Community Message Boards
Results 1 to 26 of 26

Thread: Shortening vs. Butter Cookies

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883

    Shortening vs. Butter Cookies

    I've never made baked goods with shortening and until my discovering of Alton and other food scientists, I assumed it was just a cheap substitute for butter.

    Now that I know better, I realize that it produces very different results because of its different melting temperature.

    I avoid baked goods made with shortening because I love the taste of butter baked goods and think it's the "gold standard" in terms of excellence. I don't bake that much but when I do, I want it to be to die for

    There are some Christmas cookie recipes that call for shortening that I am thinking of trying -

    I would assume butter would really alter the results?

    For those who bake cookies with shortening - what are they like? How do they differ from butter based cookies?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    NashVegas, baby!
    Posts
    5,889
    Yes, subbing butter for shortening DOES produce different results. Because butter has water and dairy solids in addition to fat, the cookies will spread more, and thus be thinner.

    If you want some of the texture of shortening cookies with the taste of butter, you could try the following:

    Compromise: Half butter, half shortening
    Fake it: Use butter-flavor shortening OR regular shortening and butter flavoring
    Upgrade: Use European-style butter (Land O' Lakes or Plugra, among others) that has a higher fat content.

    I really suggest just going ahead and making a test batch with all shortening and give 'em a try. You might find you like them just fine.

    I think there is no "gold standard" when it comes to baking, it just depends on what your goals are.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    BFE, Texas
    Posts
    1,687
    I posted a similar question not long ago, and this is what some people said:

    http://community.cookinglight.com/sh...mas+shortening

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883
    No I didn't mean to imply there was a "gold" standard. However, I come from a European tradition in which baked goods are generally baked with butter. The really good bakeries (at least in New York) were Austrian/German or French and made butter based products. When my mother and grandmother baked, it was also with butter -- I don't think there was even a can of shortening in the house.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    rural southern NJ and NYC
    Posts
    2,273
    blaze, i'm with you, and also have a european and NYC background. heck, i go so far back that i remember vividly the farmer bringing the butter to my great-grandmother's house when i was a little girl.

    you could do what funnygirl suggests and bake a test batch, or stay true to yourself and just use butter. somehow, i cannot imagine that anyone is going to come crying to you complaining that you didn't use shortening, hehehe. IMO, very few persons can discern the difference anyway. me, i prefer a thinner, real butter-tasting cookie everytime, but i grew up with German and French home-baked (and bought bakery) goods and not Chips Ahoy. it's all in what we're accustomed to.

    if there are particular recipes you're concerned about, maybe you could post which ones and get more specific feedback.
    What one understands is only half true. What one does not understand is the full truth. ~ Zen saying

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    NashVegas, baby!
    Posts
    5,889
    *ahem*

    I was not raised on store-bought cookies, so that's not the basis of my opinion. When it comes to the butter-vs-shortening debate (which I've seen on LOTS of threads on lots of boards) there is an air of snobbishness about using only butter that tends to amuse me. The fact is that either type of fat is acceptable depending on the desired end result. It's not that one is better than the other; they are simply different. To take this even further, many baked goods used to be made with LARD. I read an article a few years ago by some food writers who made several types of baked goods with lard -- pie crust, cupcakes (I think), don't remember the rest. They had to search out good-quality lard, not the stuff you find in the grocery store, but they were shocked at how good the foods were. They said the TEXTURE was far superior to anything they'd made with any other type of fat.

    If it offends you to use shortening because of your upbringing or anything else, then don't. Will anyone "notice" that you subbed butter for a suggested ingredient? Of course not. When it comes to substitutions, the question is ALWAYS "Am I more concerned with getting exactly the end result that the recipe-writer intended, or am I willing to sacrifice some of that to accomodate my own preferences?"

    Again, the only way you're going to make an informed decision that will make YOU happy is to experiment and see where your line of compromise lies. Butter will not yield the same result as shortening. It's not a question of which is BETTER, but which result you PREFER.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883
    I honestly don't have an element of snobbism at this point -- I used to before I started reading about food chemistry and learned that shortening produced entirely different results from butter.

