Shortening is any fat that is a solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry and other food products. Although butter is solid at room temperature and is frequently used in making pastry, the term “shortening” seldom refers to butter, but is more closely related to Margarine.
Since the invention of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil in the early 20th century, it has come almost exclusively to mean Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. It shares many properties with lard: Both are semi–solid fats with a higher smoke point than Butter and Margarine. They contain less water and are thus less prone to splattering, making them safer for frying. It has higher fat content with lard compared to about 80% for butter and margarine.
While similar to Lard, it was much cheaper to produce. It also requires no refrigeration, which further lowered its costs and increased its appeal in a time when refrigerators were rare.
A short dough is one that is crumbly or mealy. The opposite of short dough is a “long” dough or dough that stretches. Vegetable shortening (or butter, or other solid fats) can produce both types of dough; the difference is in technique. To produce a short dough, which is commonly used for tarts, the shortening is cut into the flour with a pastry blender, pair of table knives, fingers, or other utensil until the resulting mixture has a fine, cornmeal–like texture. For long dough, it is cut in only until the pea–sized crumbs are formed, or even larger lumps may be included. After cutting in the fat, the liquid (if any) is added and the dough is shaped for baking.
All Purpose Vegetable Shortening produced without partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils is superb for light frying and baking, and excellent for use in Cookies, Cakes, Biscuits, Pie Crusts, Pastries and Bread Making.
Standard Specification of various Shortening: