I many not be an authority on FATS, i'm not saying it because i am not overweight ( i might be but whatever) or something but this is about FATS for baking. Margarine, Shortening, Oil and Butter.
From top clockwise: Butter, Shortening, Tub Margarine, and Table Margarine
When we say Tub margarine, this is the kind you buy per kilo from your local bakery supply store or market such as Spring ( been using this brand since 1998) and table grade margarine is your Dairy Creme, Butterfresh, Dairy Magic, Baker's Best.
What is the difference between the tub and table grade margarine? Tub margarine does not melt at room temperature. Table grade or bar margarine melts at temperatures higher than 70 F.
I have been using all of these regularly including the 0 Trans Fat version in New York, Country Crock mostly and although you can use them interchangeably at most times for baking, it does not apply when it comes to making icings...
I can substitute any of the butter with these margarines, tub or table grade at a 1:1 ratio and won't encounter any problems with the consistency, but once you use 0 Trans Fat grocery aisle margarine, the Buttercream becomes WATERY, AS IN EMULSION IS OUT OF THE WINDOW.
It just so happen one time that i ran out of butter and i needed to make a quick batch of Italian Merengue Buttercream, used Country Crock 0 Trans Fat and it was a MESS!!!
I have to ask someone to get me some butter and since i don't want to throw this botched icing, i had to add them back into the new batch, gradually to avoid disrupting the emulsion process. My conclusion is that 0 Trans Fat probably has a lot of water in it plus the water in the egg whites, nah, it just doesn't work. I know there is a scientific explanation to it but this is my personal experience with 0 Trans Fat margarine. It is still okay to use for icings using confectioner's sugar but hold off a bit of the liquid since this fat has a lot of water in it, you might end up not adding any at all in the end.
It is great for baking breads and cakes, cookies etc.,, though, i am all 100% into using 0 Trans Fat, in fact i always bring some when i go home to the Philippines, those large tubs of margarine are always in my balikbayan boxes so feel free to use any brand if you happen to see them in your groceries.
1 thing it does not have too much is salt. Most table grade margarines in the Philippines are flavored, Dairy Magic (my favorite) has a sweet vanilla like scent to it, and not too salty too that's why i love it.
Another favorite is Dairy Creme of course, but i think it is just a tad bit saltier than Dairy Magic so i use it mostly in cooking, i use half of it and half Dairy Magic in breads and cakes.
My favorite brand of butter and one that i always do not want to ran out of is ANCHOR. There has to be an Anchor bar in my refrigerator all the time. With shortening, whatever does not melt at room temperature, i buy. I think the popular brands out there is Cloud and Spring. I buy bulk Tub Margarine because of its long shelf life, and only buy 1 kilo at a time of Shortening.
Why does Shortening stale or mold faster than Margarine??? Because it does not have salt like all margarines have. Shortening is 100% hydrogenized fat, while Margarines are made of hydrogenized vegetable oil, non fat milk powder, salt, vanillin and annatto food coloring.
There's a lot to be learned when it comes to cooking and baking Fats, how it suits your requirement is the number one reason why you choose this brand over the other brand. But remember this, butter is not margarine. Butter is expensive because it is made from cow's milk, while margarine is hydrogenized vegetable oil etc...
NOT the same. It's frustrating when i ask someone to buy me butter and end up with margarine. There, i said it. Not everyone knows this. The fact they sit side by side with each other in the chilled section of your grocery store, does not make them the same. That is why butter is more expensive than margarine. The flavor is also not comparable.
You can buy imitation butter, or margarine with the flavor of butter or butter compound. Conclusion. STILL NOT BUTTER. Hahaha. I know, it is getting funny but again, not too many people know this. C'mon. A little research please especially if you are really into baking.
This explains why cookies and cakes made with butter is melt in your mouth deliciousness!!! While the margarine counterpart is so and so...good. I hate to break it to you, that is why Butter is better. Expensive yes, but if you want to cut on the cost, try using half butter and half margarine.
Now, when it comes to creating volume and those lovely air pockets, shortening and margarine perform better than butter. Oooops. Do not be surprised if your pound cake made with half shortening and half butter has a larger volume than one made with 100% butter. Shortening can trap those air pockets better than your butter during the creaming process, i do not want to go too technical but this is the reason why i like adding a bit of shortening and margarine into my butter base cakes and cookies. Try it, you won't lose the flavor because you still have the butter, but the aeration is gorgeous, the volume is much higher.
So there you have it, my short simplified view on FATS. Knowing your ingredient is equally as important as knowing how to bake a cookie or a cake.
Lastly, when it comes to breads, i prefer adding a bit of the margarine and shortening on any or all of my recipes to give that perfect rise. My last advice is to make sure your Shortening remains odorless, use a very clean spoon to scoop it to prevent molding. If used properly and kept in a cool place, your shortening will last you a couple of months unrefrigerated. Yes. We do not refrigerate Tub Margarine and Shortening but THEY SHOULD BE KEPT IN A COOL PLACE.
In the US, specifically in NY or Canada, shortening lasts for half a year because it is cold most of the time in our house (Crisco brand), but in hot areas please if you think that you will not be baking with your Shortening every week and you have a spare space in your refrigerator, feel free to store it there. I am not saying you cannot.
Weighing Tub Margarine (notice the darker yellow color compared to table grade margarine)
Table Grade ( Dairy Magic on bottom left) I buy 6 to 8 of this brand, i like the fact that it is not too salty.
Lastly, i haven't been out too much lately because of COVID so i do not know the brands available now in the market. The first thing i did when i landed in NY was to go to Walmart and bought 6 brands of butter for my experiments. Guess what? While there were two who held up to Anchor, yikes the price is way too much (Plugra is one) but the rest is so and so..masarap pa ung Magnolia's Butterlicious (my second choice if there is no Anchor in the the store).