Why Do I Use Butter?

Some of you may wonder why I only use real butter in my recipes rather than margarine. I have a few reasons, the first of which is that it just tastes better. Second, butter isn’t the dietary evil that we’ve been led to believe it is. 

Butter is a natural food that has been used by people for thousands of years as a staple food essential to our diets. It’s a natural fat that your body knows how to metabolize (provided you can eat dairy).

One tablespoon (14 grams) of butter provides the following nutrients (Source):

  • Calories: 102
  • Total fat: 11.5 grams
  • Vitamin A: 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin E: 2% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B12: 1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 1% of the RDI

It was in the 1960’s, that a scientist named Ansel Keys suggested that the fats in butter were to blame for the surge in heart disease cases.

He was the first to suggest such a thing, so everyone believed it and they all began eliminating butter from their diets and replacing it with margarine. Butter became this hated thing that many people turned away from for decades.

We have been told that eliminating saturated fat and cholesterol from our diets will prevent heart disease, however there are no studies that back this up, although many have tried.

Since we have been eliminating the sources of healthy fats from our diets in recent decades the cases of other health issues and ailments have increased significantly.

Hydrogenation

Hydrogenated foods are unhealthy. This is the process that turns a normally liquid fat into a solid spreadable fat.

The consumption of hydrogenated products and processed oils are far more dangerous than eating a natural saturated fat, such as the type found in real butter.

Butter is more costly than margarine, but butter is the best choice for most cookies and it produces a better finished product.

Even with the cost of butter I’d rather produce a better tasting cookie with natural ingredients than a cookie that doesn’t taste as good made with margarine.. 

Most large scale bakeries still use margarine and shortening instead of butter. The reasons for this are understandable and practical because margarine and shortening cost a lot less than butter and they are both a lot more shelf stable than butter. 

Taste the Difference

When it comes to cookies and other baked items that use butter, there is actually a physical reason as to why they “melt in your mouth”.

Margarine and shortening both have a melting temperature higher than your own body temperature, but the melting point of butter is lower than your own body temperature of 37ºC.

Butter melts in the range of 32ºC – 35ºC. Margarine melts anywhere from 35ºC – 45ºC depending on the type. Hydrogenated vegetable shortening melts around 47ºC – 48ºC.

All but one of these items have a melting temperature higher than your own body temperature. The only one that has any hope at all of melting in your mouth is butter. It’s easy to tell when you’ve eaten a baked item that’s been made with margarine or shortening because after you’re done, your mouth will feel a little bit coated and pasty. This is the margarine or shortening coating the roof of your mouth. 

I learned a long time ago from the instructor that originally taught me the foundation of baking that I rely on now, Marlie Van de Ven, that eating a little natural fat in butter is better than eating margarine any day. She didn’t care if the doctors at the time said otherwise, it made perfect sense to me and to this day I’ve followed that philosophy and always buy butter. That was close to 27 years ago. I don’t know where she is now, but I thank her for that and so many other lessons and skills.

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