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Shortening in Bakery

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What is Shortening?

A shortening is a fat that is solid at room temperature and by adding them during baking, they increase the desirable characteristics of the product, baked goods.

Shortening is created by liquid oil from Hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is the process of adding extra hydrogen atoms to fats thus turning them into solids from a liquid state.

Plant and Animal origin fats and oils are used in doughs and batters in baking which imparts desirable characteristics like flaky, tender, crumbly texture and plasticity.

Fig1. Shortenings

Importance of Shortening

  • Its main use is to shorten baked goods like pastries, croissants, and pie crusts to create a flaky, crumbly texture and tender product.
  • It’s the main ingredient for cookie formulas in cookie processing.
  • It’s major in bread formulas to improve the moistness, volume, and spring value of the product.
  • Shortenings act as a great alternative for frying in comparison to oils. As it has a lower quantity of unsaturated fats, it shows higher resistance to rancidity and oxidation than alternative vegetable oils.
  • Shortenings play a crucial role in cake making. They are responsible for the specific desired flavor, softness, creaminess, and tenderness. This allows the cake to rise more freely and affects the shelf life and longevity of the product. It is majorly used in high ratio cakes.
  • It is used for creaming due to its ability to incorporate large volumes of air bubbles. This creates a fine, delicate structure in the end product.
  • Shortening can be used to remove dairy-based products like butter, as it is a non-dairy product by nature. For 100g butter,80g shortening can be used for similar results. (Dairy majorly lactose component in it is an allergen, which is non-acceptable in many bakeries)

Chemistry of Shortening

To understand the chemistry of shortening, it is necessary to understand first the chemistry of gluten.

Gluten is a component that is present in wheat, it is solely responsible for the elasticity and stickiness of the dough. In dough formation during mixing wheat gluten forms strands, these strands give the elasticity and desirable features of wheat required for baking. The addition of Shortening, physically shortens the strands of gluten, resulting in less sticky and elastic protein, which is ideal for the formation of flakes, crumby texture, and tenderness during baking.  

Types of Shortening

4 varieties of Shortenings 

  1. Solid – Butter used in pie crusts, pastries, and bread recipes 
  2. Liquid (ideal for melted Shortening) – Vegetable oils used in rolls, chiffon, and other cakes 
  3. All purpose (Non-emulsified Shortening) used in high ratio cakes 
  4. Cake or icing Shortening (with the combination of Emulsifiers) used in cakes and cookies

Examples of shortening

  • Vegetable oils
  • Lard
  • Butter
  • Processed Shortenings
  • Margarine

Vegetable oil

Obtained from oil-bearing seeds like corn(maize), palm nuts (coconut), cotton seed, canola, olive, soybean, sunflower, groundnut, mustard, etc. all are liquid at room temperature and 100 percent fat. They have been processed chemically or as cold pressed techniques. To achieve neutral to yellowish, light yellowish, and dark yellowish, the color can vary, it depends on the raw seed and the procedure of obtaining processed oil. Used majorly where their liquid consistency can be used like chiffon, breads, rolls, and fairly hard baked goods.


Lard is an animal-based product and one of the most historic shortening humankind has known and used. It is obtained from fatty tissues of animals like a hog, is white has solid consistency, and is 98 percent fat. Its mild, pleasing flavor and odor are desirable for crackers, cookies, pie crusts, and bread.


Is the highest priced shortening of all. Therefore, it is majorly used in high-priced baked products. Appealing yellow, with solid consistency, sweet flavor, pleasant aroma, and its ability to give tenderness to baked products, it’s quite ideally used for pricy baked goods. Contains about 80 percent fat, and is used in products like specialty bread, cookies, pastries, and puffs with flaky nature is quite popular.

Processed Shortenings

These types of shortenings are processed to form a whitish-colored and odorless product. Vegetable oils are treated to form these. They are 100 percent fat, with a solid smooth consistency, and show good plasticity. In processed shortenings ingredients are added externally to increase their characteristic features like increase in moisture absorption and retention, retard from rancidity. 


These are emulsions containing 80 percent fat content. They can be both plant and animal based and contains externally added ingredients like water, emulsifiers, salt, and milk solids. They are major of solid consistency imparting whitish to yellowish like color, with neutral or butter like flavor. Margarine provides more smoothness and produces tender baked goods, having a high melting point they are the ideal choice for puffs, and croissants like crispy and flaky baked goods.

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