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Need opinions-shortening vs butter in cookies

I read a small clip in the paper about baking cookies. It stated that to get soft chewy cookies, you should use shortening. Butter yields crisper cookies. I have a great sugar cookie recipe that is very tasty, buttery and crisp, but I do want it softer. I do use butter in it, but what if I substituted the butter flavor crisco? Would that be better, or just find a new recipe, or use shortening?

Here is the page this "Fridge Clip" is on, down the page on the left.

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  1. I'm hesitant to suggest that anyone use something that is (1) "butter-flavored" and (2) Crisco. I believe that increasing the flour slightly will also make your cookies softer -- at least, that's what one of my chocolate chip cookie recipes says.

    1. I think shortening gives it a little flakier taste but I love the flavor of butter in cookies. I'd go with a mix of shortening and butter, rather than butter flavored Crisco. Plus, you can get transfat free shortening these days. The flakiest/softest cookies I've ever made are with lard but very rarely do that. I agree w/ Ruth about using more flour--it's the fat that makes the cookie crisper. Or, pull the cookies from the oven 30 seconds or so before you normally would.

      5 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        What about cream of tartar? I have seen that listed in several recipes for "soft" sugar cookies. Later on I will post my recipe, and hopefully you can help me modify it. I do use a cookie press, and maybe that is the problem. I used to roll and use cookie cutters and they were fine, but I inherited the cookie press with all the cute shapes, and now they just seem too crispy. Delicious although!

        1. re: danhole

          I have misplaced my recipe! WAH! I have used it for years and now it's gone into the black hole called my kitchen! It was a pretty simple recipe, too. Oh drat!

          1. re: danhole

            I'm happy to share mine, though they're more of the delicate and crisp variety than the soft and chewy variety...let me know if you'd like it.

            1. re: sarahvagaca

              That would be very nice of you to share! Thanks!

              1. re: danhole

                No problem! It's my Grandma Mabel's recipe, so of course it's the best. :)

                1/2 c shortening
                1/2 c butter
                1 c white sugar
                1 egg
                2 c flour
                1/2 t baking soda
                1/2 t cream of tartar
                dash salt
                1 t vanilla

                Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls. Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

                Enjoy whatever recipe you end up using!

      2. I'd skip the shortening and use the butter plus cornstarch = chewy plus butter flavour and quality.

        1. I generally find that if I use half butter and half shortening, I get the texture I'm looking for in a cookie. All butter usually creates a too thin and too crisp cookie for me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lamster

            Yes, half butter and half shortening is what seems to work best for me with cookies. I've tried all butter and the cookies do tend to spread too much and get hard/crisp once they're cooled. Personally, I wouldn't use the butter-flavored variety as my guess is that it would add an artificial taste that might overpower the subtle taste of a sugar cookie.

          2. Bottom line in my book ... shortening is nasty transfat that tastes terrible. There is no reason to use it. Endless cookie effects can be achieved using ingredients that aren't on every Top 10 List of Things That Will Kill You Quick.

            5 Replies
            1. re: foiegras

              I haven't used shortening in years, but they do have a new 0 trans fat version of crisco, which is the only reason I even thought about it.

              1. re: danhole

                I happen to agree with foiegras regarding shortening. I find the idea of 0 trans fat shortening or margarine questionable, but this is not the forum to go into that.
                Besides I just prefer anything with butter.

                1. re: danhole

                  Good gosh, I wonder how they made that ... I suppose the same way transfat free margarines are made (whatever that is)? Thanks for letting me know ... I guess I'll continue to let Mother Nature contribute the fat for my cookies ;)

                  1. re: foiegras

                    Well, the number is rounded, so 0g really means <.5g per "serving," and a serving is 1T. It could end up being a noticeable amount of trans fat, depending on how much you're using (in baking, probably a lot more than 1T).

                    1. re: jlafler

                      Sure, you use more than that for an entire BATCH of cookies. But there are 16 tablespoon in a cup and most cookie recipes that would use a cup of Crisco would yield more than 16 cookies.
                      So you're not getting very much in EACH cookie you eat. If you get 4 dozen, you get less than a teaspoonful of shortening per cookie.
                      Don't eat a lot of cookies.

