31 March 2012

Day 91: Shortening

I'd occasionally wondered what shortening was, but never why it was called shortening. The reason is, on one hand, maddeningly simple, and on the other, really insightful into some basic baking concepts.

Shortening stops gluten from forming long, chewy gluten chains. In other words, it... wait for it... shortens gluten in baked goods, keeping them in crumbly territory.

As for what it is, it's basically any fat. Butter. Lard. Crisco's website says their all-vegetable shortening is made of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated palm oil, partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, and some chemistry-sounding stuff typical of mass produced food.

My chef-instructor pointed out that the frosting on supermarket cakes and cupcakes that leaves that weird film feeling in your mouth is made with shortening.

1 comment:

  1. The term "shortening" predates the knowledge of gluten chains by several centuries. See