- butter adds flavour and influences the texture and moistness of baked goods-the "mouth feel"
- fat tenderizes by coating flour, preventing it from absorbing water and developing gluten
- creaming butter with sugar contributes to leavening - if mixing is kept to a minimum after the flour is added, the result will be a more tender product
- butter is only 80% solid fat and has a low melting point
- vegetable shortening is 100% fat and has a high melting point (great for pie crust)
- vegetable shortening has no flavour but cookies made with shortening hold their shape better than those made with butter
- butter should be at room temperature when baking because the "creaming" process is very important since this is when air is incorporated into the dough
- sugar crystals have sharp edges that cut into the solid fat and create air cells. If the butter is too soft, these pockets of air will have nothing to hang on to.
That's just a small synopsis of our friend Fat. I'm sure I could have added lots more information but I think you get the picture. If you're interested in reading more about butter (and who wouldn't be), I've listed the books I used for this post.
Beaver, Wanda Wanda's Pie in the Sky 2002
Boyle, Tish The Good Cookie 2002
Robin Hood, Home Baking 2004
Steel, Pamela Great Canadian Cookies 2000