When I first started testing recipes professionally more than 20 years ago, I had A LOT to learn.
Sure, I was a more savvy baker than your average 23-year-old. My grandmother made sure of that with her years of teaching me the difference between a dry measuring cup and a liquid measuring cup; understanding the difference between baking soda and baking powder; and so on.
But one thing I didn’t learn until later in my career is how important choosing the right ingredients for baking could be, including knowing the best oil for baking.
If you’ve been around this blog and my podcast for any length of time, you no doubt know that my happy space is always in a moment dusted with flour as I’m measuring, mixing, and baking up goodies for my family.
And while part of the joy in baking is simply in the act of connecting art and science, I certainly don’t want to spend my time baking goodies that turn out dry, crumbly, and/or have an “off taste” for my taste testers.
Oils like soybean oil (often labeled as vegetable oil) and canola oil do an amazing job of keeping baked goods moist without imparting a lot of flavors. Unlike butter, these oils tend to make baked goods lighter in texture and moister, as well. (Butter has a beautiful flavor, though.)
Is baking with oil healthful?
Soybean oil (and most of its vegetable/seed oil cousins) is high in omega-6 fatty acids. The standard American diet is very high in omega-6 fatty acids and lacking in heart-healthy omega-3s (listen to this episode of my podcast to learn more about how Omega-3s are important in concussion prevention/treatment.)
Eating a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to increased inflammation and some chronic diseases over time. So it’s important to take that into consideration when choosing what oil to bake with.
If you have concerns, I recommend sticking with olive oil, butter, and coconut oil. Butter does tend to yield a slightly drier baked good at room temperature, but it makes up for it in buttery flavor. And contrary to what you may have heard, butter doesn’t appear to be as bad as we once thought.
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