Friday, October 30, 2009

HEAD TO HEAD: Battle Margarine – Fleischmann’s vs Earth Balance

(Postscript:  Read on, and then see this post from later in the day, to discover the stunning conclusion to this shocking cookie episode!)

marg 002

Blah.  Ugly cookies!

I wrote here last week about my margarine revulsion, which makes life particularly difficult because of the demands of kosher-pareve baking.  Sometimes I do just say to heck with it and save a recipe for when we’re having a dairy meal.  Some things simply cannot be substituted.

However, chocolate-chip cookies are not one of them.  They usually work well and end up quite tasty using non-dairy oils. 

I used Crisco butter-flavoured shortening until a few years ago, when they reformulated it using the U.S. recipe – which contains dairy.  As I mentioned in a note to the manufacturer, if I want to bake with dairy, I’ll stick with pure butter, thanks.

temp_marg1Since that change, I have been using Fleischmann’s “blue” – their unsalted pareve tub margarine (the red one shown here is salted).  I have never had a problem using tub margarine and generally, the cookies turn out great.

temp_marg2But… last week, in a fit of extreme margarine hateitude (prompted by a particularly margarine-y dessert over Yom Tov), I sent Ted out to buy Earth Balance, this more expensive form of not-quite margarine (since it’s not hydrogenated). 

The manufacturer claims it can be used like butter or margarine for cooking and baking…  but I beg to differ. 

See the chocolate-chip cookies above?  When made with Fleischmann’s, they look like actual, normal cookies.  Depending on a number of variables, they sometimes spread out a bit too much, but if the dough is chilled and they are made with care, they tend to be nice, crumb-y cookies.

Now look at the cookies up on top.  They spread out within seconds into a gooey, translucent mess and baked up so crunchy-hard and crunchy they are more like a candy than a cookie.   When I removed them from the oven, they were overly tanned looking on top and had an unhealthy-looking oily sheen.

cookie 001Held to the light of the monitor,  you can see that there is too little “cookie” there… it’s all flat and full of holes!  I have never seen cookies quite so disastrous.

I tried “mounding” them more, and baking them for less time, but then they were just underdone and I had to return them to the oven to bake fully.  I’m just thankful I was baking on parchment paper, or the pan would have been a write-off.

Do they taste “naturally delicious” as the manufacturer promises?

Well, they’re not bad.  There isn’t a margarine-y taste, as such.  They are very much on the greasy side, as if regular cookie dough was somehow deep-fried, which is what I suspect this non-margarine product does when exposed to oven heat:  melts away and deep-fries the cookie around it.

They are certainly not fit to take as a gift for friends whose house we are going to tomorrow… so I guess we’re back to square one, dessert-wise.

And I guess it’s back to Fleischmann’s for us and our chocolate-chip cookies.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I still plan to try Earth Balance in a cake recipe I’m making later today, and perhaps to try the tub variety in a future batch of cookies. 

And you can be sure I’ll keep my loyal reader(s) posted when I do!