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Why is butter better for baking than margarine or other fats?

Mar 24, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Butter is the fat that melts closest to body temperature so there is no perception of greasiness on the palate. Not only does it offer its own lovely flavor, it also enhances the flavor of other ingredients.

Comments

How do we know the butter is well beat. Why my cake become oily..?

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in cake bible there are instructions for keanding butter in ice water to squeeze out as much water in the butter as possible. alternatively use the butter you have.

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Katherine See
Katherine See
06/ 5/2008 08:18 AM

I cannot find high-butterfat butter (Plugra) here in the Philippines. Is it possible to mix butter with something else to compensate with the high water content of butter? I know it is a crime for you to substitute anything less but I really would like to try make your puff pastry.
FYI I used our local butter in the all-butter pie crust but the crust turned out to be tough. I ended up using margarine which turned out better textured. At least it taste better than shortening pie crust.

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i don't make eggless cakes but in general too much butter results in a dense and greasy texture.

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hi rose,

i was wondering, i'm making an eggless cake... what happens if too much butter is added to the mixture??

i'm a beginner as you can tell!

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Gee - 5 days is a very long time for a cake to survive, let alone stay moist. If you want to make your cake layers that far in advance, I'd suggest double wrapping in plastic wrap, then wrap in foil, then freeze for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before decorating.

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Though I am not new to baking, I've only discovered the problems with butter in cakes now that I've started more professional cake decorating. I understand the taste advantage of butter versus oil but am frustrated by the fact several of my butter based cakes have dried out within 5 days of baking. Is a short shelf life normal for butter cakes? Is there a way to store cakes made with butter to prevent dry out? Are "professional cakes" made with butter or do they use oil (which I've found to hold moistness longer) or something else to prevent them from drying out? HElP!

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Ok guys I would like to share a piece of chemical information with you. Shortening as well as Margerine contains Mono and Diglycerides. These are chemicals that are IDENTICAL to fat with a missing molecule. However, your body recognizes it as a "FAT" and replaces adds that molecule. These are known as synthetic fats and they are very unhealthy and harmful. Butter on the other hand contains natural fats that your body does recognize. these fats are not as unhealthy as Marketers may have you think(Yes I am a Marketer). I may have brought up a past subject but I just wanted to share some of my experiences in chemistry class. Oh and by the way, stay away from anything that says fat free because IT IS NOT!

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Great, I'll use the ghee. Thanks everyone--you all just saved me from doing several very greasy dishes!

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all this is true, noisette does indeed mean that the milk solids have been allowed to turn deep golden brown which adds a richer flavor. but ghee will certainly work.

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Actually, I've seen Ghee recipes that call for toasting the milk solids, and others that tell you specifically to avoid toasting them (this is also known as clarified butter). BTW - noisette in French means hazelnut (most likely referring to the color of the milk solids in this recipe, but maybe referring to the nutty flavor the browned bits impart, then again maybe both???).

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AnnieBlue,
I think they are exactly the same. If you read Rose's description at the back of the Cake Bible, that is exactly how you make Ghee. I always keep it on hand too. It is wonderful to brush on freshly baked bread.

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Rose, I'm about to attempt your Classic Genoise recipe and noticed that beurre noisette sounds similar to the nutty and fragrant Indian clarified butter, ghee. My online searches are pulling up conflicting information on whether they taste the same, so I was wondering if you have ever experimented with ghee. If so, do you think it would be an appropriate substitute? I always have ghee on hand and would love to use it if I can.

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they are two different doughs entirely. fillo is much thinner and has less butter. for more information about dough please consult the pie and pastry bible.

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Is there a difference in Filo(sp?) dough and puff pastry that you buy at the store?
thanks!

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it's killing me that i've finished the book and production takes so long what with editing and all the photos! i want everyone to have all my new favorites RIGHT AWAY!!! unfortunately we all have to wait. but i think it will be worth it.