    I just don't come from a tradition in which non butter baked goods were baked or eaten based for a variety of reasons. Since Crisco was introduced at the turn of the century as a substitute for lard, I would assume that some of it had to do with New York City's tradition of Jewish style bakeries (although I am not kosher). The bakeries were generally Austrian/German/Romanian in the boroughs or the same in Manhattan with the addition of French bakeries in that borough.

    Lard/Crisco does produce the flakiest pie crusts -- I haven't baked a pie in years and can't recall my mother or grandmother ever making one -- probably because my background is Jewish. Since lard was used for pie crusts prior to the 20th century, pies and the like aren't generally part of traditional Jewish cuisine.

    I like to follow a recipe for baked goods as written since I know it's much more of a chemical formula than other types of cooking. I was just generally interested in what kind of different textured cookie resulted from shortening -- is it softer? fluffier?

  8. #8

    Wink

    I am one who prefers butter. Yes, I suppose I'm a cookie snob in some respects, but it's not because I think it's bad to use shortening in cookies, I just don't think it tastes good. And if a baked good doesn't taste great to me, there's no point in wasting the fat and calories. So, for me, butter is what makes a cookie taste good. You can load up the cookie with whatever you please, but if the basic dough itself doesn't have a good flavor, it just doesn't do anything for me. Then again, I'm weird - I prefer the cookie over the chocolate chips and actually pick the cookies with the least amount of chips!

    However, I have come to find that shortening can produce a cookie with a better texture, so I am now willing to try cookies that have half butter/half shortening. I doubt I'll ever LOVE a cookie with all shortening, though I do like them okay. I probably won't try baking with all shortening unless I try a cookie I really like and get a tried and true recipe.

    If you would like to experiment with a cookie that has shortening, JeAnne's Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies are very, very good. I can still taste the butter, but they are nice and soft and chewy.

    Also if you are concerned with trans fats, I have used Spectrum palm oil shortening with good results - it has no trans fats.

    Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it. I find them to be a bit on the salty side, so I will be cutting back on the salt a bit when I make them later this week.

    Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

    1/2 cup shortening
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    1 cup packed dark brown sugar
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup peanut butter
    2 eggs
    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 350.

    2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and oats; stir into the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 11 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just barely puffed and starting to turn light brown. Don't over-bake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

    Alysha

  9. #9
    Originally posted by blazedog
    I was just generally interested in what kind of different textured cookie resulted from shortening -- is it softer? fluffier?
    I think they tend to not spread as thin as an all butter cookie (though some butter cookies spread for me and others don't). With shortening they also tend to have that nice, chewy texture whereas butter cookies (unless you bake them just right) can sometimes be crispier.

    I think shortening certainly has its place for different reason - except with sugar cookies and shortbread - then it's butter all the way or nothing at all. IMO, IMO, IMO!!!!

    Alysha

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    IL
    Posts
    12,505
    I tend to bake with whatever the recipe calls for, but I must admit that sometimes I will avoid that recipe calling for shortening because I think shortening looks gross. Butter is such a pretty color. I always hated margarine too because in Ontario, where I grew up, it used to be an gross orange color. I had heard that it was not allowed to be the color of butter. I think that has changed there now though. In the end, fat is fat though, and as long as there are other delicious flavors in the recipe, any recipe has the potential to be good.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883
    FWIW, I love crisp and don't tend to like soft cookies unless they are soft because of the addition of something fabulous like almond paste

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    rural southern NJ and NYC
    Posts
    2,273
    i'm saddened to see this thread taking a contentious tone. darnit, i thought this board was about learning from one another, and not childishly clinging to "my way or the highway" stances.

    myself, i always try to keep an open mind. that isn't to say that, after 35 years of cooking on my own, i haven't developed some opinions, which are well-grounded in experience. but i am always willing to try a new recipe/method/ingredients.
    What one understands is only half true. What one does not understand is the full truth. ~ Zen saying

  13. #13
    I also usually avoid recipes that call for shortening.......I mean, what IS shortening anyway?? Im sure things taste better using shortening, but isnt it bad for you? I avoid lard in mexican food, so I wouldnt want it in my cookies that my daughter is going to eat.......

    Can anyone answer what store bought shortening is?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883
    Now it is most commonly Crisco which is hydrogenated vegetable oil which is chock full of trans fatty acids.

