It is the bane of every dedicated frequent home cooks and bakers when a recipe calls for a specific ingredient and then finding out that you don’t have the said ingredient in your pantry. Especially if the recipe calls for something specific and hard to find ingredients like shortening. Shortening is a crucial ingredient that when mixed into the dough, makes the pie crusts, tarts and other baked goods crumblier and softer. Although many seem to believe that it is irreplaceable, there are a few products you can use as a substitute for shortening.
There are reasons too, why more and more bakers and cooks want to find the perfect substitute for shortening. Mostly, it’s because of its effects on your health but others look for replacements simply because the pantry doesn’t have it and it is too bothersome to go to the grocery store just to buy that one missing ingredient.
What is Shortening?
Crisco, characterized by its standard and popular blue packaging, is the first thing a lot of people think of when asked about shortening. However, the term actually extends more from hydrogenated vegetable oil. In fact, shortening defines any fat that is able to stay solid at room temperature, such as lard.
Shortening got its name because of what it actually does to flour. Adding shortening into baked goods intervenes with the formation of the gluten matrix in the dough. As a result, gluten strands end up shorter which creates a softer, more crumbly baked good. Why cakes and pastries are soft and bread is the opposite? It’s because of shortening!
Cake decorators are also a huge fan of the ingredient. Using shortening in frosting will mean that it will not melt in high temperatures resulting in aesthetically pleasing cakes!
Why Do I Need A Shortening Substitute?
Professional and dedicated bakers follow the recipes to the last ounces, a change of ingredient usually results in a different texture, taste and more importantly the food’s health content, or in the case of shortening, its saturated fat content.
Saturated fat has been found out to not be good for your health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the ingestion of saturated fats, as it can raise “bad” cholesterol in the body and will put you at higher risk for heart disease.
People who have been found to exchange healthy alternatives to saturated and trans fats in their diets reduce their risk of heart ailments. Look for omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids in your shortening substitute as both are important to boosting overall health. These fatty acids contain anti-inflammatory properties that protect your body against unwanted inflammation.
What Can I Substitute For Shortening?
The search for the best substitute for shortening is going to be tough, passionate cooks and bakers know what is best for their beloved homegrown recipes. However, there will be no harm in trying these items on our list. Who knows you can find something that will be better suited and may improve your recipe.
Organic Coconut Oil
Compared to another shortening substitute, organic coconut oil is by far the healthiest choice. Containing about fifty percent medium chain triglycerides, it can help increase your energy levels. No more sluggish Susan’s and Lazy Larry’s once you’re using this ingredient. Plus points to the neutral aroma and flavor from coconut oil, which means that you can use it for any type of cooking you have in mind.
Read Also: Best Oils for Popcorn Making
Butter must be the most common substitute for shortening as it’s readily available in the market. Some bakers even prefer it to shortening and use unsalted butter as butter adds more flavor and is naturally delicious even though it is pricier.
Baking using shortening usually leans towards being bland and tasteless. However, butter only consists of anywhere between 75 and 90 percent butterfat, and the rest being milk solids and water. This results in a different texture in your baked goods, butter often makes softer and crunchier cookies and pastries. You may have to adjust other ingredients, and unless you’re using clarified butter, which you’ll need a one to one substitution.
When you say shortening substitutes, bakers think of something that is pretty close. A fine substitute would be lard. Lard is pork fat used for cooking, pastry or for baking. Characterized by a semi-soft white fat derived from fatty parts of the pig, it contains high saturated fatty acids which are not really good for the body. If you are using lard instead of shortening, you have to use it in lesser amounts as your baked item can retain a porky or meaty flavor to it if used excessively. And we certainly don’t want that!
People have this conundrum, is butter really superior to margarine? Do baked goods taste better when you use butter rather than margarine? It has somehow bothered every cook or baker for generations, so let’s find out which is the better substitute for shortening. Margarine is made from any one of a wide variety of vegetable oils that have been chemically altered through a process called hydrogenation to create a solid through creating trans-fats.
Trans fat is a form of saturated fat that doesn’t naturally occur but is ONLY created by forcing a normally healthy unsaturated fat into solid, saturated fat. Meaning, it is bad for your health. There are no milk solids to brown and the properties of the hydrogenated fat causes a coarser crumb in cakes and a VERY different flavor and texture in baked goods. Though generally cheaper, it is hard to find good quality margarine that will add a more delicious flavor to your baked goods.
Yes, you’ve read it right! Applesauce is a great substitute for shortening. Especially, if you want an alternative for your cookie recipe. Applesauce is made by cooking down apples with water, apple cider or fresh apple juice and other spices to the desired consistency resembling a pureed sauce. However, using this ingredient as an alternative takes experimentation and practice.
Some vegetarian dessert recipes use applesauce, but it really doesn’t work the same way as fat on flour. The pectin in apples actually works as a thickener for the flour, not a shortening. Recipes would need to be altered to accomplish the same result that fat creates.
Cooks usually substitute applesauce for oil or shortening by using a 1:1 ratio of applesauce. Meaning, if your recipe calls for ½ cup of oil or shortening, just replace that with 1/2 unsweetened applesauce instead. Applesauce adds not only moisture and flavor to your favorite baked goods but fiber and nutrients as well. Not only that, Applesauce is a great vegan substitute. And we’re all rooting for guilt-free desserts after a full heavy meal!
Have You Found The Next Best Thing To Shortening?
Shortening, in general, has a bad reputation, just like lard, margarine or butter. People swap out applesauce as an alternative and expect their cakes and other baked goods to turn out just the same fluffy and moist. More often than not, those cakes come out dense and crumbly and do not come out as well the other alternatives. However, it is all in your preference, it is your choice and taste that will matter in the end.
Branching out beyond shortening and looking out for alternatives for your tried and true baking recipes will not be easy, you’ll have lots of trial and error to do, beloved recipes to tweak and more substitute for shortening to try out there! But there’s only one thing is for certain – the results have always been a result of the labor of love and searching for that perfect alternative to make the best dessert for the ones you love!