You may notice there is a wide variety of choices in the grocery store dairy case when it comes to sticks to use for baking. "Butter," "margarine" and "spread" are common types of stick products. It’s easy to be confused by the difference between them. Can you really use just any stick for your baked goods with confidence? The short answer is, "No." Let me explain.
Let’s first understand what the different choices are. Most of the products you see displayed on the shelves fall into three categories: butter, margarine and spreads. According to USDA regulations, butter and margarine must contain at least 80% fat. In butter, that fat comes from milkfat. But in the case of margarine, the fat can come from vegetable sources or a combination of animal and vegetable sources. The USDA does not specify how much fat should be in the spreads category, so the fat content varies between brands. If it doesn’t say "butter" or "margarine," look at the front of the package to determine the exact percentage of fat. The only way to be sure you are buying margarine is if it clearly states "margarine" on the box.
Butter, Margarine and Spreads at a Glance
|Butter ||80% ||Milkfat ||Less than 20% |
|Margarine ||80% ||Vegetable and/or milkfat ||Less than 20% |
|Spreads ||Varies, can be less than 60% oil ||Vegetable ||Up to 40% water |
Since the fat content is not regulated in spreads, many brands will substitute water for oil. In some brands, they have increased the percentage of water up to 40%. That’s almost half water!
So, what happens if you bake with a spread instead of an 80% fat margarine? Fat plays an important role in the structure, moistness and tenderness of a baked good. It also is necessary to aid in browning. By reducing the amount of fat, baked goods tend to turn out drier, tougher and lighter-colored. Plus, extra water in a recipe can mean soggy cookies, stale cakes and unpredictable baking.
If you want cookies that get crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, cakes that stay fresh longer and, most importantly, recipes that turn out the way they should, Land O Lakes Margarine® will be your favorite secret ingredient.