    There are newly released shortenings which do not contain trans fatty acids. However, FWIW, they are made with palm oil which, as I recall, is among the least healthy fat -- although I don't imagine that butter is any better for the heart whatever one's taste preferences

    Crisco was one of the earliest nationally branded foods and was meant to replace lard as the form of shortening or frying oil used by Americans. I've read food history and the initial launch of it as a national brand is interesting.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    New Orleans, LA
    Posts
    9,019
    Originally posted by Aubergine
    i'm saddened to see this thread taking a contentious tone. darnit, i thought this board was about learning from one another, and not childishly clinging to "my way or the highway" stances.
    Well I don't know about contentiousness, but snobbyness sort of came in from the first post:

    "I avoid baked goods made with shortening because I love the taste of butter baked goods and think it's the "gold standard" in terms of excellence." Oh wait, then later she didn't mean to imply there was a gold standard.

    I agree with funniegirl..it really depends on the desired result. Personally I like the recipes that combine the two The flavor of butter with the chewy of shortening
    "Comfy? I'm chained in a bathtub drinkin' pig's blood from a novelty mug. Doesn't rank huge in the Zagut's Guide."

    - Spike, "Something Blue"


    *****************
    My lil site:
    http://greysangel.wordpress.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    New Orleans, LA
    Posts
    9,019
    oh and I do believe that fabulous cookie is Jewels
    "Comfy? I'm chained in a bathtub drinkin' pig's blood from a novelty mug. Doesn't rank huge in the Zagut's Guide."

    - Spike, "Something Blue"


    *****************
    My lil site:
    http://greysangel.wordpress.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    rural southern NJ and NYC
    Posts
    2,273
    Originally posted by greysangel


    Well I don't know about contentiousness, but snobbyness sort of came in from the first post:

    "I avoid baked goods made with shortening because I love the taste of butter baked goods and think it's the "gold standard" in terms of excellence." Oh wait, then later she didn't mean to imply there was a gold standard.
    well, i thank you for giving us a textbook example of contentious.
    What one understands is only half true. What one does not understand is the full truth. ~ Zen saying

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Hollywood, California
    Posts
    10,883
    As the original poster, I should probably have been more explicit in what I meant

    Until reading food chemistry, I equated the use of shortening in cookies as equivalent to using margerine -- I wasn't aware that there was a reason that shortening (not margerine) was specified.

    And by the way, since margerine is more like shortening than butter, are cookies made with margerine different in texture than cookies made with butter.

    I have always been aware that shortening is used for flaky pastries but I have seen half and half substitutions where the recipe or chef (as I usually get this from food shows) explains that the butter is for taste and the shortening is for texture -- of course puff pastry is all texture and all butter but that's another story

    Regarding my use of the gold standard, I guess I did reveal my tastes as the most expensive and desirable (to most people) baked goods are those made with butter -- butter cakes, butter cookies, butter brownies etc. Chiffon cakes are of course made with oil but these were a culinary invention of the 30's I believe and were designed to help people during the Depression who couldn't afford the cost of butter. Chiffon cakes have developed into a wonderful class of their own but I still prefer pound/butter based cakes.

    Cheap bakeries use colored/flavored shortening to frost cakes while expensive bakeries and good home cooks seem to use buttercream frostings or some other type of icing/frosting with an expensive fat to texture -- cream cheese, sour cream etc.

    I have never baked a cookie with shortening and the thought arose while watching Paula Deen's cookie show last night -- she used half butter and half Crisco. Given that Paula's ingredients are driven solely by taste, I wondered why she had made the decision to go with 1/2 shortening instead of all butter.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    North of the ocean, South of the Freeway, Mississippi Gulf Coast
    Posts
    3,193
    Has anyone tried making cookies with clarified butter??? (i.e. butter which has had the extra water/dairy solids removed)

    I can't help thinking that the clarified butter would then react more similarly to shortening, and yet retain most of the flavor elements and melt-in-your-mouth wonderfulness that butter provides.

