The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

butter v. oil

zhi.ann's picture

butter v. oil

Does vegetable oil work as a substitute for butter in baking yeast breads? I use it (or applesauce) in baking other stuff. I don't have access to butter or shortening.

nbicomputers's picture

i think you can but there are some things i would look at

1 butter is part fat part water and part milk solids where oil is 100 percent fat

2- butter (and shortening) is solid at room temp where oil is a liqued

 as the bread cools the fats in butter and shortening will return to a solid state where oil will stay liqued   This is why things like doughnuts are fried in shortening so as the product cools and the fat returns to solid the doughnut is less gressy.  if it was fried in oil it would absorb more of the fat and since the fat will stay liqued it would be gressy and oily when eaten.

you would have to adjust the formula by reducing the amount of fat somewhat and under stand that the baked produce will be diferent than if you used the fat called for.

sweet products or rich breads that have a high fat content such as danish or babka would not give you a good result but breads with a low fat content should give an exceptable end result.

applesauce would not be an acceptable substitute because the fat has a lubrcating affect on the gluten in the flour alowing it to expand easer.   applesauce with no fat at all would offer no lubracation,

squatteam's picture

I'm sure lard is available where you live. It served us all well as 'shortening' until some 'nutritionists' decided lard wasn't healthy. Well, they've been proved wrong, and lard is gaining in popularity. It also gives great texture to breads, pie crusts, and cakes. You have to try it at least once. oz

nbicomputers's picture

lard makes the best pie nothing is even close 

i even have a formula for chinese style cookies that calls for lard and the forumula has in big words DO NOT SUBSTUTE..

the only thing wrong with lard is the name and the bad rep it got from thouse know-it-all health guys.

I would make a pie with lard and give it to my friends withour telling them  the all loved it.  the next time i made it with shortening and every one of them wanted to what i changed cause it was not as good as the other pie.

the only reason we stoped using lard in the bakery was we had to tell the people by law that we used lard and because on that bad rep no body would buy them.

boy they sure missed out on a good thing

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'm behind you 100% on that.

But anyone who has chosen not to eat animal products would have to look for a vegetable substitution. I does come down to what flavour is desired and whether a solid or liquid form of fat is required. Sometimes the smoking temperature should be considered and if flavour changes with high temperature.

Recipes that call for melted butter, can just as well use oil.

Mini O

KipperCat's picture

There isn't a lot of butter in most breads. The oil should work just fine as long as it's counted in tablespoons per loaf. If the butter content is high, the differences will be apparent between a loaf made with butter and one with oil, but they should both be good.  Of course, nothing tastes quite as good as butter!

There are a few things, like puff pastry, or piecrust, where the substitution wouldn't work.

There are a few oils, like coconut oil, that are nearly solid at room temperature.   

PaddyL's picture

I only use butter in very rich breads.  I use safflower oil most of the time in baking daily breads.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The only place I could find unsalted butter was Nanjing METRO. I could find salted butter in cities of 100,000 or more. I could also find whipping cream easier, strange enough, and would put the cream in a closed plastic container and shake it till it turned into butter. Goes quicker than with a mixer. (save the buttermilk, now if you wish to innoculate it, it can become cultured buttermilk)   Now the trick is to reduce the amount of milk liquids in the butter so it won't sour in two days, that comes with stirring it or kneading it with a spatula or spoon submerged in ice water. Change water and repeat till the water is clear. Remove from water and press out any water pockets. A pinch of salt also helps preservation but the best way to store is to freeze after pressing out any water.

WATER: (Gosh I hope you're drinking bottled water in rural China.) A trick with using ice water is to keep a 1 liter plastic bottle !/3 filled with drinking water on it's side in the freezer. When needed add room temp drinking water and in a minute, have enough to cool hard boiled eggs, etc. without using tap water or frosting up the freezer. The remaining ice chunk can be put back into the freezer, ready for the next time.

Mini O

zhi.ann's picture

I think for now I'll stick with recipes that call for none or very little butter... I can get lard but it's sold in HUGE quantities (any ideas on how long lard stays good? even so it's bigger than any cabinets we have...). Thanks everyone for your advice... most of which will probably make more since once I actually start baking!

alabubba's picture

Lard is very easy to make. All it is is rendered animal fat. Is there a local butcher or a farmer nearby that slaughters animals? They would probably give you some fat (or at least it should be cheap).

I did this for the first time last month. 7lbs of fat turned into 4 lbs of beautiful creamy white lard and a couple pounds of cracklings.

moreyello's picture

Sorry I need to ask, but where do you live that your limited these


naschol's picture

I use oil all the time in bread recipes calling for butter.  I don't really see a difference.  I use light olive oil (no taste difference) or extra virgin olive oil (very slight taste difference).



zhi.ann's picture

This is great to know - I'll try it out... I'm probably not a very sensitive taster because I acutally always used applesauce instead of at least half the fats when I baked in the states, and never noticed a difference in taste or texture!

tananaBrian's picture

The short answer is yes, the type of oil does make a difference.  But for you you have any East Indian populations living in the area?  If so, try to find an East Indian grocery store, or section within a regular grocery store, and look for ghee.  Ghee is, I believe, the same thing as clarified butter.  Not sure on the definition, but the way it is made is by simmering butter and scooping out the milk solids as they appear.  When no more bits of milk solids (whitish) appears and the hot butter is clear, then it is refridgerated and used in cooking and for lubricating cooking pans.

As far as using different oils go, I know it makes a difference.  Once upon a time, I experimented with using different types of oils, different types and grades of sugar, different types and grades of salt, and different types of brushed-on finishes on bread.  For the oil, butter definitely produced a finer and softer crumb than anything else (at the time, I did not know what ghee or clarified butter was and did not try them).  Shortening was also good, and plain oils (vegetable, soy etc) didn't produce as fine a product.  I don't recall any major differences with salt v. the final product.  Sugars were perhaps the most interesting ...I found that finer-grained sugars produced a softer bread, and that honey definitely went in the other direction.  The finest (meaning softest and most even crumb that also lacked big holes) was from sugar boiled in water.  I have a recipe for overnight rolls that uses this technique where the sugar is boiled in the water for a full 5 minutes and then the oil is added directly to the hot water, then the water is cooled and used in the recipe.  NOT following those directions makes the rolls tougher and they have a less interesting flavor as well.