How Do I Use Margarine for Baking?
In general, it is possible to use margarine for baking if it is authentic margarine with a high enough fat content. Real margarine can be substituted in equal amounts for butter, although it will provide a different taste to the baked dish. There are several modified or mixed versions of margarine that might not be suitable for baking, however, mostly because they do not have enough fat to cause the necessary reactions in foods and because they have a high water content. It is best to avoid non-fat margarine for baking, as well as products that are packaged as margarine but are labeled as spreads or substitutes. Margarine has different properties than butter so, when using margarine for baking, it can be beneficial to freeze it before creaming, be extra cautious when melting it and be aware of any additives such as flavorings that might have been added during manufacturing.
True margarine is made primarily of fats that are derived from vegetable oils. The definition of "real margarine" is that it must contain at least 80 percent fat, making it equivalent to butter in that regard and making it possible to use margarine for baking almost any type of food. Puff pastry and syrup-based candies are two exceptions unless the recipes have been specifically developed to use margarine. The amount of fat in margarine is sometimes reduced to make a low-fat or non-fat product that might — or might not — be appropriate for baking. In general, margarine that has a fat content of more than 50 percent can be used for baking.
If the amount of fat is reduced in margarine, then it frequently is replaced by water. When using margarine for baking, excess water can quickly turn a batter or dough into a very soupy mess and, thus, should be avoided. Some recipes account for the extra water in non-fat margarines and adjust the remaining ingredients accordingly. In these cases, using higher-fat margarine for baking can result in a batter that is too dry.
If a recipe calls for the margarine to be creamed or whipped with sugar, then it can be done more easily if the margarine is first partially frozen. This will help it to retain its structure while being whipped. Additionally, the melting point for margarine is lower than that of butter, meaning margarine will melt more readily. Some margarine has additives such as flavorings or salt that can affect the taste of the final dish, so choosing the appropriate margarine for baking may involve being aware of its ingredients.
@Ana1234 - I still think it's a poor substitute because of the taste. Most of the time butter is far superior to margarine in taste. Even a good quality cooking oil might have something to add, for example if you use coconut or peanut oil that can give an additional flavor to the dough.
But margarine is usually not even as healthy as butter. It often contains trans-fats which have been shown to be much worse for health than saturated fat.
Besides, if you're going to do baking, you might as well do it right and create something worth eating.
@irontoenail - Margarine in general isn't a terrible substitute for butter or oil though. You've just got to have a general idea about why the ingredient is being added to the meal.
If it's for something like scones, where they want the butter to be cold and worked into the flour until it looks like crumbs, then the structure of the baking actually depends on the texture of the butter and margarine won't work well as a substitute. The same probably goes for any recipe where they advise you to chill the mixture before cooking it. What they are usually hoping for is the butter to help hold the shape of the dough until it melts and leaves little holes so that the texture will be fluffy.
But if you are able to substitute cooking oil of some kind then they aren't worried about the texture of the fat so much as just the presence of it and margarine will definitely do just as well, although you might have to check on proportions.
Most people quickly learn this growing up, but one thing you can't use most margarine for is to give popcorn a buttery flavor. If you melt margarine and pour it onto freshly popped popcorn, the popcorn will kind of melt, the way it would if you poured water on it.
I don't know if it reacts differently to different kinds of margarine, but I made a lot of popcorn while I was growing up and I quickly learned that butter, or olive oil (in a pinch) are the best things to use.
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