Butter has a different consistency in Europe. How do I adjust US recipes when baking cookies?

Question by : Butter has a different consistency in Europe. How do I adjust US recipes when baking cookies?
I live in Germany. Butter here has a much slipperier or oilier consistency than butter in the US. As a result, using German butter in a US cookie, cake and pastry recipes causes the the batter to melt and spread too thin when baked. Does this have something to do with the fat content in the butter? Does anyone know of a rule-of-thumb recipe conversion that will help remedy this?

Best answer:

Answer by sound
The fastest solution would be to substitute out butter for margarine. That is pretty much standard the world over. You can also look for a natural butter. The brand you are buying is probably chock foll of fillers, and that is making it oily if anything.

On the flip side, even switching the recommended amount of butter for pure oil of any kind would not have the effect you mentioned on a baking mix. Batter itself does not melt, and the oil would not cause it to spread like you described.

I know it is not the answer to your question, but the solution to your problem does not lay in the amount of oil in the butter. A more probable cause is a discrepancy in your conversion rates from US to Metric. Do not believe a cup with both measurements, especially if purchased over in Europe. Most documentation would be based on British volume measurements and not US ones.

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  1. chimisme says:

    You’re right: the butter is fattier in Germany. It’s about 84% fat, as opposed to 80% butterfat in the US. You can buy butter like it in the US as the brand “plugras”, which is French for “more fat”. And it has a different flavor, tangier than American butter.
    The butter isn’t the only thing that’s different. The eggs are also much more flavorful than American eggs.

    To adapt the recipes, try leaving out a tiny bit of the water in your recipe, a tablespoon or two for a cake.

    For cookies and pastries which don’t include added moisture, you can compensate by increasing the amount of flour by a tablespoon or two.

    For more details, I recommend getting the European edition of The Cake Bible. Rose Berenbaum is an absolute fanatic about getting the proportions exactly right, and the European edition of her book is scrupulous about adjusting the proportions for European ingredients. The book contains a lot of detail on how she went about it and providing tips for how to do it yourself.

  2. Ruthie says:

    You’re right that there are differences in the consistencies of butters of different origins. This has more to do with the temperatures at which the butters are churned than with the actual composition of the butter. The temperature effects the way the fat crystals form as the butter solidifies, which will yield either an oily feeling butter (one that melts abruptly) or a plastic, waxy butter. The waxy butters are nicer for some uses in pastry, especially in laminated doughs (puff pastry or croissants) because they won’t melt while the dough is being manipulated. But when those different butters melt, the fat crystals are destroyed and so that difference goes away. There are slight variations in water content (typically ±2%), not enough to matter in, say, a cookie dough.

    I had the same experience you’re having when I lived in France and tried to bake American cookie recipes, only in France the butter is not “oily” at all; it’s very plastic. My research turned up huge differences in the flours, however. Whereas in the States we classify our flours as “cake”, “pastry”, “all-purpose” and “bread”, in France I could buy either type 45 or 55. All of these different types vary in the amount and quality of wheat protein (gluten) that they contain. It is the gluten that gives dough it’s cohesion and “body”, but also adds toughness to the baked product. It will also effect how much water the flour absorbs. In France, neither of the two types was a good match for American all-purpose, which cookie recipes assume you’ll use.

    The German flour classification system is different again, but with more options than the French. I don’t speak German, but here is a website where you’ll find descriptions of the types. I’d start by trying those that are recommended for general use (405?), and if that doesn’t correct your problem, try mixing in a percentage of whatever they’re recommending for bread (higher gluten).

    Some other factors that help control cookie spread are:
    put the sheet into a hotter oven, then turn the heat down as soon as they’re in. This will “set” the edges faster, before they can spread too much. Refrigerate the balls of dough well before they go into the oven. This will give the edges time to set before the center of the ball melts. Incorporate more nuts in the dough. This will help hold the dough in place as it melts. Best of luck!

  3. evident says:

    US butter has water added. This is why you see the term “until the butter stops foaming” in US recipes…this is to allow the water to evaporate.

    To adjust, add a sprinkle of water to your recipes.

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