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Thread: What is the point of solid shortening in cookies?

  1. #1

    What is the point of solid shortening in cookies?

    I signed up for the Martha Stewart cookie of the day, and today's recipe sounds like something my son and husband would love. It calls for 1/2 cup of solid shortening, which I don't even buy. Can I just substitute butter? Does the shortening hold the cookie shape better?

  2. #2
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    Yes, shortening based cookies do not spread as much as butter based because shortening has less water than butter. You can sub the butter and then I would refrigerate the dough at least 8 hours. This, in my experience, allows the flour to absorb more of the water (I also use European style butter that also has less water), resulting in a thicker cookie. JMHO.
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    I don't bake much anymore( not lazy, just too many calories) so you might wait til some more folks chime in, but IMHO cookies made with all butter will spread too much. If a recipe calls for solid shortening, I split the amount half and half with butter and good quality stick margarine, meaning not a "light" or whipped or tub type. This is the only time I ever use margarine.
    I've never used Crisco or similar products. I think they make flavorless end products.
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  4. #4
    two main differences:

    Butter is not 100% fat. Shortening/lard is. Butter has approx. 20% water. Less with European style as that style butter has higher fat content. (I will sometimes increase the fat by 20% in the recipe and reduce the liquid.)

    Melting point. Butter has a lower melting temperature and starts spreading faster once interaction w/ heat occurs. Butter burns more easily due to milk proteins and browns better than shortening for this reason.

    Shortening has a higher melting point (-- lard even higher - which is why it makes a flakier pie crust). It is why when eating shortening-based pastry, you have a "fat", greasy feel in the mouth. Body temperature is not enough to melt it fully.


    Also why chocolate stripped of it's cocoa butter and replaced with shortening based fats is inferior quality. Cocoa butter melts at a lower temperature melting on the tongue as it should while shortening based "chocolate" (NOT!) leaves a greasy feel affecting it's flavor.

    As Susan suggests, refrigerating will help.

    Dolores
    Last edited by dneilson; 11-07-2008 at 11:23 AM.
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    Thanks you for all the replies posted. I have learnt a lot! Now I finally know there are options. If a recipe calls for "solid shortening" I have always passed. The mere look of Crisco
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    I'm baking cookies "as we speak" and both recipes use shortening. I don't use it often but there are some recipes where it is preferable to me. I always use Spectrum Organic shortening-my grandmother used Crisco. I wouldn't make a pie crust with anything else, btw. I am baking for a bake sale and I am making chocolate chip (I use half butter for flavor and half Spectrum for shape and chewiness )and the other is my grandmother's molasses ginger crinkles and I just want the flavor of the spices, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KAnn View Post
    I'm baking cookies "as we speak" and both recipes use shortening. I don't use it often but there are some recipes where it is preferable to me. I always use Spectrum Organic shortening-my grandmother used Crisco. I wouldn't make a pie crust with anything else, btw. I am baking for a bake sale and I am making chocolate chip (I use half butter for flavor and half Spectrum for shape and chewiness )and the other is my grandmother's molasses ginger crinkles and I just want the flavor of the spices, etc.
    I used to avoid shortening as well but have become quite fond of Earth Balance, which is also all natural, etc. Somehow it makes me feel better that it is refrigerated, I have no idea why.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KAnn View Post
    I always use Spectrum Organic shortening
    Quote Originally Posted by ljt2r View Post
    I used to avoid shortening as well but have become quite fond of Earth Balance,

    Both of these are either coconut oil or palm oil not shortening like we know it. Both are great for baking and frying/sautéing. The OP had asked about shortening but yes, I'd recommend tropical oils over shortening any day.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles View Post
    Both of these are either coconut oil or palm oil not shortening like we know it.
    Hi Susan,

    I'm not sure I understand your post. The Spectrum container does say, organic "All-vegetable shortening". "Non-hydrogenated".
    It does has palm oil listed.


    Are you saying palm oil is not a vegetable therefore it should not be technically called "shortening"?

    Crisco is made from a HYDROGENATED vegetable oil (that oil could be all or part palm oil). Crisco also advertises their oil as "all vegetable".

    I'm confused.

    Dolores
    "we can't go 'round measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude...
    we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include."
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    Dolores,
    Shortening to me means the partially hydrogenated Crisco that we bought for years. I'm fairly certain that coconut oil and palm oil would be considered fruit rather than veggie or at least the nut of the tree. Semantics aside both palm and coconut oils are solid at room temp (up to 80º if I remember correctly) and there is no reason to hydrogenate them. It's one of the main reasons I still don't use Crisco because it's an altered fat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles View Post
    Dolores,
    Shortening to me means the partially hydrogenated Crisco that we bought for years. I'm fairly certain that coconut oil and palm oil would be considered fruit rather than veggie or at least the nut of the tree. Semantics aside both palm and coconut oils are solid at room temp (up to 80º if I remember correctly) and there is no reason to hydrogenate them. It's one of the main reasons I still don't use Crisco because it's an altered fat.
    Is there a reason to think they do not behave as shortening would in a recipe that calls for shortening? I.e., is there a reason to worry about the semantics (aside from liking that they are healthier)?
    -Laura

