Most people would associate it with Crisco… you know, the blue canister your mother had full of white paste. And then when the white paste was gone, it was refilled with bacon grease?
No? Just me?
What is shortening?
Technically speaking, shortening is defined as any fat that is solid at room temperature. However, this would mean butter was shortening and we know that to not be true.
In fact shortening is a large umbrella for a a type of ingredient instead of saying it IS the ingredient. Does that make sense?
Shortening can mean lard, hydrogenated vegetable oil, palm oil… the list foes on.
What is Shortening Used For?
The technical term refers to baking, mostly pastries, to make light and flaky layers. It is also used as a cake-release element long before cooking spray was ever invented. I remember using a paper towel loaded with the stuff to grease cake pans for brownies and anything else that might stick.
It is also use for killer fried chicken and other fried goods and Southern specialties.
What Does Shortening Do?
Shortening is used instead of butter or other fats in recipes that call for a crumbly, flakey texture and that want to keep their shape. For example, sugar cookie cut outs are best with shortening so they don’t spread while backing. they are less chewy and more crunchy, because of this.
Anything that has a “short crumb” like shortbread is defined as being crumbly and having a short crumb as opposed to long and stretchy- like something chewy.
The most common question is can you use butter instead of shortening? The answer is that is depends on the recipe and your desired results. You can swap these two out in most baking recipes (except for pastry) but you might not get the same texture or shape.