Does Bread Need Butter?

September 26, 2022
Written by Allyza Cepeda
Does Bread Need Butter

Does bread need butter? Or can you make a delicious one even without butter?

Butter is not a requirement for baking bread. In fact, some of the best European bakers only use flour and yeast in their recipes. However, do take note that the texture of your dough might change if the original recipe requires it.

Pros and many home bakers will tell you that butter does make bread better in terms of flavor. But if you don’t currently have butter in your pantry, you can still make bread without it.

What does butter do to your bread?

When you are making bread at home, there is no reason to avoid adding fat to your dough. You should always add some sort of fat to your bread dough. Here’s why:

Butter has about 80% fat and when added to bread, the fat in the butter keeps the dough moist, prevents it from drying out, and helps to make a soft crumb.

Fat also adds flavor to your bread during baking. Butter is what makes a bread rich in flavor such as in the case of croissants.

Typically, fat is a necessary ingredient in bread-making since it makes the crumb tender and helps keep your bread fresh for longer. It also gives moisture and aroma to your bread once baked. However, the fat in bread doesn’t have to be from butter and can be substituted with other similar ingredients that contain fat.

But do note that the oil used will affect the taste of your finished bread. Read on to determine how to substitute butter with oil.

Does bread need butter? Or can you make a delicious one even without butter?

Does Bread Need Butter? How to substitute butter with oil when baking bread?

Does Butter Affect the Taste of Bread

If you don’t have any butter in your fridge or pantry right now, you can use any neutral-tasting oil instead of butter. The only caveat is that oil won’t do everything that butter does for your bread since they’re not essentially the same thing.

If you want to substitute butter with oil, use 1/4 cup (around 60ml) of oil for every 1/2 cup (125 g) of butter called for in a recipe.

While this will give you a similar amount of fat and calories as the original recipe, it may alter the flavor and texture slightly. If you want to make sure your bread tastes as close to what it would if made with butter as possible, make sure that you choose an oil with a neutral flavor profile like canola or vegetable oil.

How does substituing butter with oil affect my bread?

If you don’t use butter, it will affect your bread in two ways: First, the crust won’t be as crisp; second, it won’t have as much flavor. But both of these things can be compensated for by adding more salt and sugar (and maybe some yeast).

“Bread dough needs fat to rise and make a tender crust,” says J. Kenji López-Alt, former senior food editor at Serious Eats. “Butter delivers both.”

Of course, there are exceptions. If you’re making an enriched dough — one that contains eggs or dairy products — then yes, you should use butter because it will help bind those ingredients together. But for most other bread, using oil will do just fine.

This is especially the case if you’re making leaner bread like Italian or French baguettes or rustic loaves like focaccia or ciabatta. Using oil instead of butter should suffice because these doughs are less rich and therefore require less fat to achieve a tender crust.

Is butter really an essential part of bread?

butter in place of oil

Butter isn’t a necessary ingredient if you want to make homemade bread.

It’s often added to bread because it makes the loaf softer and more tender. It also helps keep it moist, which means your bread will last longer.

However, this isn’t an essential ingredient in making good bread. For most bread recipes, the key to great-tasting bread is having the right amount of flour, water, and salt — and not always butter. You could simply leave it out altogether and still have perfectly good homemade bread on your hands!

How about the opposite: Can you substitute oil with butter?

You can use butter in place of oil when making bread, but you must use it in place of at least half the amount of oil. The reason for this is that butter contains more water than oil does, and adding more water to your dough can cause it to rise faster and fall sooner.

If you’re using bread flour or whole wheat flour, less butter is required since less moisture is needed because these flours already contain more natural oils than AP flour.

Also, remember to reduce your salt content when using butter (if you’re using the salted variant) instead of oil because too much salt can affect how well your yeast works, and this will affect how well your bread rises too.

More specifically, here’s how to substitute oil depending on the amount of flour you’ll be using:

  1. You must use it in place of at least half the amount of oil. That means if your recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup oil, you should use 2 cups flour and 1 cup butter instead.
  2. Use unsalted butter. Salt can delay the formation of gluten, which can make your bread chewy so just add salt separately so you can control the amount you’ll be adding.

Should you skip butter when making bread?

Butter is a traditional ingredient in bread, so there’s no reason to avoid it. It generally makes the bread softer and more flavorful.

Although it’s not essential to making bread, you don’t have to have it if you don’t have butter in your pantry.. Regular bread can still taste good without butter. Don’t sweat it too much either way. Try it out next time with butter and see what you prefer for yourself.

And if you’ve ever tried to make homemade bread, be sure to share your experience in the comments below!

Allyza Cepeda
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