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Dec 18, 2009 12:38 PM

Sub butter for shortening in cookie recipe?

I'll preface this by saying I'm not really a baker, but I have a yen to make one of my beloved late grandmother's cookie recipes. The dough is a soft one that has to be refrigerated overnight before use, and it calls for shortening. Can I safely substitute butter for the shortening? I'd honestly rather use butter, but I'd also like the cookies to come out well.

It's not even five degrees outside, but if the verdict is that I should stick to the recipe then I guess I'd better start preparing to strap on my boots and zip up my parka for a trip to the grocery store...

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  1. I can only imagine that they will be far better with real butter (unsalted).

    1. Everything's better with butter! I think I'm going to give it a whirl, because the directions read like making a pie or tart crust, including cutting in the fat and liquid. I just really loathe the idea of shortening, even if it is called for in a beloved family recipe.

      1. No, there was just a long thread on this, shortening lightens up the dough while butter makes it more greasy and dense. You can "safely" substitute but it won't be like you remember. Crisco makes a non trans fat shortening if that helps you.

        3 Replies
        1. re: coll

          I never thought of butter making a recipe "greasy" mostly rich, creamy and natural.

          1. re: bakerboyz

            It has to do with the water content of butter, that Crisco doesn't have.
            Shortening will give you a lighter cookie but I think butter is better, flavor-wise, so it depends on what you want, according to what you remember.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              I have subbed butter for the original family cookie recipe that called for Crisco (which, ironically, was called the Butter Cookie recipe). The dough is wetter and more oily in texture, but the flavor is sooo much better. Oddly, I the cookies also tasted better with margerine, but not as good as butter, but we don't use margerine anymore.

        2. It depends on the recipe but butter will give it more spread. What is the ratio of flour to fat? If it's high, then I'd sub as is, if lower, I'd consider adding a little more flour. And, refrigerate the dough well before baking to slow the spread.

          1 Reply
          1. Can't hurt to try! Even if it doesn't work as well, you'll know for next time.

            I'm in the same boat, kind of. Ever since I was a tiny kid, my aunt made the most spectacular chocolate chip cookies I can remember -- soft, chewy, just salty enough, just dense enough -- as good as it gets, at least to me.

            For years I tried unsuccessfully to get the recipe but she was steadfast in her refusal. ;) Until last year!
            And man was I ever dismayed to find that her secret was not just Crisco, but GOLDEN CRISCO. Ew. I know.

            And to this day that's the only recipe I'll never even think about subbing in butter. Somehow the Crisco makes all the difference in the final product.

            If I were you? I'd try it once with shortening, just for sentiment's sake -- to see if they really are the way that you remember. Then try with butter -- maybe you'll like them even more!

            Let us know how it turns out. A well-kept family cookie recipe is a wonderful thing!