I only use real butter in all of my recipes because it just tastes better and 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 and are not vegan).
One tablespoon (14 grams) of butter provides the following nutrients (Source):
- Calories: 102
- Total fat: 11.5g
- Vitamin A: 11% 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 everyone 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 the recent decades, studies suggest that the cases of other health issues and ailments have increased significantly and are likely linked to this.
Hydrogenation 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. I’d rather produce a better tasting cookie with all natural ingredients than a cookie that doesn’t taste as good and is made with margarine or shortening.
Most large scale bakeries still use margarine and shortening instead of butter though. 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’s 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, the roof of your mouth will feel a little bit coated and pasty inside. This is the margarine or shortening coating your mouth which is unable to melt with your lower body heat.
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 use butter. That was 28 years ago. I don’t know where she is now, but I sincerely thank her for that and so many other lessons and skills she passed on to me that I now use every day.