Archive for: shortening
Coconut oil is a type of vegetable oil made from pressing the natural oil out of coconut meat. It is becoming more and more popular, and is now more widely available than ever before. Like any fat, it has many culinary uses, but because it is a solid a room temperature, it is popular for bakers looking for an alternative to regular vegetable shortening in recipes. One especially popular use for it is in pie crust because the coconut oil can be cut in to a flour mixture to produce a flaky crust.
This Coconut Oil Pie Crust uses pure coconut oil instead of butter or shortening. The coconut oil is a soft solid when it is at room temperature, so it can be cut in to flour easily using your fingertips or with the aid of a food processor. It is important that the oil be at the right temperature (around 70F or so), however, because it will become very hard when it is cold and can start to separate if it is too warm. The finished crust is very tender, similar to a shortening crust in texture, and browns beautifully in the oven. The coconut oil has a definite coconut smell and slight flavor to it when it is uncooked. In the baked crust, you might pick up the tininest hint of coconut if you are eating the top edge of the pie crust by itself (but it is very subtle), but you won’t pick up any coconut in the rest of your pie because any trace of flavor that is left after baking is overshadowed by any pie filling.
The most difficult part of working with coconut oil in a pie crust is rolling out the dough after it is prepared. This is because the coconut oil is very hard when it is cold – so hard that it can be difficult to roll out, as the fat would rather adhere to a work surface or the rolling pin than stay inside of the dough. Pie dough needs to rest in the refrigerator before rolling to allow the gluten in the dough to relax, so you must resist the temptation to skip chilling the dough. The cold coconut oil will warm up more slowly than butter or shortening, so you just need to let your dough warm up more than you normally would before rolling it out and work carefully when you do. You’ll probably also want to use a little extra flour to keep the coconut oil to sticking to things as you work.
In the end, coconut oil produces a great crust and can definitely be a good alternative to butter or shortening the next time you are ready to bake a pie.
Many bakers swear by all butter pie crusts, but for every one who does, there is a baker who swears by pie crusts made with only vegetable shortening. Vegetable shortening can make a great pie crust. It is easy to work with and will turn out a crust that is consistently tender, which is a trait that has been winning pie lovers over for decades.
When making a pie crust with shortening, you should chill the shortening (and I recommend looking for trans-fat free shortening, of course!) thoroughly in the refrigerator before working with it. The shortening can be cut into your flour mixture just as butter can be, using your fingers, a pastry cutter or a food processor. Shortening has a higher fat content than butter (100% vs 80-85%) that is a bit less likely to get tough as you handle it. This can actually make vegetable shortening crusts a safer choice for pie crust novices who are worried about getting a good result from their homemade crusts, and it’s a bonus for experienced bakers who like that extra security.
Since a shortening crust is less likely to toughen up with extra handling, it is perfect for making a decorative crust, just as I have done in the photo above. The scraps from your pie dough can be rerolled and cut out with a small cookie cutter, and the resulting decorations can be pressed onto the pie’s crust for a very elegant touch to your dessert. Shortening crusts won’t brown as much as all butter crusts will, so expect your baked crust to be a blonde color rather than a deep amber. If you want to enhance browning, brush the edge of your crust with a little cream before baking. If you opt for butter-flavored shortening instead of a plain variety – I usually use Crisco when I’m using shortening – your crust will take on a little more color, as well.
I have made crusts with all butter, all shortening and with a blend of the two (my personal favorite) and get good results with all of these options. This is my basic all shortening recipe and it should deliver just as good results for you as it does for me.
If I were to meet them in person, I would give Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva each a big batch of my homemade Girl Scout cookies because they are trying to change the way that the Girl Scout organization bakes their iconic Girl Scout cookies. These two girls set to work on a project to raise awareness of endangered orangutans and how their habitats are being destroyed. They discovered that much of that land was being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used in many different foods as a non-hydrogenated fat, but the one that stood out the most to these two girls is that palm oil was used to make Girl Scout cookies. It was a surprising realization and they decided to shift their campaign away from simply raising awareness and towards removing palm oil (or getting it from only sustainably grown sources) from Girl Scout cookies. Already, members of more than a few scout troops are saying that they no longer want to sell Girl Scout cookies.
Girl Scouts spokespeople say that there is no viable alternative to using palm oil in their cookies because they need them to be “sturdy” and have a long shelf life. Sustainably grown palm oil is simply too expensive and there isn’t enough of it to meet their demand. The bakeries began to make the switch to using palm oil from partially hydrogenated oils in 2006, after coming under fire for having trans fats in their baked goods.
Pie crusts are usually made with butter, shortening or a combination of the two. The solid fats are rubbed into a flour mixture, creating a dough that resembles coarse, wet sand before some liquid is added to it and you can press it together into a ball. The procedure is the same, but the two fats will give you different results in your recipes.
Butter is about 80% fat and 20% water, give or take a few percent depending on the brand and whether you are using European-style butter. In a pie crust, the butter is distributed in small pieces throughout the dough and because the dough is chilled before it is baked, these pieces are solid. When the pie crust bakes, two things happen: the butterfat melts and the water evaporates. The melting butterfat makes the crust tender and a little bit crumbly, contributing to a melt-in-your-mouth type feel. The evaporating water creates a little pocket in the dough where steam tried to escape, giving the crust a flaky, layered texture. The flakiness of a well-made butter crust would have a little bit of the flakiness of a croissant, rather than just the crumbliness of a shortbread cookie. It also has a great butter flavor.
Shortening (and this applies to hydrogenated and nonhydrogenated, although I recommend you work with trans-fat free shortening) is 100% fat. This means that it has plenty of fat to melt into the dough and create a tender, melt-in-your-mouth type of crust, but no water to create a flakiness. A crust made with just shortening will seem a little lighter than a crust made with butter alone, but since shortening doesn’t have much flavor, it will be a little on the bland side. Lard is also a viable option for a fat in pie crusts. Lard – also 100% fat – tends to have more flavor than shortening, but it acts just the same way, making the crust tender and short, but not adding the flakiness of butter.
My personal preference is to use mostly butter and a small amount of trans-fat free shortening in a crust to get the flavor and flakiness of butter, but a little bit of the extra tenderness of shortening. I usually use 3/4 butter and 1/4 shortening, although sometimes I will use a little less shortening. Preference aside, I make all butter crusts like the one pictured above more often than not, since even though they don’t have that little bit of extra tenderness, they are still just as flaky, tender and tasty as I could want.
Shortening is a type of solid fat that is made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed oil. Shortening seems to get its name from the fact that it shortens gluten strands in wheat by adding fat. Since it is 100%, as opposed to the 80% fat content of butter or lard, it results in a very tender baked good. It is frequently seen in baking recipes, although it is rarely used in other areas of cooking. Crisco, a popular brand of shortening, was first produced in 1911, and gained popularity because it was reliable, inexpensive (cheaper than butter or lard) and flavorless.
Shortening is made by a process called hydrogenation, which involves add extra hydrogen atoms to the aforementioned vegetable fats and turns them into solids, rather than liquids. This process of turning the previously unhydrogenated oil into a partially hydrogenated fat with trans fatty acids. These days, shortening is made trans-fat free by fully hydrogenating the oils. It tastes exactly the same and functions the same way as the partially hydrogenated shortenings did.
Shortening can be melted or softened and creamed into a mixture. Since it is all fat, it usually produces the most tender and crumbly results in a cake, cookie or pie crust, but it does not have the flavor of butter, nor can it impart the flakiness that butter can give to, for instance, a pie crust.