Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of milk or cream. It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature, consisting of approximately 80% butterfat. It is used at room temperature as a spread, melted as a condiment, and used as an ingredient in baking, sauce making, pan frying, and other cooking procedures. Specifically, in baking, butter, as a solid fat, is better suited for baking than any other fat product. Butter in particular adds flavor, with a melting point just below body temperature, which is why some cookies and baked goods tend to melt in your mouth. It also helps in leavening and adds moisture.
To buttress the function of butter in baking, here are its main functions:
Perhaps the most obvious role butter plays in baking is adding flavor to baked goods. The flavor butter adds to pastries, cakes, cookies, and more just really can’t be mimicked. There are products that are “butter flavored” such as butter flavored shortening, but the richness that comes from real butter is distinct.
Shortening Gluten Strands
Butter, and all fat in general, create baked goods that are more tender. I think the best example of how this works is to think about the texture of a baguette and to compare that texture to brioche bread. Baguette falls into the category of “lean bread” because the dough does not contain any fat. Breads without fat are crusty on the outside and very chewy on the inside. This is because there is no fat present to inhibit the formation of gluten strands. In contrast, breads that contain fat in their dough, like brioche, have a softer and more tender texture.
Butter, and all fats that are solid at room temperature, fall under the umbrella baking term of “shortening.” Ever wonder how that solid vegetable fat got its name? This term comes from the way in which fat serves to shorten gluten strands. Without getting too in-depth into the science of it, when fat coats flour, it serves to slow down the process of gluten formation creating a more tender product.
In baking, when you think about how to make something rise, butter is not the first thing that comes to mind. But butter can actually play an important role in leavening many baked goods. Puff pastry is a perfect example of this. Puff pastry gets its incredible rise solely from the butter that is layered throughout the dough.
Butter is not pure fat; it does also contain some water. For this reason, when cold solid butter hits a hot oven, the water starts to evaporate and the steam gets trapped in the dough and causes it to rise.
Although a staple in pastry, butter can be utilized in a plethora of ways in the kitchen. Below is a list of recipes to make with butter:
- Bread and Butter Pudding
- Indian Butter Chicken
- Buttermilk Pie
- Buttered Rice
- Beurre Noir
- Chicken Kiev
- Egg Butter
- Danish Pastry
- Hard Sauce
The list is endless.
What Is Crisco?
Crisco is a brand of shortening in the market. Infect, is the most popular brand in the US. The term “shortening” technically refers to any type of fat that is solid at room temperature. This includes butter, margarine and lard.
Shortening can be made from either animal fat or vegetable oil, but shortening made from partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil is more common nowadays. Shortening is most commonly made from vegetable oils like soybean, cottonseed or refined palm oil, which are naturally liquid at room temperature.
However, the chemical structure of the oil is changed through a process called hydrogenation. This causes the oils to become more solid, creating a thick texture that makes shortening good to use for specific types of cooking and baking. It also allows the shortening to be very shelf-stable and stored at room temperature. Because of shortening’s unique characteristics, it is most commonly used in baking pastries and for frying.
Unlike butter or margarine, which contain approximately 80% fat, shortening is 100% fat.
Therefore, it is very high in calories and contains neither carbs nor protein. It also contains very few vitamins and minerals
For example, a tablespoon (13 grams) of shortening may contain:
Total fat: 12.7 grams
Unsaturated fat: 8.9 grams
Saturated fat: 3.2 grams
Trans fat: 1.7 grams
Vitamin K: 8% of the RDI
However, it is important to note that many newer formulations of shortening are trans-fat-free. These shortenings replace trans fats with slightly higher amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats.
Why Crisco Over Butter?
Crisco is often used in place of butter to make desserts dairy-free or vegan. For substitution, you can substitute Crisco shortening for butter or margarine in equal amounts (1 cup Crisco shortening = 1 cup butter or margarine). Not only does Crisco shortening have 50% less saturated fat than butter and 0g trans-fat per serving, but it also gives you higher, lighter-textured baked goods. Where your recipe calls for salted butter, simply sprinkle a pinch of salt over your Crisco and it’s ready for substitution.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between butter and shortening in cookies?
Shortening does not have moisture to promote gluten formation, resulting in a more tender, crumbly cookie. Butter, on the other hand, can produce a chewy cookie when gluten is formed. It may sound contradictory but using butter can also yield crispy cookies. This is possible since butter spreads thinner during baking.
Is it better to make cookies with butter or oil?
Butter is considered a solid fat because it is solid at room temperature and oil is considered a liquid fat because it’s liquid at room temperature. Because of this, you can’t rely on oil to provide any leavening help in baked goods, which can result in a denser texture.
Why are my cookies raw in the middle?
That, or the dough wasn’t cool enough before baking. Warm cookie dough or excess butter will cause the cookies to spread too much, baking quickly on the outside but remaining raw in the middle. Next time, chill your cookies in the fridge for 10 minutes before you bake them. If the problem persists, use less butter.
Although Crisco and utter are primarily the same thing, Crisco is often used in place of butter to make desserts dairy-free or vegan. So, for your Keto meals ad recipes, consider this substitution in the direction examined above.