Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Butter vs. Margarine Cookie Experiment...

After feeling oh so guilty about letting you all know I use margarine half and half with butter in some cookie recipes because I think it improves the cookie texture, I decided I'd better do a little experiment to see 'for sure' if there was really a different between basic cookies baked with...

A. All Butter

B. Half Butter and Half Margarine (my accidental 'discovery' (ha) that I thought had the best texture but never really tested until now)

C. All Margarine

Now usually, I would never use all margarine, but I wanted to just try it out and see what happened. I used the same basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from Good Housekeeping Baking, which is a great book that reminds me of Dorie's Baking From My Home To Yours in a lot of ways. This book has a lot of international recipes (my favorites!) and also 'downhome' favorites and classics, like the chocolate chip cookies. Now are these the best chocolate chip cookies ever? Nah, but they are great, and what one would expect a chocolate chip cookie to be.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 butter OR margarine, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 (I did 350, I almost always do with cookies, just to be safe, I'd rather have them too soft than hard and crunchy) On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. (I just whisked the ingredients up in plate bowls)

2. In a large bowl with mixer on medium speed , beat butter and brown and granulated sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture until blended. With spoon, stir in chocolate pieces.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges are golden. With wide spatula transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

4. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.


After mixing all of the doughs I scooped them out onto my exopat. The top horizontal row were the cookies with all margarine, the middle row were the cookies with half butter and half margarine, and the all butter cookies were on the bottom row.

I was really surprised when they were done baking, you couldn't really tell which cookies were which. Taste testers in my household (dh and I) couldn't even tell the difference. Wow. I guess that the claim on Blue Bonnet margarine "bakes like butter for less than half the price and without the cholesterol" is true. All of the cookies had a nice texture, nice 'puff,' slightly crispy bottom, soft chewy middle, just perfect. I have never tried this with any other brand of margarine so I'm not sure how the others would work. The funny thing about this is that before my first time using margarine half and half with the butter (because I ran out of butter and for some unknown reason I had Blue Bonnet margarine in the fridge) I would have never even dreamed of subbing margarine for butter and really looked down on margarine. I think the reason I had some in the first place is because dh accidentally picked it up when I sent him on a grocery run. I probably scolded him, saying something like, "uck, who uses stick margarine, it's disgusting and will ruin any baked good" hehehe, guess I was wrong, just this once though :)


Cathy said...

Andrea, this is a fabulous post! Thank you for sharing the results of your test kitchen experiment! It is so helpful to know that there is not a discernable difference between butter, margarine, or a combo of the two. Now the next time MY husband picks up the wrong one at the supermarket, I won't worry a bit. And, I can shop the best prices. Thank you for doing this test!

Elra said...

Wow, Andrea
well done with all of that experiment. Never tried to cook with margarine before, but I might consider this recipe if make cookies. Any other experiment coming?

Anonymous said...

Great post. My dad swears by his half butter/half shortening combo. Maybe it is all in his head.

Andrea said...

Thanks so much for the comments guys!

Bakingwiththeboys -- I forgot about shortening cookies, I have 3 or 4 crisco cookie cookbooks and have not been dissapointed by recipes I've tried with shortening. If I do this again, I will do a batch with shortening, dh will be thrilled I'm sure, he loves chocolate chip cookies and was all too happy to help out with the last experiment :)

Beth said...

Thanks for your comment! I think you'll really like the blueberry tart and you can do it with either butter or margarine. I use marg. in almost all my baking recipes that I need to keep non-dairy, for serving with a meat meal (we keep kosher). It works out very well!

Flourchild said...

What a great experiment. I always use butter flavored crisco in my cookies. I love butter but to me it makes the cookies more of a brownie like texture. I just made the TWD brownie cake's so good!

Prudy said...

My husband's family bakes with margarine and honestly they get a better texture and appearance. I like the taste of butter, but this half and half idea is a great way to go.

Shanbanan said...

I guess I'll leave the against argument. World Peace Cookies. My current favorite. I'd made them twice with the butter as requested. I started a third time. The recipe calls for 11 TBSP of butter(I think--something like that anyway). I had 1 stick of butter and finished it up w/ margarine. The dough came together just as expected. Fridge time as directed. Baking time as directed. Visually, total disaster. They tasted wonderful, as always, but they spread so much they were almost like lace cookies.

In general, I don't mind using Blue Bonnet, but never again in this recipe.


Andrea said...

Shan, I'm so sorry that the Blue Bonnet ruined your World Peace Cookies! Thanks for letting me know, I haven't tried those cookies yet but really want to, and will use all butter. I wonder what makes it work with some recipes and totally mess up others? Hmmm. Thanks for the comment :)

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