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oh keep me in suspense! until your book is ready i'll have to get to work myself. thanks

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i did some massive recipe testing for the new book and found that replacing butter with oil in a butter layer cake did not give any flavor. i finally arrived at one cake that i'm really pleased with but i'm afraid you'll have to wait for that one til the new book comes out.
if you want to try experimenting, simply keep in mind that oil is 100% fat and butter is about 81% fat, 15.5% water and the rest milk solids.
or you could make a génoise which has the wonderful flavor of butter and a moistand light texture.

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I have been haveing a very hard time finding a white/yellow cake that is both light and moist. I find butter, whiel tasty really weighs down the cakes. I woudl like to try replacing my butter with oil in a layer cake recipe but was wondering what the ratio is for doing this?

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I lived in Germany for 2 years. I never saw any self-rising flour. Look in the cake Bible for "cake flour". The book tells you how much baking soda and salt are in American self rising flour. Then, buy some German 405 weissen meile and add in the salt and bs to fit your recipe. You can't get bleached flour in Germany, so your recipe won't bake up exactly the same.

What's a rock cake?

Oh, if you have any friends in the Army, they can probably get American flours at the commissary. I didn't know anyone in the Army, so I just had to go it on my own.

Mona

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I have just moved to Germany and want to bake rock cakes. Do you know the mame of flour that would be self raising?

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after one day room temp, you need to refrigearte.

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what is the better storing method for butter cream gateaux?

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since that was the original posting at the top of this thread i thought i didn't need to repeat it!

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David Chessler
David Chessler
02/16/2007 10:18 PM

It's more than that. Butter melts at body temperature, but margarine doesn't. Thus a croissant or other pastry made with margarine will taste oily or greasy in the mouth.

In a crust, butter and margarine can be balanced to determine how tender or flakey the crust is. That's why some chefs use a mixture, and why lard has (or had) such a good reputation in pie crust.

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because margarine has no flavor.

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dear rossie, i have been wondering why croissant made with butter is more palatable and has a better flavour than croissant made with margarine?

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my butter cakes are like that but only when just baked. after a few hours the crust will soften. no--oil won't do it.

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Vicki Cilley
Vicki Cilley
02/ 3/2007 07:56 PM

I remember when I was a little girl, pound cakes had a crusty outside and a tender inside. The cake had a buttery taste. Will using vegetable shortening instead of butter give this kind of crusty outside to the cake? Do you know what will?

Thanks!
Vicki

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it's entirely possible that the carrots vary in moisture so try wrapping them in paper towel to absorb excess moisture. i trust you are doing everything else consistently . do let me know how it works.

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Dear Rose,
I made the carrot bread from your bread bible yesterday. It was very wet and like a pudding rather a bread after it's cooled. I have made it 4 times. Fail for the first time and after seeing Marie's blog I tried again and had 2 times success but yesterday I failed again. I weighed the ingredients carefully. One thing I noticed was that the carrot may be too wet. Do you think I shoud squeeze the water from the carrot shreds before adding to the batter?What else could I have err? This recipe calls for safflour oil rather than butter. Does it make a differece? Hope you can spot out the vital key to rebuilt my confidence. thank you.

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you'll need to consult a book on baking for the diabetic as this is not my area of expertise and my personal and professional choice is to avoid (as in eat something natural that's on the diet)rather than to substitute.

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I am an amateur in baking and I would like to bake for my diabetic friends, please let me know the best shortening i can use as substitue.

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there are only two reasons i would recommend sifting flour:

if you measure instead of weigh

when you're adding the flour to a light
mixture in which case you would sift the flour directly onto it

i see no benefit in sifting into a container.

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Rose,
I'm wondering... if I sift my flours before storing them in Tupperware containers, how long will the flour retain the benefits of sifting?

