Jun 8, 2010

Butter Crisis

In this grand game we play of baking, the greatest battle ever is between butter and shortening. Butter is natural and just darn good, but shortening is easier to cook with and better suited for baking. With every baker you will find that there isn't a happy medium between butter and shortening; bakers tend to chose a side. My local bakery uses no shortening claiming that shortening is just bad for you. Really? Let's take a look at the two.

According to Wikipedia:

"Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying. Butter consists of butterfat, water and milk proteins.
Most frequently made from cows' milk, butter can also be manufactured from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks. Salt, flavorings and preservatives are sometimes added to butter. Rendering butter produces clarified butter or ghee, which is almost entirely butterfat.
Butter is a water-in-oil emulsion resulting from an inversion of the cream, an oil-in-water emulsion; the milk proteins are the emulsifiers. Butter remains a solid when refrigerated, but softens to a spreadable consistency at room temperature, and melts to a thin liquid consistency at 32–35 °C (90–95 °F). The density of butter is 911 kg/m3 (1535.5 lb/yd3).
It generally has a pale yellow color, but varies from deep yellow to nearly white. Its unmodified color is dependent on the animals' feed and is commonly manipulated with food colorings in the commercial manufacturing process, most commonly annatto or carotene."

"Shortening is a semisolid fat used in food preparation, especially baked goods, and is so called because it promotes a "short" or crumbly texture (as in shortbread). Shortening is fat or lard from an animal or vegetable. The term "shortening" can be used more broadly to apply to any fat that is used for baking and which is solid at room temperature, such as butter, lard, or margarine. Shortening often has a higher smoke point than butter and margarine, and it has 100% fat content, compared to about 80% for butter and margarine."

So butter is made from mammal's milk with added preservatives with 80% fat and 20% liquid content. Most people like to use butter because they think it is more natural and has no preservatives. Unless you have a supplier that makes your butter fresh, butter is out of the picture for health nuts. On the other hand, shortening is either made from animal fat (like lard) or vegetable fat (vegetable shortening) with 100% fat content. I don't eat lard because it's just nasty, but vegetable shortening is ok.

But wait! There can be a happy medium between the two! If you haven't checked your local grocery store, there is a new (or at least new to me!) shortening that tastes like butter. It's called Butter Flavored Vegetable Shortening. Yeah, sorry, that was a no brainer. Butter flavored vegetable shortening is actually better for your baking because it is always at room temp and does not melt when you work with it. That might seem like a slight advantage, but it makes a huge difference! When you bake a cake, you can't afford your butter to melt on you! Not only is butter flavored vegetable shortening better for your baking, it tastes more buttery than real butter does. Creepy! 

Here is how to use it in your baking.... Butter and butter flavored vegetable shortening can be used interchangeably, but there is a trick to it. Butter flavored vegetable shortening is 100% fat compared to butter, which is 80% fat. Because of this, when you substitute butter for butter flavored vegetable shortening, you need to reduce the amount of shortening by 20% and add 20% worth of liquid to the recipe. This is important because you can totally mess the measurements up if you don't do this. Also, some recipes might want your butter to be cold (like when you make scones), so take your butter flavored vegetable shortening and chill it in the fridge for a day or so. 

Where to buy... You can buy butter flavored vegetable shortening at practically any grocery store. It should come in a tub or sticks.

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