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Substituting ghee for butter in BAKING

In equal proportions or not? And is such substitution ever a bad idea? I'd be interested in its effects on, say, chocolate cake, cornbread, pie crust.

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  1. i'm just guessing - but since ghee has most of the solids removed, i doubt it would make a good pie crust. notice that ghee is much runnier at room temperature than butter is. because of that, i predict the crust would not hold together.

    cakes though, i couldn't say!

    2 Replies
    1. re: bellywizard

      ghee is runnier than butter at room temp? maybe mine is from a frigid cow. ;-D.

      1. re: alkapal

        Me too! In fact, I'd say my ghee is "more together" at room temperature than butter. Butter gets very runny!

    2. I agree with bellywizard that it's going to change the texture of your baked goods. Might not make much difference in cake or cornbread, but I wouldn't try it in pie crust or cookies.

      If for some reason I had to use ghee instead of butter, I'd try to start with a recipe that uses oil rather than butter. Not sure about cornbread, but there are good cake recipes that use oil. Has anyone made "crazy cake" recently? My mom made it when I was a kid, and I remember it being really good. I just googled it and there were quite a few slight variations on the same recipe -- I never realized it, but it's vegan, so there's one answer to the popular "vegan dessert" question.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        the only problem i can see with using ghee in place of oil is the higher melting point of ghee. if the ingredients are cold, the ghee might beat into tiny butter balls instead of liquifying and distributing evenly throughout.

      2. it might take a little experimenting, but i don't think it would make much of a difference. ghee has simply been rendered of its h2o and solids. butter is approximately 80% milk fat, about 18% or so h2o, and the rest are milk solids (mainly protein in the form of casein and carbohydrate in the form of lactose). those proportions do, of course, vary a bit from butter to butter. ghee is, in my experience made from unsalted butter.

        you'll need to add additional water. if the recipe calls for 8oz butter, you'll need about 6oz ghee, and roughly 2oz h2o (normally, h2o would not be weighed, but since you would have weighed it out if it were already incorporated into the butter, it's valid in this case). i would err to the side of less h2o, as you can generally add more if needed. depending upon the recipe, you might need to add the h2o with the other liquids rather than with the ghee, as liquid h2o might affect tasks like creaming differently than it does when bound up with the milk fat.

        in the case of a baked good that has other protein in it (ie eggs), i don't think the minimal amount lost in the clarification process will matter much. for something without other protein, you might need to add a tiny bit of egg yolk.

        likewise, most baked goods will already have sugar, so the little lactose missing from the butter shouldn't matter. if it does, a pinch of sugar whould suffice.

        of course, if the recipe calls for salted butter and you're using ghee from unsalted butter, you'll need to add salt (i don't recall the ratio right now, but it's easy to find online).

        as to the texture, the only issue i can see would be in an application where the butter should remain distinct, like a streusel topping. ghee might melt differently.

        while i think it would work, i don't know why you would do it since you will have to add the component parts back to achieve the effect of the original ingredient. but, if that's all you had on hand, and were in a hurry or couldn't get to the store, it should work.

        6 Replies
        1. re: mark

          I disagree. The main difference is the melting point -- sure, everything is liquid when it's cooking, but butter solidifies again when your baked good returns to room temperature, and ghee doesn't. So the texture of your baked good is definitely going to change -- it's going to be slightly oilier and less cohesive. As I said, fine for something like cake or cornbread, but a bit more problematic for things like cookies and especially pie crust.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            i asked my wife about this (she's the baker, i'm the cook), and she said essentially the same; probably have an oilier texture. she said it would matter most in things like pie crust where the h2o trapped in the butter turns to steam, thereby causing that wonderful flakiness. a pie crust made with ghee would be oily and denser. i imagine cookies would be chewier.

            i still contend that it's do-able, with the caveats stated in all responses above, if one adds back what is missing from the ghee and adjusts proportions. but like i said in my original response, i don't know why one would other than to use up the ghee. no, it won't be identical, but for most things it would suffice.

            1. re: mark

              The other issue with pie crust is that what makes it flakey is that the butter isn't completely incorporated, so when it melts, it creates the spaces within the dough. Liquid fats won't do that.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I read someplace that olive oil can be used in a pie crust if it is chilled first, so it semisolid. The same could apply to ghee.

                paulj

                1. re: paulj

                  My mom does this. Someone told her it's more healthy (and she's a health nut). The crusts made with olive oil are horrendous.

                  1. re: greglor

                    I've done my homework too greglor, and your mom is absolutely correct....ghee is much better for your health than that GMO crap!!

        2. I use clarified butter (ghee) stictly as a cooking fat. Removing the milk solids from it allows me to use it without fear of burning.
          When I bake, I often weigh my ingredients. An equal weight of butter and clarified butter are different in volume. The clarified butter is denser and that will change a recipe's outcome.
          Clarified butter will also not "cream" in the same way that butter will, so it will alter the texture of any baked goods that depend on that as an initial step. Try creaming clarified butter to see the difference.
          As someone has already said, any recipe that relies on the release of steam from butter will not work with clarified butter.
          Bakng often relies on science. Sometimes substitutions just don't work. Remove water and milk solids and it isn't butter any longer.

          3 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            I'm interested in using ghee instead of Crisco (trans fat = bad). I figure crisco and ghee are alike in that both have no water. I thought that crisco is used in order to get the flaky character. I don't get flakiness when using butter alone, and the best flake I have seen came from using lard in a savory meat pie crust. It doesn't appear anyone really knows the answer: can ghee be substituted in place of a trans fat like crisco and still get the benefits of crisco? I'm going to find out. Tell you what I learn later....

            1. re: Dr Andre

              Andre, fresh lard does not have trans fat, and is usually used in making pie crusts. As long as the lard is obtained from a fresh source (ie - butcher, etc.) and is not industrially produced (ie - made stable by adding emulsifiers etc), it will not have trans fats. If TF is your main concern, ghee is irrelevant - just go with fresh lard.

              That being said, more brands are now producing transfat-free shortening. Including Crisco.

              1. re: Dr Andre

                To get a flaky crust using butter you have to follow directions in mixing. If you over mix, or if the dough gets too warm and the butter becomes fully incorporated you won't get a flaky crust. I haven't seen a flaky crust made with crisco yet, so good luck.

            2. First of all, ghee is used in Indian cooking in order to make crusts for things like samosas and other treats that require a flaky crust....so I'm pretty sure that it is good for making a pie crust.