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Here a a question for the person who just moved to France and is using UK flour. What part of France do you live in and what are you trying to make? I used to live in Germany close to the French border. I often shopped in France because it was fun, I speak French well and German only so-so, meat cuts are nicer etc. HOWEVER, the flour in France and the flour in Germany are very similar, but are labeled differently. I bought flour in either country, and after a little experimenting, could make all my recipes just fine. You can't get bleached flour in Europe (at least not where I lived and shopped--'mauvais pour la santé" (bad for health, as if all those croissants are good for it!!!)

French flour type numbers (type de farine) are a factor 10 smaller than those used in Germany, because they indicate the ash content (in milligrams) per 10 g flour. Type 55 is the standard, hard-wheat white flour for baking, including puff pastries ("pâte feuilletée") Type 45 is often called pastry flour, but is generally from a softer wheat. Types 65, 80, and 110 are strong bread flours of increasing darkness, and type 150 is a wholemeal flour.

The preceding paragraph came from wikipedia. Good luck with the baking.

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the answer to your question about flavor is at the very top. as for texture, margarine has a different melting point which affects the spread of the cookie. (i do hope i am not adding to your impression of nonsense!)

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Leah Shnidman
Leah Shnidman
01/14/2007 11:03 AM

I think it is totally absurd! all this nonsence about everything! i went through the whole thing and i could find the most simple question, Why when baking cookies does the texture and taste change when substituting the Margarine? my daughter is going frantis trying to find the answer for her report!!

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the only reason i can see for using margarine is if one is kosher and serving it as dairy free although most brands of margarine have a dairy component in them. they are designed to simulate butter as far as water content and milk solids so no changes would need to be made.
hershey's does make a dutch-processed or alkalized cocoa but many chocolate experts use the two interchangeably. i find that the dutched cocoa is more mellow which you may be perceiving as sweeter. that makes sense!

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Hi Rose! I hope your having a wonderful holiday! I made a few cookies from your Christmas cookie book and everyone adored them! It was the best sugar cookie I ever had!
Now, I was wondering, if a recipe should call for butter, and I use margarine must I alter the recipe in any way to make it as close to possible as if I was using butter?
And about unsweetened cocoa. Does Hershey's make both unsweetened and Dutch-processed cocoa? My grocery store only carries Hershey's unsweetened. And I've seen in recipes cocoa be called Dutch-processed unsweetened. I always thought Dutch-processed was a tad bit sweeter. If you could clear things up for me, I'd greatly appreciate that. Thanks again Rose!

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half and half should be great!

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When baking cookies or sweet breads, I notice some recipes use butter and some use oil. What would happen if you tried using half and half?
I like the flavor of butter but the moist texture from the oil. Can I use both in the same recipe?

Thanks,
Kitty

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Debbie Connelly
Debbie Connelly
12/ 6/2006 10:44 AM

Hi,

I have only just found this wonderful site after putting pastry into 'google'.

I am searching for the melt in the mouth butter desert pastry that my nan (now sadly passed away) used to make. Every Christmas she would make the mince pies and the pastry was always soft and sprinked with caster sugar. I only remember that she used an egg yolk and and lard but everything else is a mystery. It would really make my day is someone knows of the correct recipe.

Thank you.

Debbie

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i'm sorry allan, i guess i got confused bc i though elicia was giving instructions re using my puff pastry. i guess you guys will have to work this out on your own bc i'm embroiled in writing my cake book with occasional detours into bread and other detours answering questions to which i already have the answers!

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Elicia,

Thanks for the tips. Regarding the low and slow baking, if you look at the latter 2 photo links I provided, the custard on the tarts has turned a deep golden color which I think may indicate that they have been baked at a lower temp. I've heard somewhere that the way to make the custard surface soft and shiny is to brush some syrup on them after removing them from the oven. I'll experiment some and will definitely report back my findings.

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Hi Allan,

BTW, one more thing - I noticed I made a slight error in the recipe. The filling amount is only sufficient for half the dough - you will need to double it if you use up all the dough for approx 50 pcs.

