The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Crisco help?????????

shi's picture

Crisco help?????????

I find that a lot of recipes for cookies as well as other baking recepies make use of Crisco or shortning. In India usually we use desi ghee(I think that would be clarified butter) or dalda. But I want to be sure . Below is a defination of dalda as a fat it falls in the category of trans fats :-
Trans fats (trans-fatty acids) are formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated, that makes them as solids or semisolids (in India, it is commonly known as Dalda). Trans fats are used in many snacks, viz. cookies, cakes, microwave popcorn, fried foods, in margarine (stick and tub varieties).
Am I on the right track can i use dalda in a recipe that calls for crisco or shortning. I need to know cause I want to bake a red velvet cake for my hubbies B'day.
An early response will be great help.
thanx shi

pizzameister's picture


From my reading, it would appear that dalda is just hydrogenated vegetable oil, basically the same thing as Crisco. Neither of these are healthful, but they have advantages in cooking and baking, such as longer shelf life and higher melting point than butter (Ghee just being clarified butter). Personal preference for me is to use butter (or even unsaturated or low saturated oils) in place of artifically hydrogenated oils whenever possible. Both butter and Crisco / Dalda are saturated fats, however our bodies do not handle artificially saturated fats well and they are a significant factor in the high incidence of heart disease in the US.

So, I would say that Dalda should be interchangeable with Crisco, and for occasional use OK. It certainly would be the surest subsititution for a recipe calling for Crisco. That being said, clarified butter may work as well, adds flavor and is the healthier alternative. You may just have to make two cakes to see how they differ and let us know. :)


sphealey's picture

There are two versions of Crisco. The original version from the 1920s was fully hydrogenated. Not great for your body, as pizzameister describes, but not too much worse than butter.

Then some time in the 1960s a new, partially-hydrogenated version was developed. Partially-hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats, have great advantages in commercial baking and food processing. They cook well, provide good "mouth feel" (technical term), and allow very long shelf life.

As we now know, trans fats also plug your arteries solid by the age of 40. There is a fair amount of research concerning the health effects of trans fat available on the web. Some of it is pushed by the same nuts who push any danger-danger-conspiracy theory, unfortunately. But much of it is solid (no pun intended), and at this point the conclusion is (in my opinion) not in doubt: trans fats are something you need to eliminate from your diet. Given the food supply in the United States, this isn't always possible, but you should get rid of as much as you can.

In response to the questions about trans fat, Crisco has brought the original 1920s version back on the market. If you absolutely need to use shortening, this is the one you should try first. Admittedly, the partially-hydrogenated version does taste better, and about once per month my wife uses it to make cookies. But if you can use the fully hydrogenated one that is the best.

Personlly, I find that a small amount of butter mixed with soybean oil or light olive oil cooks just as well and tastes great. I would rather eat a small portion of food cooked with a small amount of butter (and then have a raw carrot later) than a large portion of something cooked with an artificial fat.


munkybread's picture

ive always heard (and noticed in my cooking) that butter dries out and hardens, while using crisco keeps your goods moist and makes them light/fluffy. ex: shortbread vs. rolls
so you would use oil/butter together as a slightly healthier alternitive? what sort of measurements would you consider appropriate for that mixture?

sphealey's picture

The _Laurel's Kitchen_ cookbooks discuss this in detail. Note that the stuff from the 1st edition tends to taste better as they got less extreme on the politics but more extreme on the health in the 2nd edition :-)

Basically, the least butter that tastes good to you and works in your recipies. Most people start with 50/50 by volume, then slowly reduce the amount of butter until it doesn't work. Personally I go about 30/70 butter to oil when I use this technique. Cf Rose Levy's biscuit recipies: they taste good as published, but I think they would kill you in about a year! So I reduce the fat percentage and then replace some of the remaining butter with oil. They still taste pretty darn good.


munkybread's picture

thanks !
Another ? :
I know you can use applesauce instead of oil (at least in home cooking) when making things like cakes and such. Taste is (in my experiance) no different and is healthier and it turns out the same as far as rising/cooking etc.
Also flax seed is supposed to supplement oil, but I've tried that and it tastes kind of weird. Maybe i use too much..
Any suggestions/knowledge on this?

sphealey's picture

I can't help with that one I am afraid. I never believed the applesause = fat theory (I will have to give it a try on your experience) and the recipies I have with flaxseed are designed for it (I don't mind the taste of flaxseed myself).


bennymer's picture

I don't have any experience with flax oil, but I do use prune puree successfully as an oil substitute, and the taste is the same, if not better. I usually use about half of what the recipe calls for, so say 1/4 Cup of oil, I use 1/8 cup of prune puree. I like it better than applesauce, and it leaves no prune taste, incredibly enough.

luc's picture

Just an interesting note on the Indian use of Dalda.

In some places in India it's used in lamps like lamp oil (much like Tibetans use butter in their lamps).

In some places in India it's used in the making of Puri flatbreads - as well as Roti's or Paratha's. Perhaps it's because it's generally cheaper than using Ghee for the same purpose.

best regards,

Christina's picture

There is a brand called Smart Balance that makes a trans fat free shortening for use in baking. However, when I used it to make a pie dough, it really messed it up. For biscuits and cookies, though, there wasn't much of a difference between using the Smart Balance and using the regular sort. The only drawback is the price. When it goes on sale it's usually 2 for $7, and the container is smaller than regular kinds.

MadP's picture

I have always liked reducing the fat in my baked goods with 1/2 applesauce. I've never heard of using prune puree for it, but will try it. Are you referring to prune baby food, or is it a different product? That also begs the question; Has anyone else used a different type of fruit puree to replace the fat? and what were the results?


Check out my favorite baking site


demegrad's picture

I've never seen prune puree in the store before, but to make it you just put some prunes in a food processor and blend them with some fruit juice to make a sort of paste.  This book has many recipes that are nearly fat-free: though all the recipes have some small amount of fat in them.  But just to let you know these recipes are all just quick breads.  The idea behind the book is really replacing processed fats with natural substitutes.  Along with the recipes the book discusses several methods of replacing higher fat ingredients, and converting old recipes into lower fat version of the same.  Depending on the recipe, you can use mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin, for other recipes fruit purees work best.