Saturday, January 3, 2009

Butter versus shortening

Excerpts are from the website The Cook's Thesaurus

SUBSTITUTES for baking

General notes: Reducing fat will give baked goods a denser texture; to correct for this, try increasing the sugar in the recipe and/or beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter. Also try using a softer flour, like pastry or cake flour.

  • applesauce (Applesauce can replace up to ¾ of the shortening in many recipes. Add with the liquid ingredients and reduce sugar in recipe if the applesauce is sweetened.)

  • pureed prunes (Pureed prunes can replace up to ¾ of the shortening in many recipes; it works especially well with chocolate. Add with the liquid ingredients.)

  • apple butter (Apple butter can replace up to ¾ of the shortening in many recipes, also reduce sugar in recipe if the apple butter is sweetened. Add with the liquid ingredients.)

  • fruit-based fat substitutes (Especially good when baking with chocolate; add with the liquid ingredients. For best results, substitute only 3/4 of the fat with this.)

  • ricotta cheese (This works well in many yeast breads that call for solid fat. Substitute measure for measure. For best results, substitute no more than 3/4 of the fat with this.)

  • bananas (mashed) (Substitute measure for measure.)

  • omit or reduce (In many recipes for quick breads, muffins, and cookies, you can reduce the amount of fat in the recipe by about a third without seriously compromising the quality.

  • oil (Avoid substituting oils for solid fats when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will make the dish greasy and dense. If you must do so, substitute 3 parts oil for every 4 parts solid fat and consider increasing the amount of sugar and eggs in the recipe. Pie crusts made with oil aren't as flaky as those made with solid fat.)

  • SUBSTITUTES for sauteeing or frying

  • clarified butter (This is less perishable and it's better for frying since it can be heated to a higher temperature without burning.)

  • olive oil (For frying only)

  • vegetable oil (Less flavorful but more nutritious.)

  • cooking spray (For low-fat frying)

  • beer (for sauteing) (Use three tablespoon of flat beer for every tablespoon of butter called for in recipe.)

  • wine (for sauteing) (Use three tablespoon of wine for every tablespoon of butter called for in recipe.)


    This is a delicious solid fat churned from milk. It's used in baking, frying, and as a spread on toast and muffins. Recipes that call for butter in most better cookbooks are referring to unsalted butter = sweet cream butter = sweet butter. Salted butter doesn't spoil as readily (the salt serves as a preservative)...

    1 pound = 2 cups = 4 sticks. 1 stick = 8 tablespoons.
    1 stick salted butter = 1 stick unsalted butter + 3/8 teaspoon salt. (The salt content of salted butter can vary between brands.)

    Margarine. This has an inferior flavor, makes bread crusts tougher and cookies softer, and may make cookies more difficult to shape. Avoid using it in flaky pastries. (Also has some health risks. --Liz)
    Shortening. This has an inferior flavor, and compared to butter it makes cookies crunchier and breads crusts softer.
    Lard. This has an inferior flavor, but it makes flakier pastries than butter. Some cooks mix lard with butter to strike a balance between flavor and flakiness. Substitute four parts lard for every five parts butter called for in recipe.

    Other health notes:
    Nutritionists recommend that we cut down on saturated fats and cholesterol. Fats ranked in order of saturated fat content: coconut oil, butter, palm oil, animal fat, cottonseed oil, vegetable shortening, margarine, soybean oil, olive oil, peanut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil. Fats with cholesterol: butter, animal fat.

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