Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Butter vs. Butter-flavored shortening in cookies


Just recently I had a vision of a moment in time, a long time ago, when I was watching Good Eats. It wasn't weird. Sometimes I'm thinking, and certain moments of the past that relate to my current thoughts, pop up.

So I was melting butter to make cookies, and I suddenly remembered this random moment in Good Eats when Alton Brown said that sometimes Butter-Flavored Shortening tastes even more like butter in baked goods. I made a note to get butter-flavored shortening if I ever saw it in the grocery store, and several weeks later, I did, in a huge tub.

I just recently decided to test out my hypothesis and compare it head to head in my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I kept all variables in the experiment constant other than the fat. I noticed that the dough made with butter was much looser, I suppose because of its lower melting point. I much preferred the dough of the butter cookies to those made with shortening. The shortening cookies tasted almost synthetic. My sister agreed.

The finished cookies were a different story. The cookies made with butter were more poofy whereas those made with shortening were more dense and rich (perhaps because the water in the butter turned to steam and provided some leavening?). Though the tasted synthetic before cooking, after they were done the shortening cookies had a stronger butter flavor than the cookies made with butter. I feel that in regular chocolate chip cookies, you don't really notice the flavor of the butter; it's flavor gives way to the chocolate and sugar and you really only get it's richness. Butter flavor was however prevalent in the shortening cookies.
(The one on the left is made with butter, and the right is made with shortening)

Tasters were more ambivalent than I was. Of the six people that I asked, they were split down the middle over which they liked better. I am not completely ready to declare that cookies made with shortening are definitely better than those made with butter (though I did so on my Twitter account a few days ago)--I'd like to do a little more testing. Shortening is however more convenient than butter in many recipes-- it's already at room temperature, and you therefore don't have to wait before you can cream it with sugar. I'm not going to change my Ultimate Cookie Recipe from Butter to Shortening just yet, but don't be surprised if it does happen after further experimentation ;)

18 comments:

Zoe Winbourn Scott said...

:) Shortening is the best.

r4 revolution gold said...

I love this recipe! I made it for my family and they devored it so quickly, I didn't get any!
I would like to say thanks for such great recipe.

Anonymous said...

WTF? I don't care which tastes better, what kind of Foodie can you be when you embrace cheap, commercially mass-produced, artificially flavored, fake crappy butter?

Tags said...

I wouldn't say BF shortening tasted more like butter, I'd say it tastes more like what you expect butter to taste like.

Also, did you use American factory farm butter? How old was it? How was it stored?

Add your own infinitum.

Tags said...

BTW, which is better for gougeres, Cheez-Wiz or Velveeta?

cook eat FRET said...

stick with a good butter like plugra which has a lower moisture content.

i could never get behing crisco - ever. for too many reasons...

figtree said...

interesting..I never use shortening..now you convinced me to go out and buy a tub!!

Michelle said...

I am loving your blog! Wonderful information in your posts. I have been wanting to look into ways of making something with sardines for a while. And fried chicken. And lately, I've been obsessing on biscuits and the perfect french press coffee. Thanks so much for sharing your info!

Michelle
myowndamnkitchen.blogspot.com

www.secretrecipes.in said...

Hey, I absolutely loved that! I'll probably try it myself sometime soon! =D Thanks so much, you should post more often :D
Webmaster,
Secret Recipes.

Padma Sundara said...

Have to admit that the butter-"flavored" Crisco really turns me off... I'd rather have less buttery flavor but use real butter.
In fact, if I really *wanted* more buttery flavor, rather than buying Crisco, I'd use more butter and add butter flavoring... but regular real butter will do.

Btw, according to Michael Pollan, many food companies know how to make processed foods that *seem* to taste better, because they load them with artificial sweeteners/saltiness/etc., and we're hard-wired to like that stuff... but I think, in the end, the processed stuff comes off just that way - processed. Not worth it to me.

Anonymous said...

I use a combination of both. The use of the shortening makes a softer cookie.

whisk-kid said...

I'm shocked that anyone would leave a negative comment on this. Jeeze...

Anyway, I think that this is a great post! I've been curious about the difference since seeing that episode of Good Eats, and I've been wanting to try a side-by-side comparison. It's cool to see that it's been done before!

Brittany said...

I've been considering butter-flavored shortening in recipes for a while, mostly because softening butter w/o melting it on short notice is a hassle. I've used regular shortening in cookies before and I've always loved the texture (butter has better flavor, but the texture is ... meh; I know a lot of people who use half-and-half in cookies for that reason). If the extra buttery flavor makes it taste a little artificial, maybe try half-butter-flavored and half-regular shortening?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe, great for non-dairy people who still enjoy the buttery flavor

Unknown said...

http://youtu.be/Zzc9ZnJtHas

It's later in the video and is what brought me to your blog (Good Eats vid -> Google "butter vs butter flavored shortening" -> second link

Erin said...

I have been making chocchip cookies for 6 years now and idk what happened but all the sudden the started coming out of the oven flat!! I personally like the big fluffy cookies I had been using the stick butter but plan to try butter flavored shortening next tine to see if it help! Thanks for your help. :)

Anonymous said...

The Good Eats episode where Alton recommended the switch, he did mention to alter your recipe to account for butter being 20% moisture. (eg. if the recipe needs 10g of butter, then use 8g of shortening and increase the liquid by 2g)

Ana Cristina Reymundo said...

Instead of BF Crisco have you considered using ghee? Post if you do. I love Plugra butter too.