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Hi Allan,

I used 2 1/2 inch tartlet moulds - deep ones are better as they will hold more custard.

Not sure about slow n low baking, but my 'research' of several dimsum cookbooks suggest the high temp so that the custard remains soft textured with a shiny mirrorlike surface. If baked too long, the surface will not shine and the texture will be a tad dry! In fact, I remove it once just set and still very wobbly. If the residual heat does not cook it well enough, I simply return it into the still-warm oven (already off)for a little while. I also experienced a little of the uncooked bottom crust initially - it was easily remedied by taking a cue from the Pastry Bible's tips - I baked it at the lowest rack possible and preheated the tray on which the tarts are to be placed! These tarts are best eaten fresh from the oven - so I usually divide the dough into 4 and make only batches of 12-13 each time! It is pretty quick to whip up once the pastry is moulded in the tins. Hope to hear of your success with this and perhaps you can share your pumpkin tart recipe with us!

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Hmmm...so how would I adapt Elicia's recipe to the "quick puff" method, assuming the "water dough" is analogous to a detrempe and the "oil dough" to the butter layer? Could I simply mix together all the dry ingredients, cut the solid fat into it, add the liquid, then give it a few folds?

I've found a few pics online to give you an idea of what Elicia and I are discussion:

http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d83/islandboy888/eggtarts.jpg
http://www.potatomato.com/mt/archives/image/DSC04518.jpg
http://static.flickr.com/6/7081015_5e2741a523.jpg

The interesting thing about these tarts is that conventional puff pastry won't work for them--the dough wouldn't dry out as they bake and you'd end up with a tough, chewy crust. Elicia's recipe looks very promising, and if I can master them in time for Thanksgiving I'd like to make mini-pumpkin tarts for dessert.

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thanks allan. just one suggestion--if you opt for the puff pastry you might actually prefer the easier and quicker "quick puff" which is adequately flakey and more tender.

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Elicia, thank you so much! I will try them soon. What size tartlet mould do you use? I notice that you use a fairly high temperature to bake them. I have heard a hint from a Chinese baker (who refused to provide his recipe) that they should be baked at low and slow.

Rose, you must taste these custard tarts. I understand that top Chinese bakers jealously guard their recipes for these pastries and that is why it's so difficult to find a good recipe for them. I'm sure you would be able to figure out how they're made.

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Hi Allan,

Here's my recipe - hope it will taste like those you have had!

Water dough
300g mid-gluten flour/pastry flour
50ml veg oil
1 egg
40g sugar
80-100ml cold water

Oil dough
300g cake flour
100g butter
250g lard

Make the puff pastry as per Rose's pastry bible method - 4 turns wld be sufficient.

Filling
4 eggs
275ml water
120g sugar
4 tsp sweetened condensed milk

Cut rounds of pastry and press into tartlet moulds. Refrigerate overnight. Mix filling ingredients (use hot water to dissolve sugar, then cool before adding eggs), strain. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Pour filling 3/4 full into moulds, bake on lowest rack 8 mins, reduce temp to 190 degrees C and bake another 2-3mins till just set and slightly wobbly. Remove and cool in the moulds - residual heat will set the egg filling.

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i've never eaten them nor made them but hopefully someone else on this blog has and will be willing to share.

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Elicia,

Would you mind sharing your technique for making Chinese custard tarts? This is one of my favorite types of dim sum and I've had a very difficult time finding a good recipe for it.

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melted butter coats the flour particles more thoroughly for ex. when making a crumb topping, melted butter added to the flour and sugar results in a crisper topping.

you can reduce the amount of high fat butter slightly if the reason you are using this butter is to reduce the amount of liquid. otherwise you might as well just use the lower fat butter. how much you reduce it really depends on how high the butterfat is of the butter you are using. but even with the highest butterfat butter available which is around 86% you would only use 1 ounce less per pound.

please NOTE: i would not use a higher butterfat butter for making cakes or even pie crusts as it will throw off the liquid:fat balance and result in a cake for ex. that may dip in the center and be too tender with pockets of unemulsified butter.

