what is a shortening in baking

Shortening In Baking: What Is It and Is It Better Than Butter?

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  • Post last modified:July 18, 2022
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Let’s face it: not all fats are equally made for baking. Depending on the baker and the recipe, some fats might be better. In this article, we’ll talk about shortening in baking.

To give you an overall view of common fats, we’ll also discuss the differences between shortening, lard, margarine, and butter.

These four common fats can replace each other sometimes. Hence, it’s crucial that you know the main differences between them. Knowing what baked goods require them also helps.

What Is Shortening?

Shortening is a common baking ingredient with many uses.

It is a form of fat and solid at room temperature. Shortening shortens the gluten strands in wheat. This provides baked goods a moist texture, a short bite, and/or crispiness. 

Depending on the recipe, amount of shortening, & baking tools and equipment used, shortening can provide one or more of these characteristics.

Since shortening shortens gluten strands in wheat, it lowers starch retrogradation in baked goods. Starch retrogradation involves the reforming and hardening of starch molecules. 

In addition, since shortening is totally made of fat, it makes baked treats tender. 

How Is Shortening in Baking Created?

To make shortening, manufacturers have to process liquid oil. First, liquid oil goes through hydrogenation.

Hydrogenation involves adding extra hydrogen atoms to vegetable fats. As a result, they become solid. 

Some manufacturers make shortening with trans fatty acids. Others do not. 

For instance, Crisco shortening, a popular US brand, does not include artificial trans fat like it used to.

Hydrogen molecules are also added to the base oil of Crisco shortening. This makes it more spreadable like margarine.

Interestingly, Crisco shortening was the first-ever product to include partially hydrogenated oils. However, in 2015, the FDA mandated the removal of artificial trans fat from processed foods like Crisco shortening.

As a result, the manufacturers behind the Crisco shortening changed its formula. Now, Crisco shortening has 0.5 grams of natural trans fat per serving. This allows Crisco to put zero trans fats on its label.

What Is Shortening Used For?

what is a shortening in baking

Shortening is mainly used for baking. As shortening shortens the gluten strands of wheat, it makes the protein less elastic and sticky.

Due to its nature, bakers frequently use shortening in baking treats with a flaky and tender texture. These treats include pie crusts, croissants, and cannolis.

Aside from providing a flaky and tender texture, shortening also provides a rich flavor to baked goods like bread.

Shortening creams because it blends huge volumes of air bubbles. As a result, shortening in baking makes a product with a fine, delicate structure.

In addition, many consumers use shortening for frying. 

Shortening has a low percentage of unsaturated fatty acids. Hence, it has a higher resistance to rancidity and oxidation. 

Rancidity involves the breakdown of fats that results in an unpleasant taste and odor. On the other hand, oxidation involves oxygen. This degrades the fats’ quality.

Hence, rancidity and oxidation are undesirable processes. Using fat that resists them makes that fat great for frying.

To further understand what shortening in baking is used for, it helps knowing what types of shortening suit certain treat best.

Experts recommend using solid shortening for pie crusts, croissants, and other pastries. Liquid shortening works best for cake and some bread recipes. All-purpose shortening or non-emulsified hydrogenated shortening works well with high-ratio cakes. Lastly, icing shortening works best for cakes that need to retain more moisture. 

Shortening in Baking Philippines: What You Need to Know About Shortening Quality

Not all shortening brands are made equal. Some are way better than others mainly because manufacturers try to cut their expenses.

While there are many great shortening brands in the Philippines, there are some you should be wary of.

Beware of the Moisture Content

To begin with, widely available shortening in wet markets has high moisture content. This happens because of extra water.

Manufacturers add water to the shortening to increase its weight. They do this because water makes the shortening heavier. 

In a nutshell, they cut their expenses and can sell their products at a lower cost. This makes customers think that their brands are cheaper when in reality, the product quality suffers.

