Margarine is not equal to butter in all recipes

WHAT'S COOKING

August 18, 1993|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Contributing Writer

A: When recently making my tried-and-true poundcake recipe, I decided to try it with corn-oil margarine rather than the butter I usually use. When serving the cake, I discovered a puddle of grease or oil on the doily. What caused this?

A: If margarine can be used to replace butter in a recipe, the recipe will usually say either can be used. If the recipe doesn't mention it as an option when baking, it's best to use exactly the ingredients specified. Reduced-calorie or "light" margarine products, in particular, are never advised as a substitute for butter in baking. Water is usually incorporated into these products to replace the fat, and these altered products will never yield the same results as the original ingredients.

Q: If I'm off in my measuring just a little bit, does it matter?

Precise measurements are very important in baking because a little too much one way or the other can make the difference between a cake that rises or falls, cookies that spread or retain their shape or a pie crust that crumbles or remains firm.

For best results, always use dry measuring cups for dry ingredients and glass measures for liquids. Other forms of cooking allow more experimentation and leeway in measurements.

Q: My oven has several rack positions. Which one should I use or does it matter?

A: For even cooking, unless otherwise specified, choose the middle rack position or the one that will center the food from top to bottom in the oven.

Q: I recently bought some dried cherries and don't know how to use them. Is it possible to substitute them for other fruits in muffins?

A: As a general rule, think of using dried cherries (or cranberries) in baked goods as a replacement for, or with, other dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, dates and prunes. Dried cherries would not be as effective if used solely to replace fruit in a pie, because those fruits usually add moisture to baked goods. Dried cherries are especially tasty when rehydrated and used in a dish such as chicken salad with toasted almonds.

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