What is the difference between butter and margarine? We spoke to a professional baker
We spoke to professional baker Alex Luiz about fats in baking
At first, the obvious difference between butter and margarine is the price. Butter is clearly far more expensive, but why? And what’s the difference between margarine, spreads and other products? Do any of them make your baking better – or, more importantly, worse? Where can you cut some corners and save a few rands?
Alex Luiz is the head baker at Pie in the Sky Bakery, incorporating Coimbra Family Bakery in Cape Town. Coimbra has been baking since 1962 and continues to offer the finest cakes, pies, pastries and fresh breads. Alex oversees over 100 employees who produce up to 8,000 bread rolls per hour at maximum capacity.
We sat down with Alex Luiz and asked him all of our questions.
The main difference between the two products is that butter is a product made from dairy fat from cows whereas margarine is made primarily from vegetable fat.
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What is butter?
Any product called “butter” must be made from cream that is skimmed from cows’ milk. Butter may either be salted or unsalted. Examples of kinds of butter are Springbok, Lurpak and Kerrygold.
What is margarine?
Margarine is a processed product that is made in the style of natural butter but uses cheaper and more stable vegetable oils from plants such as canola, sunflower or palm oil. Margarine will often also have added yellow colour to imitate the appearance of butter, as margarine is naturally a pale white colour. Examples of kinds of margarine are Rama Original and Stork.
A product called “margarine” must be at least 80% fat content. Not all kinds of margarine are strictly plant-based, however – some contain a small percentage of milk solids to improve flavour and texture.
What is a spread?
A fat spread is a completely different product, that contains less than 80% fat. It often has added water to keep the product soft and spreadable at room temperature. Most will be labelled with the percentage of fat clearly visible, for example, “40% fat spread”. Fat spreads are often softer and spreadable, and will come in a rigid plastic container instead of foil or wax paper. Examples of spreads are Rama, Sunshine D, Butro and Flora.
When should I use butter and when should I use margarine?
Butter has a richer flavour and texture and makes all the difference to your cookies, cakes, pastries and puddings. It will make your puff and short pastries light and flaky. Margarine is excellent for making buttercream frosting. As it is a stabilised product, it will whip beautifully and takes on more air, creating fluffy and soft icing for your cakes and cupcakes.
Can I swap butter for margarine?
Yes, you can swap equal measures of butter for margarine or vice versa. Using half and half butter and margarine is a great way to improve the flavour of your baking and it’s much cheaper than using all-butter.
Can I make pastries like croissants with margarine?
No, margarine contains too much moisture and won’t provide the crispy, flaky texture that you’re looking for. All-butter is the only way here, and once you taste the difference you’ll soon agree.
Can I freeze margarine and butter?
Butter freezes and defrosts very well. In fact, it is better to work with butter while it is slightly chilled. Margarine does not freeze well and the texture may be affected when it comes to defrosting. It stores very well in the fridge and can be used at room temperature.
Is margarine vegan?
Not always. Some kinds of margarine and spreads have added milk solids, which are not suitable for vegans.
About Pie in the Sky
In 2020, the Pie in the Sky team launched the Knead and Rise initiative, to help keep their staff employed while assisting feeding programmes across the Western Cape.
Alex told us: “We hope to work with all our stakeholders, get our factory moving again, bring our employees back and make a meaningful difference to society. We are in an incredibly fortunate position to help those who are unable to help themselves. If we can get our facility running at higher capacity levels again, we would have the ability to produce and distribute thousands of bread rolls and other bakery product to those in need!”
Read more at http://www.pie-in-the-sky.co.za/knead-and-rise/
What baking advice would you like to hear more about? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll get you the answers to your kitchen questions.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Agricultural product standards act, 1990 (ACT No. 119 OF 1990)
Regulations relating to the classification, packing and marking of fat spreads intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Agricultural product standards act, 1990 (act no. 119 of 1990)
Regulations relating to the classification, packing and marking of dairy products and imitation dairy products intended for sale in the Republic of South Africa.