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I have a couple of recipes that call for melted butter. I have substituted slightly softened butter and the results seems the same. Is there a benefit to melting the butter before adding it to the dough mixture? Also, if using high-butterfat butter, should the amount used be reduced?
Thanks!

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no, lard is not a necessary ingredient in bread.

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do you have 2 use lard 2 make bread please tell me because i want to mak ebread and dont have any money 2 go and buy some lard because we ran out of it a week ago

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given a choice i only use natural ingredients. in my book there's simply no substitute for butter that gives as good a flavor. scientific theories about other fats keep changing but bottom line for me is what tastes the best.

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Rose,

i have always used butter in my baking. however, i was recently told that this would make my 'masterpiece' contain higher cholestrol and fat than if i used margarine. i was also informed that one would easily be sick of the taste.

on the other hand, i heard that margarine gives out cancer-causing chemicals when subjecred to high heat.

please help me verify these.

your help would be greatly appreciated.

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Hi Angeline,

I don't add any special oils to the dough for egg tarts. But for the wife cakes, I think chinese sesame seed oil is more appropriate.

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Thanks Elicia.
I added vanilla oil to the winter melon filling but it doesn't smell nice at all no matter how many drops I put. Is there any other option I can use to make the filling more fragrant?

Do you add vanilla oil to your water and oil dough?

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ron, i am not knowledgeable about special diets or substitutions for basic essential ingredients used in baking. i am sure there are books on the subject of baking for diabetics or even information on line. i'm truly sorry i can't help.

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Hi Angeline,

Don't know if this will help - but I used pastry flour for the water dough, and cake flour for the oil dough. Also I used lard and some french butter for the oil dough, but much less was needed than the original recipe - just 250g lard + 100g butter (for flavour) to 600g cake flour.

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ron johnson
ron johnson
10/17/2006 04:19 PM

rose,

did u get my question about my diabetic son. i would like to bake cookies for him from my home but would like to know what ingredients i could use in the cookie; while i mintor his blood sugar.

ron johnson

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Hi everyone,

I read about the Hongkong egg tart making by Elicia and I'm trying to make chinese wife cakes( winter melon cakes). According to the recipe, it is almost the same as the one posted by Elicia.After trying out many times, I found the cakes very dry and not tender like the ones I tasted from Hongkong.I can still remember the tender taste of the cakes so I decided to make it myself.

Can anyone tell me the differences between :
All purpose flour, plain flour and wheat flour?

Does the type of flour I used affect the texture of the cakes?

Please advise. Thanks!

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elida--i was so happy and gratified to get your posting about the chinese pastry partly bc i really wasn't sure how much i could help and mostly bc you've been able to achieve what you were hoping for which is always in baking and probably in most everything else hard won--the ultimate joy.yes--you're right--rendered lard is probably as close to 100% fat as you can get--like clarified butter or oil. but it's chemical makeup is such that it layers perfectly within the pastry and keeps just the right consistency temperature-wise which is perhaps the most critical aspect of all pastry making.
i do hope my great grandfather the rabbi is not rolling over in his grave hearing me extoll the vitues of lard but fact is fact.

