Functions Of Butter In Baking and When To Use - Best Guide

Functions Of Butter In Baking and When To Use – Best Guide

Last Updated on February 6, 2022 by Zara R.

Are you wondering about the functions of butter in baking? In this article, we will discuss what it is, how it works, and the functions it can perform.

Butter is a surprisingly useful ingredient and you’ll be surprised to learn how crucial it is to many baked items. To name a few, it promotes flavor, creates a tender crumb, and helps enrich products. To learn more about the functions and how you can even substitute butter, read on.

What Is Butter?

This may seem like a very silly question to ask, but you would be surprised how many fake butters there are! Or, how many people think margarine is the same thing as butter!

Butter is a type of dairy product made from an emulsion of the fat and proteins of churned cream. This product contains about 80% milkfat (aka. butterfat), 10-15% water, and 5% milk solids. Butterfat is the fat that is present in milk and cream. Butter is a semi-solid product at room temperature and melts into a liquid when it is heated.

This handy ingredient has many uses. It is mainly used as a flavoring ingredient, to enrich products, and to help add structure to baked goods. It can also be used to adjust the consistency of many recipes, like batters and sauces.

Salted vs unsalted – what’s the difference?

Obviously, salted butter contains salt. Regular butter doesn’t contain any salt and is labeled as “unsalted butter”. These two kinds of butter can be used interchangeably, but they will affect the flavor of your final product.

For example, when using salted butter, it will add some saltiness to your recipe. So, if you are substituting regular (unsalted) butter with salted butter, remove half of the fine salt called for in the recipe. This will help you prevent over-salting the dish or baked good.

When substituting salted butter with regular butter, then you may want to add a pinch of fine salt to the recipe as well.

butter in baking

Butter vs margarine

Butter is made from dairy (an animal-based ingredient) and is very high in saturated fats. Margarine, on the other hand, is made from plant oils, meaning it is often completely vegan.

Margarine is actually commonly referred to as the original vegan butter. People just never realized that’s what it is.

Now, both these ingredients can be used interchangeably, however, each has its benefits and downsides. For example, margarine won’t add a rich and complex flavor, but it generally does add a better texture to products like cookies.

What Does Butter Do In Baking? 

Using butter in baking has a ton of benefits. And, for many dishes, it is a must-add! Butter has a ton of different functions from adding flavor, to improving the structure. We will be discussing each in-depth below.

Adds flavor

This is always the first function you will hear people talk about. Butter adds a very rich and semi-sweet flavor. If you are using salted butter, naturally it will also add some saltiness to your recipe.

While it adds the flavor, it also adds a creaminess that helps carry the other flavors better. It is definitely an enriching ingredient, which is why you will often find enriched bread containing this ingredient specifically.

Improves texture

Butter, but really any type of fat, helps improve the texture of baked goods by making them more tender. This happens because fat helps inhibit the development of gluten (it shortens gluten strands).

How this takes place is as follows; the fat coats the protein found in the flour. When the proteins are coated, they cannot be worked to develop stretchy gluten strands. And, if the gluten strands remain “short”, it creates a more tender crumb.

This is key for baked goods like cookies, cakes, muffins, and even some pastries.

Helps the leavening process

Now, using butter as a leavening agent isn’t commonly heard of. But, butter is actually a fantastic way to leaven your products and give them a specific amount of lift.

Using butter in baking is always incorporated in a few specific ways. If you want to use it for leavening purposes, you have to cream (or whip) the butter first. By doing this, you are introducing air into the butter. When a batter is made and baked, the air molecules expand and give the mixture lift.

Another way this works is with the moisture (water molecules) in the butter itself. Remember, butter contains about 10-15% water. So, when the batter is baked, the water evaporates, creates steam, and gives the product its lift.

Bruntmor Elegant Ceramic Butter Dish with Lid, Covered Butter Keeper 

Does butter make a difference in baking?

By using butter in baking, you are adding more flavor, enrich the product, and make it more tender. And, depending on how you incorporate it, you can also give extra rise to your products. So yes, using butter in baking makes a massive difference.

And, even though other types of fat also functions in a similar way, they don’t have the delicious and enriching flavor that butter has.

Is it better to melt butter for cakes?

Using melted butter generally creates denser cakes and products in general. So, when it comes to which form of butter is better to use, it depends entirely on what you want the texture (or structure) of your item to be.

Melted butter thins a cake batter and will not give it much airiness. So, as we said, it will make the structure of the cake denser. If you want a light and airy cake, you may want to use creamed butter.

What Are Some Vegan Butter Substitutes?

There are many vegan substitutes for butter that will function in a very similar way. The biggest difference they will make is the flavor they add. For example, almond butter will add an almond flavor to your recipe.

Margarine is the most common vegan butter. However, always check the ingredients list to make sure it is completely vegan. Some companies add animal-based products to add more flavor, color, or preserving agents.

Other vegan butters in baking substitutes include cashew butter, silken tofu, applesauce, coconut butter, and mashed banana.

what does butter do in baking

Butter In Baking – Final Words

As you can see, using butter in baking is crucial for some baked goods to help promote good texture and a rich flavor. Feel free to share this article with your fellow bakers to help inform them of the many functions of butter and how it works.

What does butter do in baking?

Butter helps give baked goods a very tender crumb, good creamy flavor, and an enriched texture. It can also promote excellent rise in products by being creamed (aerated).

Does butter make a difference in baking?

Butter makes a massive difference in baked products. It can help shorten the gluten strands in your dough or batter, which will create a more tender crumb. It also helps add flavor,. helps leaven products, and create a creamy enriched texture.

Is it better to melt butter for cakes?

When deciding to use melted butter in a cake, it depends on what texture you want. Melted butter will cerate a denser texture in cakes as it thins the batter. So, if you want an air cake, rather use creamed butter instead.

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