What is Vegetable Shortening? Why use shortening in Cookies and Cakes

What is Vegetable Shortening? Why use shortening in Cookies and Cakes

What is Vegetable Shortening?

A solid fat made by hydrogenating vegetable oil. Shortening is virtually flavorless and odorless. It is an alternative in place of butter or lard, especially in baking.

They are solid in room temperature and are essential to make crumbly pastry and other food products like pastries that should not be elastic. Common baking product using shortening are cakes, cookies and even in Ice creams.

Shortenings are semi solids with higher smoke point than butter and margarine. They contain less water and are thus less prone to splattering, making them safer for frying.

Vegetable shortening often contains high amounts of fat and many times the fat is unhealthy. Trans fat is often found in considerable amounts in vegetable shortening. Eating trans fat can have a greater negative impact on your blood cholesterol levels than eating high amounts of dietary cholesterol.

Why do we use Vegetable Shortening in baking?

Shortening is frequently used to inhibit gluten formation dough's such as in pie crusts, puff pastry and short bread.

Although butter is solid at room temperature and is frequently used in making pastry, the term "shortening" seldom refers to butter, but is more closely related to margarine.

Margarine  is an imitation butter spread used for spreading, baking, and cooking. Margarine which is also another shortening agent is considered harmful for our body. margarine increases our cholesterol level there by increasing risk of dying of heart disease.

Vegetable shortening became the subject of some health concerns due to its traditional formulation from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain trans-fatty acids, or "trans fats", as these have been linked to a number of adverse health effects.     

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Trans fats are drawing some justifiable heat from health experts, we're not so keen on using vegetable shortening anymore. But what's our alternative?

Alternatives for Vegetable Shortening

  • Lard - Original Shortening agent for baking. Lard is pig fat
  • Vegan Shortening Recipe - Coconut Oil Base
  • Few trans-fat-free shortenings are made from palm oil and coconut oil.