In baking, there are some ingredients that are basic pantry, common to almost all the elaborations. Flour, sugar and eggs are often the most essential, to which a fat is usually added. Leaving the butter aside, butter and oil are common in cookies, biscuits, muffins and cakes, but are they interchangeable?
Reasons to replace butter by oil in confectionery there are many: a vegan diet, allergies or intolerances, dietary needs … or simply because we have spent an ingredient. But butter and oil behave differently and that’s why you should have some clear points before you know how to replace each product.
Why do we use baking doughs?
Butter, oils and other fats are used in confectionery and bakery for various purposes, depending on the product to be baked. Its main functions include …
- They soften the masses, softening the crumb by weakening the gluten and giving more cohesion to its internal structure. For example, a brioche has a soft inner crust, soft and light, almost like a cloud, thanks to the high butter content.
- They help the baking heat to penetrate and distribute more homogeneously in the raw masses.
- They favor the golden and caramelized, enhancing the aromas and giving a more appealing appearance.
- They help to give moisture to the masses, preventing them from drying out and making them more juicy.
- They contribute to lengthening the shelf life of baked goods.
- Depending on the product used, they also add flavor and specific aromas.
Of course, you can bake sweets and doughs without oil or butter, although these recipes usually carry the yolk fat of eggs or nuts. There are also recipes that completely eliminate pure fats, looking for healthier substitutes that mimic the result; For example, avocado, plantain or ground legumes.
Bake with butter
I’ve always had a fondness for butter, probably because of my Swiss family. I find it a fantastic product, like all the most artisanal dairy products. A real good butter, of quality, is a delight and also works wonders in masses and sweets.
Obviously, it is an extremely fatty product and has gone through a very bad press period in favor of vegetable fats, but this has also changed. Without getting into nutritional issues – there are experts who have treated the subject much better – I always defend their use and consumption moderately.
In the subject that interests us today, how it acts in pastry recipes or bakery, we must take into account that butter is not just fat. It is also composed of milk solids and, most importantly, water. The proportion may vary according to the type of butter, but usually between 15-18% water and 80-82% fat.
This water evaporates in baking, creating steam, and provides the masses with a more aerated, light and spongy structure. It is important in, for example, puff pastry, helping to create the inner layers, or in the masses of pie- type pies or scones. Milk solids are caramelized with high temperatures, enhancing the golden or tan tone.
And let’s not forget that good quality butter has a very characteristic taste that cannot be imitated with oil, butter or vegetable fats.
You may also like to read: Seven tricks to make your dessert more light
Bake with oil
I take for granted that we use two types of oils for cooking, olive and sunflower. They are interchangeable, considering only that the first one adds flavor and flavor, while the one of sunflower remains neutral. Using one or the other will go in tastes and will depend on the recipe we want to make; For example, for some muffins I would recommend a very aromatic olive, like arbequina.
One must avoid the mistake of choosing an olive oil marked “soft”; the extra virgin is always the best option. If what we are looking for is that it does not alter the flavor of the dough, it is better to choose a quality sunflower or corn.
The oil is pure fat; does not contain water or solid proteins. This means that when baking does not generate steam, and the masses can be more dense if they are not compensated with other ingredients or the proper technique. However, since its natural state is practically liquid, it does help to obtain moist masses without being sticky.
You cannot use oil as a substitute for butter in the sugar-creamer technique. It is a typical step of cakes and cakes: beat enough butter softened with sugar until you get a spongy and soft cream. This helps to aerate and take, so that the recipes with oil will need something to compensate, like beating eggs, not forgetting that the dough should be able to support the structure.
In search of the perfect proportion
There is no magic number that works exactly the same for all recipes; In confectionery and bakery, when we alter the original recipe, we always risk that the result is not the expected. Except for crazy changes, it’s rare that we get a mess, but obviously it will never come out exactly the same.
There are different opinions on what the perfect ratio is. In traditional American pastry, a ratio of 1-cup butter per 7/8 cup oil is advised. That is, for 226 g of butter, 210 g of oil would be used.
Simpler: reduce the weight by 15%, since the butter has, on average, 85% fat. For example, if a recipe calls for 200 g of butter, we would need 170 g of oil; if they were 100 g of butter, 85 g of oil, etc.
But recently that number is being changed to simplify with a smaller amount of oil, using the ratio of 1: 3/4. And is that most recipes are not greatly harmed if we reduce the total amount of fat, provided that the mass remains sufficiently moist.
There are also those who do not complicate life and simply replace one by the other in ratio of 1: 1, especially when asked to melt the butter. I do not recommend it because I think the sweets come out too greasy.
Summary and Key Ideas
- You can replace the butter with oil almost always, considering that the taste and texture will change slightly.
- Avoid recipes in which butter is asked to beat with the sugar to obtain a sponge cream.
- The masses puffed or in which it is requested to incorporate the butter very, very cold and in cubes, are complicated to realize with oil.
- It is advisable to always use good extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil if you do not want to alter the taste.
- We have to play a little until we find the quantities that we like, starting with a 15% less weight of oil, or a ratio of 1: 3/4.
Experienced and based on testing and experimenting it is easy to master any standard mass, without entering into especially complex elaborations. You just have to avoid risking changes in recipes that we have never tried if we plan to serve guests. Just in case, it is best to make the first tasting in privacy.
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