Q. I want to cut down on trans-fats, but there are some recipes that are just better with shortening. Pie crust, for one. Can I use trans-fat free shortening the way that I always use shortening, in equal proportion with butter or margarine?
A. Shortening was developed in the early part of the 20th century as an economical alternative to butter and animal fats, like lard. The name comes from the texture it provides to baked goods, which is like that of shortbread, according to Wikipedia.
Shortening has long appealed to bakers because it is shelf stable and it remains economical. But its reign was threatened in recent years when it was announced that the product, made from partially hydrogenated oils, contained trans-fats, which have been linked to numerous health problems.
Crisco, the leading maker of shortening in America, has eliminated all of the trans-fats in its version, according to the company’s website. But changing the formula has meant changing the way you use the product. If you read the back of a Crisco can, it says that 1 cup of butter equals 1 cup of Crisco plus 6 teaspoons of water. So, the 1:1 ratio that used to exist has changed.
If you’re making a pie crust, most traditional recipes already call for ice cold water, so you may want to play around with your recipe to see if how much of a change is needed.
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