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Baking with cocoa butter


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Hi. I'm totally new to this forum, and I hope I'm not bugging anyone with my question and lack of expertise. I'm an amateur baker, and I generally bake without dairy due to food sensitivities and allergies in my family. I'm often in a tough spot in the kitchen, trying to use excellent ingredients and flavors to pull off a sophisticated desert while grubbing around in vegan cookbooks or modifying recipes from conventional cookbooks to omit dairy. I've recently become dissatisfied with the texture and flavor options I have available in solid fats, and I wondered if it would be possible to bake with cocoa butter as a sort of substitute for dairy butter. I thought that since cocoa butter as present in chocolate is already used as a fat in baking, that it might be possible to skip the cocoa solids and use pure cocoa butter in buttercream icing, in cake batter, and in other things to achieve something with a consistency similar to that you would get from butter and a flavor a bit more interesting at least than what you get from the lackluster alternatives.

So far, however, I haven't seen any recipes, etc, suggesting it's use this way. I thought that might simply be due to the cost of cocoa butter, which is certainly fairly high (but doable for special occasions IMO). Does anyone have any experience, thoughts, or directions to point me? I appreciate it!

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I'm sort of new here too (lurked for a loooonnng time), with food allergy concerns as well. Have you tried any type of allowed flavorings in your baking? What exactly are the sophisticated desserts you have in mind? (I keep trying not to salivate over the Best of ~ Cakes threads... especially the Butter Cakes, LOL). I find that there are different solutions to the dairy substitution problem depending on what I am trying to make, and I'm always trying new things too. Just curious, what brands have you tried so far? :smile:

Edited by flour girl (log)
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Hi, flour girl! We lurkers have to stick together. :) I'm not sure exactly what you mean by allowed flavorings, but as for brands of margarine (I think that was your other question), I usually use Earth Balance regular. I try to avoid hydrogenated oils, and it's pretty much the only palatable option I've encountered among the non-hydrogenated. In fact, it's quite good for margarine. Before I switched to non-hydrogenated, I was using Willow Run, which tastes more like butter than most of what is at the supermarket. What about you?

(I keep expecting to be driven out of this forum with wooden spoons at any moment for even discussing margarine in here.)

My objection to the margarine is that sometimes the best dairyless deserts come out of unusual ingredients being used to their best advantage, rather than trying to substitute something in for a dairy ingredient, where you inevitably end up with something less, not something different. For example, Cool Whip simply isn't whipped cream; it doesn't even come close. I would rather go with something entirely different, even if it means reinterpreting the desert, than use it in most cases.

By sophisticated, I simply mean a dessert designed with a somewhat educated or moderately discriminating palate in mind. Most vegan and dairyless dessert recipes are remixes of rice-krispie treats, devil's food, and so forth. It's fairly rare to come across a recipe like the one for dairyless chocolate mousse in Bittersweet, where it has been designed to accentuate the flavors of the chocolate, not hide the fact that there isn't any cream present.

Is cocoa butter really so much stiffer than dairy butter? They have similar melting points. I know that cocoa butter is currently employed to stiffen traditional buttercreams (by which I am referring to cooked Euro-style buttercreams, not just butter and powdered sugar whipped; perhaps I should have been more precise before), so I wondered if a balance might be struck between it and more liquidy ingredients? Perhaps even a fat that isn't solid at room temp? I also know that it has multiple crystalline structures, some of which melt at much lower temperatures than its tempered form used for chocolate, so I wondered if it could be manipulated to be softer simply in that way? I'm not really familiar with the ingredient, though, so I can't comment on flavor, except that I understand the cocoa scent and flavor can be removed (as they are for white chocolate). :) I'm going to have to just order some and play around with it a bit, I think.

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LindyCat, too cool, now I have a new allergy buddy. I haven't tried the cocoa butter angle, but it sounds very intriguing. I also use Earth Balance, but don't necessarily rely on it for the only flavor. (You probably know this already, but for anyone else out there, Earth Balance and a lot of other margarines that don't have a dairy ingredient i.e. cow's milk protein/casein listed are manufactured on shared equipment and they do allergen tests on their product, but someone who is anaphylactic might not be comfortable using this. Fleischmann's unsalted is run on dedicated lines, but has also had a major recall from cross-contamination a few years ago, and IMO it has a lot less flavor. Cool-Whip is not casein-free either. Standard allergy disclaimer here: consult your doctor/preferably an allergist for specifics.) For flavoring help I use LorAnn Buttery Sweet Dough flavoring in certain applications with some success.