              2. the only time i ever use Crisco is for cookies- I prefer a 50/50 ratio of shortening/butter for a cookie that tastes rich and has a little height/chewiness to it.

                1. cut the fat gradually (ie the first time use just a little, like 1/4, then the next time, use more and learn your limit) w.pumpkin butter or pumpkin puree. you'll feel better. if you must use shortening, use spectrum. i still haven't broken down & bought it get. i actually like the taste/texture of lower fat cakey cookies, though. butter has a uniquenotsogood aftertaste in my book.. although i admit im in the minority.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: reannd

                    would you be able to share one of your cookie recipes that uses pumpkin butter or pumpkin puree in place of all or part of the fat?

                    1. re: pescatarian

                      i generally dont make the same cookie twice! and use this in any every cookie recipe (okay if i dont have pumpkin i use applesauce, prunes in chocolate cookies).. pumpkin or apple works esp. well the quaker oatmeal cc or oatmeal raisin recipe!

                  2. The problem with butter (not that it's really a problem) is the melting temperature or whatever it's called. Basically, shortening/lard hold its form at a higher temperature, resulting in a less crisp cookie. Some things, butter alone, sadly enough, just cannot do. Like how I never managed perfect southern biscuits with just butter, you cannot obtain that soft chewy cookie with just butter. Whether you experiment with using applesauce (or fruit butter/puree, as suggested) or try shortening/lard, you're going to need an extra ingredient. I suggest applesauce for its fairly bland taste, but if you want to add flavour, that suggestion of pumpkin butter sounds fabulous.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ali

                      But they are sugar cookies! I really don't want to add any extra flavors in them.

                      1. re: danhole

                        You don't need to. Add some cornstarch and use butter.

                      2. re: Ali

                        I too try to use butter for most baking but like Ali just tried it in my baking powder biscuits in which I usually use 1/3 cup Crisco and they were no comparison in terms of fluffiness and tenderness. Husband described them as rubbery! I had debated this switch for a while, wondering if it was better to risk raising his cholesterol and heart attack risk or courting cancer...........

                        Bought the trans-fat free Crisco just this morning. Curious to see what it produces. The debate continues!

                        1. re: Ali

                          I would suggest that he melt the butter, and then use AP instead of pastry flour.

                          Using 1/2 light brown and 1/2 white sugar will give a slightly chewier cookie, but the dark color looks unnatural in a blonde sugar cookie.

                          Alton Browns cookie show explained all the possible variables, and I feel very dumb for forgetting what they are.

                        2. Last Christmas, a friend of mine gave me his recipe for New Mexico's traditional sugar cookies: Biscochitos. He said "you have to use lard...otherwise they turn out hard and aren't any good." Lard is a natural alternative to butter and is beginning to lose its bad reputation in the health world... (http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/l...


                          Here's a recipe similar to my friends' (you can omit the brandy if desired, but don't sub out the lard!)-

                          1. I think this is a matter of personal preference.

                            Some people cannot stomach hydrogenated vegetable fat or lard, but others have an equal and opposite reaction.

                            I think it depends upon who you are cooking for. And then there is the happy middle ground who don't really care as long as it tastes great!

                            I go for butter myself, cook less often with it, and really enjoy it despite the lower burn temperature.

                            1. My aunt who has a reputation as a master baker gave me her recipe for sugar cookies, which uses shortening. Personally, I thought the flavor was sooo bland (taking into account sugar, vanilla, etc.). In my opinion, you need the butter for a really good flavor. Although I haven't yet had a chance to try it, this Food Network recipe is apparently great for chewy sugar cookies: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                              Please, please keep us updated about which recipe you decide on, because the perfect chewy, flavorful sugar cookie is my current holy grail!

                              1. I skeeeeeeve Crisco. And honestly, I think the "0% trans fat" variety is identical to the "100% trans fat" variety--they are just monkeying with the so-called serving size.

                                I am of the "bake them less to keep them chewy" philosophy. But have you tried Plugra or some other higher-butterfat butter? Maybe that would serve the same function as shortening, of being all fat and no water?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                  The difference is melting temperature between the two fats, not the amount of water content.
                                  Baking them less doesn't solve the "spreading" problem of using butter.

                                2. i don't know, depends so much on the cookie and the sugar...Recently baked snickerdoodles with all butter were chewy and soft, and ones left still are.