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To avoid cookies that could pass for hockey pucks, watch the type of

Resident Expert

Q I baked some cookies and they turned out hard and dry instead of soft and chewy. I baked them for the right length of time and followed the recipe carefully. A friend said they failed because I used soft margarine in a tub instead of stick margarine. Could that be right?

- A.A., San Diego

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A Baking with light margarine may make you feel good, but it doesn't have the same effect on your cookies. Many cookie makers prefer to bake with butter instead of margarine. However, if you want to use margarine, you need to choose the type carefully or the results won't be what you hoped for.

"Because of the overwhelming demand from consumers for reduced-fat products, there is a whole new generation of margarines on the market today," says Sue Taylor of the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers.

"When cooking or baking with margarine products, consumers should understand that oil levels vary and can often affect recipe results," she warns.

*Margarines containing 60 percent or more oil can be used almost anywhere butter is specified except for baked goods.

*Those margarines containing 50 to 59 percent oil are suitable for most cooking, but not for for baking.

*Those with 49 percent or less oil should be used only for spreading or topping.

"The higher the oil content, the more fat there is in the product," notes Ms. Taylor."While fat does add calories, it [also] contributes texture and browning properties to foods. When baking, the products with the lower oil content don't perform in the same way [as traditional margarines]."

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Many of the new margarines simply don't contain enough fat to produce good cookies. You will get the best cookies, cakes, and pies with a "regular margarine," which has at least 80 percent fat, she says. In short, when using margarine for baking, avoid those labeled "light," "low-fat," or "fat-free."

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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