Fats are important for creating the right texture and flavor in baked goods. And the order of mixing and the type of fat to used can change the final texture. During Christmas Cookie weekend, I decided to investigate the reasons for baking with shortening since both the recipes I used include that ingredient instead of butter or oil. So what is the difference and which is better to use?
Shortening: Is hydrogenated (same process as peanut butter that you don’t have to stir) vegetable oil, and now is available without Trans Fats. Margarine is also hydrogenated vegetable oil. The aerated shortening and lack of water cause the cookies not to flatten and make a softer end product.
Salad Oil: Usually chosen for dairy free baking and had a lighter flavor that won’t compete with the main flavor of the baked goods.
Applesauce: Recipes designed to use applesauce are going for a low fat content (does little to reduce calories) without loosing the moisture. Applesauce is often used to reduce the oil and/or egg ingredients but cannot perform the same function so look for proven recipes.
Flax Seed Oil: Many people are into using flax seed to get more Omega-3’s. A friend of my substituted 1/2 of the butter quantity with flax seed oil in my pumpkin bread recipe. From what I have read, the beneficial fiber and antioxidants are not found in the flax seed oil, but they are retained in ground flax seed. The oil does have the Omega-3’s and can tolerate up to 350 degrees for up to 2 hours according to wikipedia. The oil decomposes easily and ground flax seed will go rancid in a few weeks in cool conditions but will keep 2-3 months in the refrigerator.
Eggs are also a binding ingredient and help make baked goods light and fluffy, but there are plenty of recipes without eggs for those who are allergic.
I love to check in with America’s Test Kitchen for scientifically researched recipes designed to work for modern chefs and bakers. They also research cooking and baking tools, as well as the comparison quality of ingredients.
For additional substitution ideas to reduce the fat content see Cooking Light.
For some guidance on using applesauce in baking check out www.wisegeek.com.
For a scientific explanation of the function of fats in recipes check out about.com.
More detail on the effects of baking with butter vs. shorting check out Enlightened Cooking.