Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Week 4: Margarine vs. Butter

If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?

The Great Debate: Margarine vs. Butter
Margarine. Originally developed as an alternative to butter, margarine is vegetable fat that is processed into a spread that can be used in just about every recipe or application that calls for butter. Whether formed into sticks or processed into a soft spread that can be taken from the refrigerator to the table, margarine is available in a number of supermarkets, and is often priced at a very affordable rate. More recently, margarine sprays have become an important part of the food landscape in many nations around the world.

The variety of uses for margarine runs a wide range. In cooking, margarine is often employed as an ingredient in the making of pie crusts, cakes, casseroles, and many desserts. Margarine spread is often found at the breakfast table, providing a quick and tasty addition to toast, hot biscuits, bagels, and English muffins. Melted margarine also works well as an additive to baked potatoes and a topping on cooked green vegetables. At snack time, melted margarine is an excellent topper for freshly popped popcorn.

Generally, margarine is produced with a combination of different types of vegetable oils. Some brands tend to use soybean oil, whiles other favor corn oil. As part of the preparation process, the oil undergoes hydrogenation. The addition of more molecules of hydrogen to the mixture helps to achieve the solid texture required if margarine is to resemble the look and texture of a butter spread. Generally more easily spread than many forms of butter, margarine was first touted to be a healthy alternative to the higher content of fat found in fresh butter. 

One of the drawbacks is that the process of hydrogenation converts some of the unsaturated fats in the oils to saturated fats. However, a number of margarine products are now appearing that contain lower amounts of saturated fats, which has helped margarine to still be appealing to health conscious individuals. Currently, there are types of margarine on the market today that claim to have less than half the usual level of unsaturated fat in the product, without compromising the taste.[1]

Butter. Butter is made by beating cream, the thickest, fattiest part of milk. As the cream is beaten, the fat globules begin to stick together, forcing the cream to form a solid mass of milkfat, also known as butter. Although many people are taught to refrain from consuming fatty products, pure butter without additives contains healthy fatty acids, which benefit cholesterol levels and general health. While an excess of butter can be harmful, the food is not inherently bad for you.

There are two types of butter: traditionally made butter, which uses soured milk, and fresh butter. Traditional butter is sometimes labeled as “European Butter” in stores, and you may have noticed that it has a rich, slightly sour, intense flavor. Butter made with fresh cream is much more mild. Butter also comes in salted and unsalted formats. Traditionally, butter was heavily salted to keep it from going rancid. Butter is more lightly salted today that it was historically, so that the salty flavor does not dominate the butter. Unsalted butter is also available for certain cooking applications.

When butter is made traditionally in a dairy, vats of milk are set out after milking in a cool place so that the cream can rise to the top. The top of the milk is skimmed, and the cream is collected in a large container for up to a week, so that a large batch of butter can be made. The cream is also allowed to sour slightly, forming acids which help to break down the fat in the cream. Next, the cream is poured into a churn to be beaten. In an upright churn, a paddle is pounded back and forth. Other churns use a rotating motion. Either way, constant speed has to be kept up as the butter forms, leaving watery buttermilk behind.

The buttermilk is poured off, and the butter is worked with cold water to remove the last of the buttermilk. Next, it is salted and packaged for sale. Modern butters made in this style are usually made with milk which has been cultured with yogurt, so that the butter forms a dependably tangy flavor. This also reduces the risk of food borne illness which is increased by leaving dairy products out at room temperature to sour. However, many dairies choose not to culture their cream, and instead simply whip fresh cream at a high speed until it turns into butter.[2]

Due by Tuesday, March 12, please: 

From a culinary perspective, dig a little into the dietary benefits and disadvantages of both, butter and margarine. Some points to examine include:
> Cost
> Flavor
> Health Benefits
> Uses
In a well-crafted document, explain why you would choose butter or margarine to use in your restaurant or serve to your family. Be specific! Take your time and convince your readers. Respond by clicking here.

[1] copyright © 2003 - 2011, conjecture corporation,
[2] Ibid.

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