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    Quote Originally Posted by ljt2r View Post
    Is there a reason to think they do not behave as shortening would in a recipe that calls for shortening? I.e., is there a reason to worry about the semantics (aside from liking that they are healthier)?
    No, they do behave exactly like the manufactured shortening. It is what was used before the invention of Crisco and oleo.
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    Are tropical oils any better or worse for you than butter? Not that any of them are tickets to heart health...
    For you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica View Post
    Are tropical oils any better or worse for you than butter? Not that any of them are tickets to heart health...
    This is kind of what I have been wanting to ask. I am not a baker at all, but this time of year I do enjoy baking cookies with DD. Is using shortening that much worse than butter. I mean, I realize that these cookies are once-in-a while treats and already are chockfull of white sugar and flour and chocolate chips!!
    Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessica View Post
    Are tropical oils any better or worse for you than butter? Not that any of them are tickets to heart health...
    They don't have cholesterol!
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    Quote Originally Posted by BucknellAlum View Post
    Is using shortening that much worse than butter.
    IMHO, yes, using shortening is very bad for your health and I don't believe for a minute that Crisco's fully hydrogenated shortening is any better for you than the partially hydrogenated cr@p. At least with coconut oil you know it's natural.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneezles View Post
    IMHO, yes, using shortening is very bad for your health and I don't believe for a minute that Crisco's fully hydrogenated shortening is any better for you than the partially hydrogenated cr@p. At least with coconut oil you know it's natural.
    Sneezles, is it that any hydrogenezation process is bad? I know the partially hydrogenated stuff is trans fat, and I am familiar with how that is worse for you than plain old saturated fat, right? It does all sorts of bad things to your cholesterol and arteries and heart health right?

    When Crisco went "trans fat free!" I guess I was misled into thinking it was "better" for you than the old Crisco. I knew it was still something I should not eat every day, but I did not know it was as bad as trans fat products. That packaging is really misleading, because I consider myself a little more well-read on nutrition than most of my friends, and I didn't consider that the new product was also bad for you.
    Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BucknellAlum View Post

    When Crisco went "trans fat free!" I guess I was misled into thinking it was "better" for you than the old Crisco. I knew it was still something I should not eat every day, but I did not know it was as bad as trans fat products. That packaging is really misleading, because I consider myself a little more well-read on nutrition than most of my friends, and I didn't consider that the new product was also bad for you.

    With the FDA allowing those products with less than .5gm of trans fats to be touted as trans fat free is just ridiculous as most often a 'serving" will be a minute amount (compared to what consumers actually consume).

    It's my personal opinion about the "new" Crisco and it being fully hydrogenated (and supposedly not bad) because it's produced by the same people that said Crisco and margarine were better for us than butter or tropical oils. Just the soybean growers way to get their product back into the hands of consumers. I would just rather use something that occurs in nature.
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  19. #19
    In addition to the facts (as stated by sneezles) that the FDA allowing .5 grams PER SERVING and still labeling "trans-fat free" is false advertising!!~

    The servings are so small that one can easily consume more than they intended.

    Crisco (et al) is a highly refined fat, extracted by chemical means and heat treated to destroy bacteriaand extend shelf life. This is profitable for the manufacturers. It is deodorized, filtered, and plenty more processes are applied before it is packaged for consumption. All this refining alters the fatty acid chain that the body does NOT recognize - and compromises heart health. ANY product that has "partially-hydrogenated fat" or "oil" contains transfat - regardless what the label says. These oils are extracted from plant sources (usually soy)- which have natural aromas (or odor, depending on plant/nut). Shortening has NO aroma - a sign it has been highly refined. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil has an aroma because it is not subjected to these chemical and mechanical processes. Bakers/manufacturers disliked the aroma of naturally extracted oil as it interfered with other flavors and went rancid quickly. Thus the flavorless, neutral tasting fat known as shortening was manufactured by Crisco, Spry, etc. Food manufactureres loved it for it's keeping properties, was cheap and stayed solid at room temperature. Organic or not, it's still a highly refined fat. Coconut oil is natural. Butter is natural. Cold pressed oils extracted without chemical and heat means are natural. These fats have aromas - they smell of the plant or nut from which they are extracted.

    Dr. Mary Enig PhD (renowned lipid scientist), pioneering trans-fat research she fought to publish and quelled by the oil industry for years (in addition to other lipid scientists) encourage us to eat natural fats in MODERATION, as close to their natural state as possible.

    We now eat moderate amounts of butter, rendered lard, bacon (sans sodium nitrates, thank you very much!), unrefined oils including coconut with lipid test results all fine. Some research points to highly processed food stripped of it nutrition as the culprit for heart disease - not naturated fats.

    (Sorry for the long post)

    Dolores
    "we can't go 'round measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude...
    we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include."
    Pierre Henri in Chocolat
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  20. #20
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    Do the coconut oil shortenings make everything taste like coconut?

    I don't do a lot of cookie baking except at the holidays and we like the taste of butter. I tried refrigerating dough overnight and cooling the cookie sheets between batches and that helped somewhat with the spreading.
    For you to be here now, trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once.

    --Bill Bryson, "A Short History of Nearly Everything"

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    Jessica,
    The virgin does impart a hint of coconut in some cookies. You can find refined coconut oil that is tasteless.
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