The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Butter vs Oil in whole wheat sandwich bread

Heidi77's picture
Heidi77

Butter vs Oil in whole wheat sandwich bread

Hi guys, I've been a long time silent reader just because I consider myself an amateur baker but there's this one thing that I didn't find answered anywhere and keeps happening to me over and over:

For quite some time I have been making the same recipe of whole wheat sandwich bread —which usually turns beautiful, by the way— with butter. How come everytime I try to make it with vegetable oil I don't get (by far) the same rise nor any kind of oven spring whatsoever?

I really hope that anyone can help me,

Thanks.

rgconner's picture
rgconner

Butter is a mix of oil and water. about 80% oil (fat) and %20 water. Good butter might be as high as 86% fat.

By using oil you are effectively using less water and adding more fat.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

To add to what rgconner posted I will say that when I replace butter with oil in one of my formulas I have to use about twice as much oil as I would butter to adjust for the difference.  I bake with 100% whole wheat  freshly ground flour with 'everything' in it which does perform differently then 'white' flour does so this may not apply to your situation.  

It is something that I learned in Laurel Robertson's Bread Book.  She did explain why but I have long since forgotten the specifics...I just know it works so I do it.   :)

 

rgconner's picture
rgconner

Butter also has a very low smoking point:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

 

which is probably why it browns easier.

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

Following on from rgconner's comment about the amount of water in butter: that water leaches out during baking and turns to steam. It's the leavening effect of that steam, plus a tiny amount of air which was also suspended in the butter, which is giving you the oven spring which the oil isn't.

Heidi77's picture
Heidi77

Thanks for all the comments and suggestions but I find hard to believe that the differences between oil and butter could really be the cause/explanation for the absence of raise and/or oven spring. Specially since I have baked many many times wonderful loaves of whole wheat Challah (using just oil, naturally). So I guess you're all going to have to dig deeper for a true answer to the question.

One more thing I can tell you is that when I make the dough with oil it seems to proof faster than the butter one but it doesn't raise so much and if I try to proof it longer it just develops really big bubbles in the surface (overproofed?).

pmccool's picture
pmccool

what is the difference (ingredients and process) between this while wheat bread and the whole wheat challah?  It seems you might want to do some comparisons and draw some inferences from that.  Let us know what you find. 

Paul

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I would suspect the eggs would make a difference in the rise of challah, especially if whole eggs are used.  The yolks add protein and saturated fats, and the whites bring albumin to the party.

cheers,

gary

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

First, some bread science 101:

Without added fats, gas bubbles are held by a protein film, mostly gluten.  As fat is added, it mixes with and begins to displace the protein film with its own lipid film.  The combination makes for a less stable, or weaker film than the protein film and you end up with less loaf volume.

But! (Throw in a "hallelujah" here)  Saturated and monounsaturated (butter, lard, tallow, schmaltz and some oils seen below) lipids' films are more stable, stronger, than the protein and loaf volume increases with increased fat, up to about 10% by weight of the flour.  Loaf volume hits its nadir at about 4% fat.

Polyunsaturated fats (your usual vegetable oil) form a weak and unstable lipid film, so loaf volume continues to drop with increasing oil.

Not all oils are bad for bread, or your own health for that matter.  Olive, coconut, peanut and canola oils are low in polyunsaturated fats, thus good for bread baking and good for you.  The latter, canola oil, is marginal, but it's not fit for human consumption anyway. ;-)

cheers,

gary