Also known as Crisco® or Fat
What is Shortening?
Shortening is an edible fat that is solid at room temperature. It shortens the gluten strands in wheat, which provides three textural attributes in baked goods:
- A short bite
- A lubricative moist texture
- The crunchy or crispy auditory sounds
When used in a product, or a the medium to be cooked in, these three textural characteristics are heightened.
Because shortening provides the breakage in or ‘shortens’ the gluten-starch network, it reduces starch retrogradation in baked goods. Since it is 100% fat, as opposed to the 80% fat content of butter, it aids in producing a very tender baked product.
Shortening is created from liquid oil by hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is the process of adding extra hydrogen atoms to the vegetable fats, consequently turning them into solids from a liquid state. In short, turning previously unhydrogenated oil into a partially-hydrogenated oil (PHO) with trans fatty acids.
Not all shortening is made with trans fatty acids. Trans fat free varieties can be produced by enzyme catalyzed interesterification1 or fully hydrogenation oil blending with other oils.
It's main use is to shorten baked goods like pastries and pie crusts to create a tender and flaky final product. This is accomplished by preventing the cohesion of wheat gluten strands during mixing, this action physically shortens the strands of gluten resulting in a less elastic and sticky protein.
Shortening is great for frying. Since it has a low percentage of unsaturated fatty acids, it shows higher resistance to oxidation and rancidity than alternative typical vegetable oils that may be used for frying. It's also a good vehicle for delivering flavor as well as richness to bread and cakes.
Shortening is used for creaming due to its ability to incorporate large volumes of air bubbles. This creates a fine, delicate structure in the end product.
In cake making, it is used to tenderize the product by incorporating air in the finished cake batter as well as lubricating the other ingredients allowing the cake to rise more freely and increase the shelf life of the product.
Shortening has the biggest range in application...