why and how do I do this?

Dear Baker:  Cold or very slightly softened butter is mixed with sugar to make it light and fluffy.  This incorporates air into your batter so the final product will rise and be light in texture. Melted butter cannot be used in creaming.  

Visit the Glossary or DIY Baking Channel at www.homebaking.org to see how!

Q:  How do you “cut in” butter for scones, biscuits or pie crust and why?

Dear Baker:  When cutting in butter, it is important to make sure that the butter used is cold. By using cold butter, the absorption into the flour is minimized, helping improve rise and the development of a flaky structure. 
Cutting in refers to taking cold chunks of butter and using a tool (two butter knives, fork, pastry blender or food processor) to reduce the size and incorporate the butter chunks into a flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. This will give the finished product a tender, flaky texture. 

See “cutting in” at DIY Baking Channel, Rustic Fruit Tart video, and step-by-step pictures at Clabber Girl

For the latest information on butter, visit: www.landolakes.com!