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Hi Rose,

Yes, I've taken your advice and experimented strenuously with shortening vs lard for the egg tart chinese flaky pastry. I rendered caul fat as per your instructions in the Pie & Pastry Bible - it was easy and fuss-free and the lard was beautifully fragrant and creamy. When I made the pastry with a combination of french butter and lard, the pastry was simply heavenly - extremely flaky and tender. In fact, I realised that it was the lard that rendered the unmistakable flavour to the egg tart reminiscent of the authentic ones I have tasted at fine dimsum restaurants. I tried a variety of combinations of shortening and butter (and even heavy cream), but while the pastry may be close in terms of tenderness, it was vastly lacking in flavour. Moreover, I had to adjust by using more shortening as opposed to the lard in the lard pastry, and the dough was difficult to work with - as it either gets very sticky when it get a bit warm or it hardens too much when chilled. Chilled lard, on the other hand, is solid enough to work with yet not so hard that it wld break through the water dough. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe it that special consistency of the lard that makes the major difference (not too hard, yet not too soft - very similar to good quality French butter, but with 100% fat!). I've given up trying to make Hongkong Egg Tarts without lard - everyone just loves my lard version! Thank you so much for the valuable explanations and tips in your book - they were invaluable to my experiments with the chinese flaky pastry!

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clarified butter (with the milk solids and water removed) is considered to be butter "oil"and works very much the same way as oil for filo. if you used melted butter that has not been clarified the moisture would make the dough soggy.

of course the flavor is different but as far as the leaves breaking more easily, i have not found this to be true at all.

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I would like to know if it is better to use butter than oil to paint filo dough. I have heard that with oil the leaves tend to break more easily. Is this correct?
tks,

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you are up against two impossibilities for american cakes: french high butterfat butter and uk flour. please read the posting on the blog labelled "crossing the atlantic by cookbook"(do a search in the boxd to the left and it will pop up)

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Key Proudlock
Key Proudlock
09/22/2006 07:13 AM

I have recently moved to France and notice that when baking American cakes with French butter the crust is hard and dry. Butter only pastry is similar. I usually use UK flour.

Any idea what is going on?

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you're right--there is nothing like lard for tenderness and flakiness. everything else would be a compromise.
i'm not familiar with the chinese flaky pastry. the only thing i can recommend is to keep experimenting. i find that the most tender and flaky pastry is made with filo dough! if you can't purchase that, i would try the quick puff pastry, using high butterfat butter.

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Hi Rose,

Not sure if you are familiar with chinese flaky pastry - a chinese-style puff pastry made with lard? I have been trying to achieve this extremely tender and light pastry used for the authentic Hongkong-style egg tarts, but sans lard as most Malaysians cannot consume pork. I have tried to modify the recipe replacing the lard with shortening but it turned out too messy to roll and the fats boiled over the egg custard while baking! Subsequently, I tried to understand the workings of shortening vs butter from your Pie & Pastry Bible, and then modified by reducing the fat content slightly and using a combination of unsalted french butter and shortening - it came closer to the original tender and flaky pastry I've tasted at fine chinese dimsum restaurants. Nonetheless, here's the original recipe:
Oil Dough
300g cake flour
60g butter
600g lard

Water Dough
300g all-purpose flour
1 egg
40ml veg oil
40g sugar
115ml cold water

Any ideas on how I can achieve the same tenderness without lard? Wld you suspect a mistake in the ingredients as 600g lard seems to be a lot! If lard is indispensable in this recipe, how do I ensure minimum stickiness when rolling the dough in our hot and humid kitchens? Even when I chill the dough, it softens too fast for me to do proper turns or to roll out thinly to cut the rounds! Wld substituting with an item called 'pastry margarine' work? Pls help!!

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i use lard in pie crusts for savory pies or tarts (the most flaky of all crusts) otherwise always butter.

i only use high butterfat butter for flaky pastry, i.e. danish, puff pastry...

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
03/24/2006 09:32 AM

Hi Rose,

You probably knew this would come up in regards to the butter discussion - I often see mention of the use of shortening for pie crusts or some combination of butter/shortening. I know there are advantages to shortening, but can never get myself to use it as I feel I'm skimping on taste. For pie crusts, obviously butter provides better flavor, but are there times when you propose using shortening over fat with certain pastries/crusts?

Also, do you notice a difference in flaky pastries when using high butterfat butter vs. low butterfat butter?

Thanks, Zach

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