I know what you mean about the typical allergy recipe – they are uninspiring to say the least. I’ve been hunting upscale recipes too; want to trade any sources/recipes (PM, of course so we don’t violate the rules here)? One thing I have noticed is that dairy-free margarines need to be treated gently or they will break and cause a greasy mess. I tried this with Fleischmann’s early on with chocolate chip cookies to see how far I could go. Not far. But maybe it’s processed differently where you live, who knows? Good luck with the cocoa butter experiments!

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I tried this with Fleischmann’s early on with chocolate chip cookies to see how far I could go. Not far. But maybe it’s processed differently where you live, who knows?

I use Fleishmans's for a ton of baking. I know people shudder at the mention of margarine, but for allergies, vegans and kosher reasons, it's a saving grace. I have never had any problems with it, and always get great results.

I have experimenting with butter flavoured crisco.. and in another thread (can't remember which) somebody mentioned that they have come out with a non-hydrogenated version. I haven't tried anything with it yet but will.

As to the allergy issue re equipment used for both dairy and non dairy margarine. Every margarine that I have seen in North America is certified kosher. Below the kosher symbol will be either the letter P or the word Pareve. This means there are no dairy ingredients at all. If below the kosher symbol are the letters DE it means that the margarine, while it may contain no dairy in it, is made using the same equipment. Sometimes it will actually say Dairy Equip on it. If it just has a D it means it is dairy.

LindyCat: are you completely anti-margarine? It really does help to make non-dairy desserts.

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No, I'm definately not completely anti-margarine at all! I eat it all the time. :blush: It's just not satisfactory for everything, and I want to serve things that make people say, "This is vegan?"

My current project is a cake with a buttercream icing. I just learned to make proper French buttercream for the first time, and it tastes somewhat chemically with margarine, even when made with a whole-egg recipe that should give it some other flavor notes. I tried it tonight and ended up adding a bunch of chocolate to make it taste better. (Pretty much anything that can't be improved with garlic can be improved with chocolate.) I even felt like my traditional vegan chocolate cake, which most people like quite well, seems a little bland lately, and I would like to be able to try other recipes.

Edited by LindyCat (log)
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First off, no one here makes fun of others! We understand that there's usually a good reason why someone uses a particular product. We've had many threads on dietary needs and we fully understand many people have special needs.

Off the top of my head, I don't think cocoa butter is going to do what your dreaming of. Even though it has the word "butter" in it's name, it's not "buttery" in taste or texture. You can't whip or beat cocoa butter (that I know of), therefore you can't use it in a recipe that relies on whipped or creamed butter.

Cocoa butter doesn't taste good. It sort of tastes like wax. So it also won't give your items flavor either. Margarine has a more pleasant taste.

I wonder if your considering 'cocoa butter' because you believe it's gourmet or may give you something better/or different then other butter substitutes (margerines).............but to the best of my knowledge it's not better either taste or texture wise then artifical butters...........

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Well, first off, as I'm sure you're aware, baking with cocoa butter is going to be quite a bit more expensive than butter.

Secondly... I've been spending quite a bit of time developing my own sugar-free milk chocolate (foregoing dried milk with it's lactose) and I can say, with absolute certainty, that cocoa butter adds a perceived milkiness to chocolate.

Also, I have a decent understanding of tempering when it comes to milk/bittersweet/unsweetened chocolate, but when it comes to tempering pure cocoa butter, I'm at a loss. From the little bit that I've worked with cocoa butter, I get the feeling that it's a slightly different ball game due to the lack of particulate matter. It almost seems that pure cocoa butter, no matter how you treat it, once it cools, it's hard. At least that's how it ends up for me.

Now... a buttercream frosting made with cocoa butter. I think it can be done. I think the temperature you work with it will be critical, as will the added ingredients. You'll need some liquid. You might need some form of emulsifier to prevent the cocoa butter from separating from the liquid. Blended soft tofu might be interesting.

I will be very curious as to how your quest turns out. I love the taste of cocoa butter, but am not all that thrill by margarine, especially the non-hydrogenated stuff.

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