Questions and Answers - Butter vs. Oil in Muffins

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I have several recipes for muffins and the like that call for cooking oil. When I make them as instructed, they taste very bland. I was wondering if butter could be used as a substitute for oil? Please help.  Thanks! - Anne O'Neill (6/26/02)


There are differences between butter and oil. The biggest, and probably the important one, is that butter is only 80% oil. The other 20% being milk solids and water. That could cause some problems as it will change the moisture of your product. Clarified butter could possibly be interchangeable directly. Following is information on how to produce a quality muffin:

Produce A Quality Muffin
Following is from the Oregon State Food Science

blueberry muffing cut in halfMuffins are simple quick bread that are traditionally baked from a batter prepared from a mixture of egg, milk and melted shortening or oil stirred into sifted flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. The optimum proportion of ingredients, mixing, and baking results in a "standard" muffin" with good volume and a slightly rounded, golden brown, pebbly top. Although the interior crumb is coarse, it should be uniform and tender.

Due to the proportion of liquid to flour, gluten develops with only slight mixing. The amount of mixing that is optimum for muffins is just enough to blend the dry ingredients and liquid ingredients but not enough to produce a smooth batter. When lifted with a spoon, the batter should break and separate easily. Mixing the batter beyond the optimum amount results in a smoother and less lumpy batter. The increase in gluten development prevents the muffin from rising in the early part of the baking period resulting in a lighter slick crust with a duller appearance and a top which is not rounded but has peaks, tunnels or holes through the center of the muffin.

The influence of mixing may be magnified or minimized by selection of the different flours. Cake flour with less gluten forming protein not only is less likely to form tunnels during mixing, but will product a more tender muffin than hard wheat flours. Changing the proportion and type of egg, milk, fat or baking powder also influences muffin quality. Many of the muffins made today have a high proportion of fat and sugar. In some ways, muffins are similar to the one-bowl cake of old.



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