April 22, 2020
Coconut, vegetable, canola, peanut, olive oil and more – with so many types of oils, how do we know the difference between them, and which one should we use for baking?
Unlike butter, oil makes for a lighter and more moist cake. However, as butter comprises milk solids, fat, and water unlike oil which is made up of 100% fat, butter has a better flavour. Therefore, you might see some recipes requiring both kinds of fat such as our Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting; this combination gives your cake the best of both worlds – excellent flavour and texture!
In this article, we’ll be explaining the difference between the different types of oils, and which one you should use for baking, especially when the recipe only indicates “oil”.
Image source: Fairprice
Canola oil is, without doubt, one of the best types of oil for baking. It’s preferred in many recipes since it has the most neutral flavor compared to other types of oil. It also tends to be lighter in flavour, so it will not negatively affect the baked product’s flavor and texture.
If you’re a health-conscious person, using canola oil will be the best option because it only contains 7% saturated fat (bad fats) and contains the highest omega-3 content among oils, except flaxseed oil. Canola oil doesn’t contain any cholesterol too. By using canola oil in your recipe, your cake will be deliciously healthy!
Whenever possible, use canola oil for baking. Its neutral taste will not give your cake any undesirable flavor, and you can bring out the flavors in your cake, especially if you are using premium ingredients in your cake such as vanilla beans and high quality chocolate.
Using vegetable oil in baked goods is known to give the moistest results. The reason is that vegetable oil remains liquid at room temperature, while butter turns solid.
Other than giving you a moister cake, using vegetable oil will also yield a tender cake that melts, or falls apart in your mouth as you bite into it. Since vegetable oil is pure fat without the addition of any liquid (as opposed to butter), the protein in flour (gluten) will not excessively interact with water to create a tough, dense cake.
However, it is worth noting that it is still possible to overmix a cake batter, even if it uses vegetable oil. Keep in mind that you should never mix too much when your dry and wet ingredients are already combined!
Recently, coconut oil is increasingly used to replace butter in baked goods, especially in recipes where vegan substitutes are needed. If you love the taste of coconut, you’re likely to enjoy baked goods using coconut oil, since it gives your treats a hint of coconut aroma and flavour.
Like vegetable and canola oils, coconut oil is made up of 100% fat. Additionally, it is high in saturated fats, and its composition of fatty acids makes it very suitable for cooking/baking methods that require very high heat, such as frying.
If you prefer using coconut oil in your baking, you may swap in an equal amount of coconut oil for the amount of fat that is required in the recipe. It can be used in both solid and liquid forms to replace butter/shortening and liquid oils respectively.
Just like canola oil, sunflower oil contains a high proportion of unsaturated fats (good fats), which makes it a great choice if you’re health-conscious. In addition, sunflower oil has a high smoke point (the temperature where oils become less healthy to consume). When oils reach the smoke point, they will start to burn and release harmful chemicals. A high smoke point allows you to subject the oil at higher cooking/baking temperatures, and therefore sunflower oil is suitable for baking.
Sunflower oil is also considered a better option of oils to use in baked goods. Although its flavor and aroma isn’t as subtle as canola oil, it tends to complement any kind of baked goods, ranging from cookies to cakes. When a recipe calls for mild-tasting oils such as corn, safflower, or rapeseed oil, you can always opt for sunflower oil if it’s the one available at the moment.
Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest oils, thanks to its high unsaturated fat content. Depending on the type of baked good, it might not be advisable to replace the oil used in baking recipes with olive oil since olive oil has a considerably strong flavour which can significantly affect the result of your baked goods.
To avoid altering the aroma and flavor of your baked goods, we recommend using olive oil with buttery or fruity notes. Olive oil is best used in savory baked goods such as focaccia and pumpkin bread; using olive oil in sweet ones might not give the best taste.
It is easy to use olive oil in place of other oils in any recipe because you do not need to do any conversion. If the recipe uses 3 tablespoons of oil, use 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Image source: Fairprice
We usually use peanut oil when cooking savory dishes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to bake stuff. Steamed peanuts are pressed to create this oil – that’s what gives it a distinct mild, nutty flavor.
Peanut oil resembles olive oil in some aspects. It’s one of the cooking oils with a considerably high unsaturated fat content, which makes it better for your health than any other types of oil. Flavor-wise, peanut oil is also more suitable to use in baked goods that are more on the savory side. It’s also recommended to use peanut oil in baked goods that contain nuts as the oil will enhance the nuttiness.
Use the guidelines above to choose the most suitable oil for baking. No matter which type of oil you choose, always follow the recipe’s instructions carefully to get the best results.
This is an independent article written by Bakestarters and has no affiliation with any companies or brands.
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The Bakestarters blog features tips and lessons to baking in Singapore, along with useful tips when using our signature baking kits.
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