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Butter and Fats for Baking
Butter and fats in baking
It seems to have such a negative connotation... "fats"... but without them, baking and cooking would be nothing that it is today. Long ago, fat was more desirable and scarce and mothers wanted their children and babies to eat enough to put on weight so become plump and "healthy". We have gone to the other extreme now and are battling fats in our lives. Still, fats play a huge part, and maximizing them while not overdoing it can be a great thing.
Fats are broken down into solid fats, and liquid fats. Butter is my favorite solid fat.
Butter comes from milk. It is made up of 80 percent fat and the rest is water and milk solids, and can be salty or sweet depending on the addition of salt or not. I love butter with salt, but in baking we see the much prized sweeter butter being called for most often. Butter has monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats in it. A little more than half of the fat is saturated, a little over a quarter of butter is monounsaturated. What is left is less than a quarter as polyunsaturated.
As for fats, butter scores better in the vitamin A department, unlike other fats, which is something I hadn't ever really realized. It also has some calcium, potassium which is another plus. There are a couple more reasons right there, to not feel guilty for using butter, especially if you have to use some fat in a recipe. There is some cholesterol, and so with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle habits, you can still enjoy it, just enjoy in moderation. Right now, a buttery croissant came to mind, sigh.....
Butter has the melting point of our bodies temperature. Another reason it seems so nice on the palette at times. The best thing about butter though, is just its taste. Think of a good toasted English muffin for a moment, and imagine toasting it and eating it plain. Then imagine toasting it and immediately putting some butter on it that melt into the nooks and crannies. A huge taste difference there.
Buying Butter and Cooking With It
Buying a good quality butter can make the difference in your baking and cooking as well. If you are really trying to impress with a particular recipe, go for the best butter you can find. It will put it over the top. Since all butter is not quite the same, here is what to look for. Go for a a firm butter, as it will help your recipes do better, like in cakes or anything that needs "creaming". As you beat or whip your butter and other ingredients, it will allow for holding more air to be incorporated which makes better pastries and cakes.
When cooking butter, keep in mind that it can begin to burn at a lower temperature than say vegetable oil, because it has milk solids in it. When butter is used with shortening to make something like a pie crust, it really enhances the flavor and causes a beautiful browning of the crust. Yum!! To date, I haven't quite had a pie crust like my grandmother used to make, wow were those to die for. Any of the little left over scraps, she would cut up and put on a little pan of their own. Then sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on some, and leave some others just plain. What in the world did she do, that made those taste like heaven? Kid you not, talk about a happy memory, those little crispy pie crust leftovers really hit the spot! I need to try to really mimic her pie crusts, and maybe one day I will get it done. Knowing things like these about butter surely help, and I will say this, that she didn't skimp in the fat department. She did it by the book, and if I am not mistaken, did a combination of the butter and shortening for hers. Its good to ask your family for the favorite little recipes while you still can. You will be so glad you did, later on.
Several Old Fashioned Butter Churns
Working With Butter and Storage
Whenever you are making anything that is having butter worked into flour, you always want to keep your everything including the butter cool as you can for the right effect. For example, biscuits, pie crusts, and any laminated doughs, you will want to keep your ingredients cool. Otherwise, the butter if it gets too warm and worked too much can melt right into the flour and change the desired consistency. If you are substituting butter for lard, and since butter has a percentage of water in it, you may need to add a little more butter in recipes along with less water.
Butter that has salt added, can last about 6 months if it is stored in a darker place where there aren't temperature fluctuations. A good place would be a freezer, or refrigerator that you rarely use like in a garage as a back up refrigerator. As for bakers, again they love the unsalted butter more, and it has a shorter shelf life, about 3 months compared to the 6. Regardless, use your butter up, and you will be doing just fine.
Now, what gooey buttery thing will I make next? Maybe those gooey butter bar cookies, that taste like heaven.