So, you have to be aware of the shortening brands you are buying. Extra water causes rancidity. Rancidity is a no-no in baking because it causes an unpleasant taste and odor.

Speaking of rancidity, you’ll be relieved to know that you can identify low-quality, rancid shortening.

How To Test For Pure Vegetable Shortening?

You can do this by using an old-school cooking technique. High-quality shortening does not splatter when melted or boiled.

To see if the shortening brand you bought can be trusted, take a small portion of it. Place it on a frying pan. If it starts to sizzle and produces steam, it contains water. This indicates that your shortening does not contain pure vegetable fat. 

Shortening vs Lard: Is Shortening Better Than Lard?

shortening vs lard

Manufacturers make lard from the fatty tissue of hogs. Made from 100% animal fat, lard goes through rendering. 

Rendering is a process where the fatty parts of the pig (e.g. shoulder and belly) are slowly cooked until the fat melts. The manufacturers then separate the fat from the meat. Once chilled, lard solidifies. It turns into a soft, smooth substance.

However, some lard brands have a post-process pork taste. Thus, you should be careful about what to buy. 

How does lard differ from shortening?

The answer lies in the source of fats. 

Up until the early 20th century, people widely used lard. However, once shortening came into the picture, lard’s popularity decreased.

Shortening is usually made from vegetable oils like cottonseed, palm, or soybean. This makes shortening healthier than lard. Moreover, animal fat contains cholesterol.

However, many bakers use shortening and lard for the same purposes. These include producing light and flaky treats and greasing pans. 

In a nutshell, shortening is only better than lard because of its nature. Since shortening is made from vegetable oil, it is a healthier alternative to lard. Otherwise, shortening and lard can achieve the same results.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you what to choose between shortening and lard. We suggest you decide based on the recipe though. If your trusted recipes call for shortening, use them. If they require lard, use it.

Shortening vs Butter: Is Shortening Better Than Butter?

shortening vs butter

Manufacturers make butter from cream. Containing a high concentration of milk fat, butter goes through churning.

Churning is a process where the cream is agitated until its fragile membranes rupture. Once destroyed, the fat droplets merge to form clumps or butter grains.

As churning continues, huge clusters of fat merge again until they form a network. This network, along with the air bubble caused by churning, traps the liquid to build foam. 

The foam then leaks and produces buttermilk. In the end, the cream separates into butter and buttermilk. The manufacturer drains the buttermilk and kneads the butter. This gives the butter a smooth, creamy texture. 

Some butter brands are salted, others are not. However, unsalted butter is more commonly used than salted butter. 

How does butter differ from shortening?

The answer lies in the source of fats and the amount of fat they hold.

Butter is made from cream, while shortening is made from vegetable oils like cottonseed, palm, or soybean. However, this does not necessarily mean that shortening is healthier than butter. 

Moreover, butter contains 80% butterfat and about 20% water. On the other hand, shortening is composed of 100% hydrogenated vegetable oil. Therefore, it does not have water. 

In addition, there is a slight difference between how shortening and butter affect baked goods. 

Shortening traps more air bubbles. Moreover, shortening has a higher melting point than butter. Hence, products using shortening tend to rise slightly higher than those using butter. Products with shortening also hold their shape better and have a softer or lighter inner part.

However, many bakers use shortening and butter for the same purposes. These include producing treats like cookies and cakes.

In a nutshell, butter and shortening are great fats for baking. There is also no evidence that shortening is healthier than butter. However, if you want your baked goods to hold their shape better and have a lighter or softer inner texture, use shortening. 

On the other hand, butter has a better taste than shortening. Hence, if you prefer baked products with a better flavor, use butter.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you what to choose between shortening and butter. We suggest you decide based on the recipe though. If your trusted recipes call for shortening, use them. If they require butter, use it.

Shortening vs Margarine: Is Shortening Better Than Margarine?

shortening vs margarine

Just like shortening, manufacturers make margarine from vegetable oils. Containing a high concentration of fat, manufacturers designed margarine to look and taste like butter. 

