​​What Does Shortening Do in Baking?

Sometimes you’re stumbled upon a recipe and suddenly you’re met with something unfamiliar. Something you’ve never heard of because most of the recipes you’ve done before had never included this type of ingredient. So, now you’re stuck with this question in your head, and you’re asking yourself, “what the heck is shortening? And why is it involved in this recipe?”

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GIF credit: Giphy

Don’t worry, I had that thought before. So, this is a simple way to let you know what is shortening and what is the purpose of it when it comes to your baked goods.

shortening
Image credit: allrecipes

Shortening refers to a type of fat that is solid at room temperature. Typically, vegetable fat that went through the process of hydrogenation. There are other substitutes people recommend for shortening like butter, but it’s flavorless. You don’t get any significant taste when you incorporate it into your baked goods like butter does. So, maybe J-Hope would have no problem and wouldn’t be disturbed trying to eat it if they made a song about shortening, I guess.

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GIF credit: Giphy

ANYWAY.

Shortening is called shortening due to the fact that its objective is to shorten the fibers of the dough and make food crumbly. Yum. It gives the dough the chance to turn into elastic, and you’re able to stretch it out as long as you like. It can also be incorporated to keep them soft after baking so baked goods that are soft, tend to be made with shortening. 

Vegetable shortening is able to produce two types of dough: long dough and short dough. As we know now that shortening is used to shorten any dough, preventing gluten from forming, the shortening will be cut into the flour with any utensil until it results in a fine texture. For long dough though, it can be cut until you’re able to see larger lumps or even pea-sized crumbs. When you’re done cutting into the fat, it is added into the dough ready to be shaped for baking.

Super early in the days, people would just use lard for this but apparently, vegetable shortening was known to be much cheaper to produce.

Shortening typically can be found in recipes like pie crust or perhaps in a recipe that you’re looking through right now! If a recipe calls for Shortening and you don’t have one, there are plenty of substitutes you can use like butter, margarine, coconut oil and more. But best to do some reading on which ingredient is the most suitable one for your baking.

You can definitely get your shortening at the nearest grocery store, so if you’re in need of one, go get it! It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and has a long shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about filling up your fridge with so many things. Your cabinet is already enough. You’ll know it’s gone bad if it gives off a weird appearance or smell.

Some information learned from The Spruce Eats and Wikipedia so credits to them!

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