Ghee has always enjoyed a special status in traditional Indian cooking and is heavily endorsed by Ayurveda for a plethora of health benefits. The world of baking is only recently discovering its uses, and with great results.
To start with, the process of making the ghee itself involves heating milk solids (clotted cream or cultured butter) until all the water has evaporated. As a result, ghee contains more fat than the butter it is made from; which means it is a saturated fat. So, when you use ghee instead of butter in your bakes, you need lesser fat than usual—a cake that needs 100 grams of butter will work with 75 grams of ghee instead.
The fact that the moisture from ghee has been evaporated also makes it a great alternative for pastry, which benefits greatly from the use of dry fats (did you know that manufacturers of French butter actually make a special variety of dry butter specifically for baking?). A shortcrust pastry made from cold ghee will also have a more pleasant palate feel as compared to one made from margarine, lard, shortening, or a combination of oil and butter. Similarly, Croissants and other laminated pastries made using ghee will be easier to work with because there will not be any moisture in the ghee to mess up your flour to fat or hydration ratios, thereby yielding flakier pastry. All you need to do is to remember to work with cold, solid ghee when making pastry or cookies because if it is melted to its liquid state, the dough will not be cohesive enough to hold the product together.
Ghee also yields a much nuttier flavor—imagine that in a freshly baked Almond Croissant or a Mawa Cake! The fact that ghee has a high smoking point also means that it does not burn easily. Therefore, if you leave your bakes in the oven just a tad longer than you ought to, chances are your ghee-laden bakes will not be completely burnt and wasted.
A tender crumb, a more rounded flavor, and health benefits to boot—what else does one need when indulging in little patisserie delights at tea-time!
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