Similar to shortening, margarine also goes through hydrogenation. This process involves dispersing vegetable oils into a watery solution containing milk products and flavoring agents. 

Originating in the 1860s, margarine was first developed using the same process that butter goes through― churning. 

Commonly known as a healthier and cheaper alternative to butter, margarine can also be used in baking. Moreover, margarine can contain as low as 35% fat. 

In addition, many margarine brands have trans fat, which is something many bakers like to pass on. However, there are some brands such as HICAPS BUTTERCREAM Refrigerated Margarine containing no cholesterol and trans fat. This kind of margarine is the healthiest in the market.

How does margarine differ from shortening?

Shortening contains 100% fat. It has no flavor. While margarine is also made from vegetable oil, it contains water, milk, and flavoring. In addition, margarine has less fat content than shortening (35% to 80% fat).

There is also a slight difference between how shortening and margarine work in baked goods. 

Since margarine contains water and lower fats, you have to use more margarine to replace shortening. Adding two extra tablespoons of margarine for each cup of shortening you’re aiming to replace works.

In a nutshell, margarine and shortening are great fats for baking. However, if you want your baked goods to hold their shape better and have a lighter or softer inner texture, use shortening. 

On the other hand, margarine has a better taste and color than shortening. Hence, if you prefer baked products with a better flavor and yellowish color, use margarine.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you what to choose between shortening and margarine. We suggest you decide based on the recipe though. If your trusted recipes call for shortening, use them. If they require margarine, use it.

Shortening, Butter, Margarine, or Lard: Which Is the Best?

what is shortening

There is no universal answer to this.

Shortening, butter, margarine, and lard are excellent fats for baking. However, they have advantages and disadvantages that you must carefully consider. 

For one, shortening and lard are made of 100% fat. They suit recipes that call for light and flaky textures. On the other hand, butter and margarine have better flavor. They suit recipes that call for more flavor. 

In addition, vegetable oil composes shortening. Butter and lard are made from animal fat. Margarine is mainly composed of vegetable oil but with some milk fat.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shortening in Baking

What is the purpose of shortening in baking?

Shortening in baking makes products flaky, tender, and crumbly. Since shortening has 100% fat, its purpose is to produce tender and flaky pastries like pie crusts, croissants, and cannolis. For bread, a good shortening will keep your baked goods soft after baking.

What is a substitute for shortening in baking?

Butter, margarine, and lard are substitutes for shortening. When using butter or margarine as a substitute for shortening, add two more tablespoons (e.g. one cup and two tablespoons of butter for 1 cup of shortening. When using lard, replace one cup of shortening with one cup of lard.

More FAQs

Where can I buy shortening in baking in the Philippines?

You can buy shortening in baking from many baking supplies stores. However, if you are looking for the healthiest, most versatile shortening, go for Powermix Shortening.
Powermix Shortening is affordable and versatile. Unlike many shortening brands in the market, it does not have water and trans fat.
Powermix Shortening has set itself apart from many brands. It suits any baked products you sell. Powermix Shortening best suits cream filling recipes. In addition, it suits bread, biscuit, and cookie recipes.
Although Powermix Shortening is not available at HICAP’s online store, it is available for our B2B clients. We also offer Goldilite Premium Margarine exclusively to our B2B clients. Contact us if you are interested in this product.

What is shortening in baking Philippines?

Shortening in baking Philippines is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil. However, you must watch out for shortening in the Philippines that has extra water. Shortening is not supposed to have water because it makes it rancid.

About HICAPS

Over the years, HICAPS has helped bakers and businesses make delicious products by offering ingredients like ChiffonAide Cake Oil, Magic Whizk Whipping Cream, Red Velvet Flavor Emulco, and Instabake Brownie Mix

HICAPS also provides tools and resources to valued partners such as the free “How to Increase Your Sales Amidst the Pandemic” E-book and free dealer locator that helps look for baking ingredients near me

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