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Margarine or Oil?

Margarine or Oil? Which will it be?

It’s been years since I’ve switched over nearly all my baking from margarine based recipes to those that use oil instead. Margarine is an unhealthy food, (and some can argue that it may not even be called food!), and because of the increased health awareness today, bakers everywhere want to know what to do when recipes call for crumbs or bases that require margarine.

I have this great apple/fruit crunch that we enjoy eating every Shabbos day and it calls for lots of crunch on top. The main ingredient is margarine and I want to create that “crunchy” crunch but without all the trans fat of margarine. How can I do this?

Note: yes there are margarines sold that are ‘trans-fat free’; these ideas are for those who can’t get this or who prefer to use oil instead.

The short answer to converting recipes from margarine to oil is that in general, one uses the same amounts of oil as they would margarine. For instance, when I do a crumb mixture, I begin with the same ratio but if the crumbs look too ‘dry’ I will add a bit more oil until I like the texture. Other times, I will decrease. For example, a relative of mine has this really amazing recipe for ruggelach dough and has been making them for every family simcha for over 35 years. However, it has 2 entire cups of margarine for only 7 cups of flour! No wonder they are so light and crispy! When I learned that, I stopped letting my relative give us bags and bags of those heavenly baked items for my kids. But when I went to duplicate the recipe myself with oil, 2 cups just made it swim around and I had to play with the recipe until I had a dough that I liked. True, it is not quite as crispy and flaky as the margarine dough, but it is very good and there is no trans fat involved at all.

Back to the crumbs question, you can add lots of good-for-you grains and nuts to your crumbs so that besides being margarine free, it can also be white-flour and white sugar-free. You can also cut down on the amount of sugar used until you reach the taste you like, thereby decreasing the sugar content as well. Since you are sprinkling the crumbs on top of sweet fruit, you don’t actually need all the sugar most recipes claim you do in order to have a good tasting crumble on top of your apples (or peaches, cranberry, pears, etc.)

Here’s a basic ratio that we enjoy using on our fruit crumbles. It also freezes well and if you have any leftover, you can always put it back in the fridge or freezer to use for the next time.

Ratio for one 8×11 inch pan (or you can split it between 2-3 loaf pans of any size you like):
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/2 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 – 1 & 1/2 cup ground nuts such as almonds or walnuts
Optional: 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (unsalted), or whole sesame seeds
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup demerara sugar (light brown)
3/4 cup oil of choice (not soy oil)


Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix them together with a fork. Add in 1/2 cup of the oil and continue to toss the mix together with your fork. If it is still too dry, add in more of the oil. It should resemble a nice, darkened crumb mixture that is neither too wet nor too dry. If it does become too heavy, add more oats or flour or nuts to it and remix. This ‘recipe’ does not need a mixer.
Just sprinkle this generously over the sliced fruit in your pan, bake it at 350°F / 180-190°C until the top is lightly browned and crispy and it’s ready. You can certainly freeze this. To serve, just defrost and serve. We enjoy it best cold, served directly to the table alongside the cholent or chicken meal.

Another fun idea that you can try with this recipe is to turn into a sort of granola. Try packing it alone into a baking pan and baking it – see if it will let you cut it into small bars afterwards. You may need to add more oil for this to work, though. Or you can spread it out on a lined cookie sheet and bake it until it’s toasted, and then try adding it to your plain bio yogurts or ice cream or with some milk and bananas…

The ideas are endless and are all up to your creativity!

Enjoy taking the margarine out of your diet.

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