Choosing Fats for Holiday Baking

December 05, 2011 | Peggy Martin

Choosing Fats for Holiday Baking

Do you ever have trouble figuring out which fat to use for your holiday baking?  I know I do.  I want to find the right balance between a great tasting baked good and making a healthy choice for myself and my family.

When I walk through the cooler section in the grocery store, I notice many different fats at a variety of prices.  Butter is more expensive than stick margarine, and the tubs of margarine vary in price from less expensive than butter to more expensive than butter.  Then, when I head down the baking aisle, I see oils that vary from vegetable and canola oil that are less expensive to olive oils that are more expensive.  I also find vegetable shortening and lard in the baking aisle.

Here are some simple guidelines for picking fats that I use at holiday time and throughout the year:

  1. Vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola are made from healthy fats so they are great to use in salad dressing, sautéing and roasting vegetables, marinades, etc.  They also have a low cost per serving.
  2. Butter and stick margarines are best for baking cookies and cakes because they hold air in a product when you cream them, make products more tender, and give pie crusts that beautiful golden brown color.  Butter works well when making candy.
  3. Small amounts of spreads, butter or stick margarine can be used as toppings for rolls, toast, or bagels.  Personally, I like butter the best, but, since it is more expensive and high in calories, I use it in moderation.

How do you deal with holiday baking?

Justine Hoover, MS, RD, LD

Peggy Martin

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