I did a post a while back about pie crusts, debating whether the flavor of an all-butter crust was preferable to the light tender texture of a shortening crust. Now I want to revisit this debate with other baked goods in mind.
Food, like pretty much everything in our culture, follows trends. The recent trend has been to bake with all butter, all the time. For the most part, I agree with this trend. I am a BIG fan of good quality real butter, and use it heavily in my baking. In fact I use it the majority of the time in everything I bake. BUT I don't think it is totally fair that shortening is getting such a bad rap. There are a few recipes where you would not get the same results from butter.
The major difference in shortening vs. butter is taste, of course. Butter imparts a delicious, creamy richness to your baked goods, whereas shortening imparts no flavor and sometimes a greasy mouth feel. So why not just use butter ALL THE TIME? Well, there are a handful of times when you may want shortening for the texture.
For me, an all-butter pie crust, while flavorful and flaky, is just never as light and tender as a shortening crust. My own personal pie crust recipe uses a mixture of shortening and butter, and no matter what filling I use, I always get rave reviews about the crust.
My great-grandmother's Molasses Cookie recipe uses shortening instead of butter, and they come out deliciously chewy. If you make it with butter they came out kind of crunchy. I am NOT about to mess with one of the best cookie recipes I have ever tasted, folks. So shortening is.
Another cookie from my great grandmother, Rolled Oats Ice Box Cookies (a.k.a. Oatmeal Coconut Pecan) also calls for shortening. Again, it tends to be more crunchy when you make it with butter. Shortening makes them stay chewy like they are supposed to be.
So basically, I am all for butter MOST of the time. If a recipe calls for butter, do not substitute shortening. But there are times when shortening is called for and should be used.
Where do YOU fall on this debate? Leave me a comment. Thanks!