The crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth characteristics of shortbread cookies are due to the high-fat content these baked goodies have. Hence, butter is a crucial ingredient in these well-loved cookies.
But sometimes we have to use a different ingredient as a substitute. Health concerns, creating a vegan option, or cost efficiency are some of the reasons why we substitute one ingredient for another.
So, let’s find out: can you use margarine for shortbread cookies?
Butter vs Margarine
Butter and margarine are two types of fats that are heavily used in cooking and baking, and are often used interchangeably. The difference between the two is the raw material used to make them.
For starters, butter is commonly made from cow’s milk. Some use milk from goats and buffaloes too. Margarine, on the other hand, is made from vegetable oils like palm, soybean, and canola.
In terms of nutritional value, butter contains high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, while margarine is the opposite and is rich in vitamins and minerals.
For a rich and creamier flavor, butter is your best choice. However, if you aim for a healthier and cheaper alternative, use margarine.
Margarine for Shortbread Cookies
Can you use margarine instead of butter for shortbread cookies? Yes, you can use margarine in making these wonderful baked goodies.
However, expect your cookies to have a slightly different texture and flavor. Margarine has a higher water content than butter, affecting the dough and the final result of your shortbread.
It’s also important to note that margarine often contains additives that can affect the taste of the cookies. If you’re keen on using margarine, choose a high-quality variant labeled as a butter substitute.
It’ll also help to adjust the amount of flour you’ll be using to compensate for the higher water content of the margarine. The usual ratio is 1:2:4, or one part sugar, two parts margarine, and four parts flour.
By doing this, you can avoid having a soggy dough that’s harder to bake.
Butter for Shortbread Cookies
Since we’re done talking about margarine as a fat substitute for shortbread cookies, let’s further explore the traditional one. How do you use butter for shortbread?
Do You Make Shortbread With Cold Butter?
Believe it or not, the temperature of your butter will also affect the texture of your cookies. The right temperature of your butter should be between 68 and 72℉ or 20 and 22℃.
Using butter at the right temperature will provide your shortbread with the structure it needs to hold its shape when baking. It’ll also result in a tender finished product.
How Soft Should Butter be for Shortbread?
Check that your butter is of the right consistency before using it in shortbread. Do so by making an indentation with your finger and pressing on the surface. If it leaves an indentation, then your butter is ready for your shortbread.
In case it’s too hard, you’ll have a dough with chunks of butter on it. It’ll also be hard to mix your dough if your butter is too hard. You run the risk of overmixing a hard dough, resulting in a dense and tough shortbread.
Butter that’s too soft will make your dough more difficult to handle. It becomes too greasy and may result in a flat shortbread.
How Much Butter to Use in Shortbread Cookies?
The last thing you need to know about butter in shortbread is the amount you need. A shortbread recipe calls for a 1:2:3 ratio: one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.
Use too little butter, you’ll have a dry, hard, and excessively crumbly shortbread. Your shortbread may also not hold its shape or break while baking.
Too much butter, on the other hand, may result in an oily and flat shortbread. It’ll be too soft as well, losing its signature crumbly texture.
Following the correct ratio of your ingredients will help you achieve wonderful shortbread cookies.
Variations and Substitutions
Sugar, butter, and flour—with these three ingredients, you can create a traditional shortbread cookie. But this simple recipe is also open for interpretation, so don’t be surprised if you encounter variations on other cookbooks and the internet.
Can You Make Shortbread With Salted Butter?
Using salted butter for your shortbread is perfectly okay. In fact, it enhances the overall flavor of the finished product.
If you’re also like the others who add salt to their shortbread recipe, be sure to adjust the amount if you will use salted butter.
Can You Make Shortbread With Unsalted Butter?
If you want to remove or lessen salt from your shortbread, it’s also possible to make it with unsalted butter.
Can You Make Shortbread Without Butter?
Butter is the ingredient that gives shortbread its melt-in-your-mouth texture. However, you can still make shortbread cookies even without butter.
Some butter substitutes are (besides margarine):
- Coconut Oil: A great vegan alternative if you want to mimic the texture of traditional shortbread cookies. However, the natural flavor of coconut oil may affect the taste of your shortbread.
- Shortening: Another ingredient that you can use to substitute butter. Just remember that shortening has a higher melting point and doesn’t offer much flavor. The resulting taste and texture of your cookies may also differ from the traditional ones.
Fat is a crucial ingredient in shortbread cookies. Whether you plan on using margarine, butter, or another type of fat, it’s best to follow the recipe to achieve your desired result.
With the different substitutes and variations you can do with shortbread, your preference is the ultimate deciding factor.
Now grab your apron, head to your kitchen, and start baking these wonderful shortbread cookies!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.