    (I'm a butter fan too!)
    Anna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money.
    Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine,
    something Brussels sprouts never do.
    P. J. O'Rourke, humorist
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  20. #20
    Originally posted by funniegrrl
    If it offends you to use shortening because of your upbringing or anything else, then don't. Will anyone "notice" that you subbed butter for a suggested ingredient? Of course not. When it comes to substitutions, the question is ALWAYS "Am I more concerned with getting exactly the end result that the recipe-writer intended, or am I willing to sacrifice some of that to accomodate my own preferences?"

    Again, the only way you're going to make an informed decision that will make YOU happy is to experiment and see where your line of compromise lies. Butter will not yield the same result as shortening. It's not a question of which is BETTER, but which result you PREFER.
    Well said. I have to admit, I like cookies made with margarine best. Guess I like that soft and chewy texture better than crispy, but of course, its just a personal pref. I too am grossed out by shortening and can't use it (I realize health wise its probably no better/worse than margarine but I simply can not get over my grossed outness!), though I have tried things made with it - never wowed me enough to buy it and try it on my own. I simply sub margarine in any recipe calling for it and never had a problem (maybe in some way its different than the recipe writer's results but they've always been tasty so its not a difference I'd say made a negative impact). I'd say margarine is closer to shortening and the results would be more similar than subbing butter for shortening would be.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Austin, Texas USA
    Posts
    974
    Originally posted by Little Bit
    Has anyone tried making cookies with clarified butter??? (i.e. butter which has had the extra water/dairy solids removed)
    Anna, I've been using Clarified Plugra (Williams Sonoma) in a few recipes and it DOES make a difference It gives you the flavor of butter with the textural properties of lard. It's not cheap, though.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    North of the ocean, South of the Freeway, Mississippi Gulf Coast
    Posts
    3,193
    annagins,

    Thanks for the feedback. I don't live near enough to any stores that actually stock Plugra, clarified or not, so I think I'll be making my own clarified butter.

    I do have some Plugra, that I'm planning to use in a decadent pastry of some sort, croissants, perhaps?? but don't really want to use it on cookies, no matter how wonderful.
    Anna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money.
    Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine,
    something Brussels sprouts never do.
    P. J. O'Rourke, humorist
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  23. #23
    Originally posted by greysangel
    oh and I do believe that fabulous cookie is Jewels
    Duh! Thanks JeAnne.
    Last edited by lindrusso; 12-10-2004 at 06:19 AM.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Austin, Texas USA
    Posts
    974
    Originally posted by Little Bit


    I do have some Plugra, that I'm planning to use in a decadent pastry of some sort, croissants, perhaps?? but don't really want to use it on cookies, no matter how wonderful.
    I don't blame you! Pastry is where it really shines. It's also good with sauteed recipes.

    Since we're talking about butter, I might as well mention (again!) that I've been browning most of my butter. The slightly burnt flavor adds some complexity to cookies. The best results were Mexican Wedding Cakes with browned butter. You brown the butter over the stove (but don't skim it, as you would clarified) then pour it and it's browned bits into a small container and return to the refrigerator to firm up. From that point, you use it as you would regular butter. I got the idea from Sherry Yard's "Secrets of Baking". I'll never make a pecan pie without browned butter again.

  25. #25
    Since we're talking about butter, I might as well mention (again!) that I've been browning most of my butter. The slightly burnt flavor adds some complexity to cookies. The best results were Mexican Wedding Cakes with browned butter. You brown the butter over the stove (but don't skim it, as you would clarified) then pour it and it's browned bits into a small container and return to the refrigerator to firm up. From that point, you use it as you would regular butter. I got the idea from Sherry Yard's "Secrets of Baking". I'll never make a pecan pie without browned butter again.
    I did this with the last cookie recipe I made and it was wonderful. It definitely brings out the butter flavor in the cookies. I actually got this idea from a previous post regarding Sherry Yard's cookbook (by Anna).

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    North of the ocean, South of the Freeway, Mississippi Gulf Coast
    Posts
    3,193
    I keep meaning to try the browned butter thing, but never quite get around to it. If there's a chilling stage, that's a help. (Somehow browning the butter as one small step on its own seems easier.)
    Anna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money.
    Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine,
    something Brussels sprouts never do.
    P. J. O'Rourke, humorist
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •