Vegetable shortening (Recipe: granola cookies)
First published in July 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Please enjoy these granola cookies, which I've been making since my college days way back when, and which would be so perfect for a July 4th picnic or barbecue.
I'm a Motown, pre-1975 rock 'n roll, granola kind of girl. I don't bake much -- I've already owned up to keeping store-bought pie crust in my refrigerator -- but oooooh, baby, I love love love granola cookies, and that's why vegetable shortening resides in The Perfect Pantry.
A solid fat made from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cotton seed oil, shortening has been chemically transformed into a solid state through a process called hydrogenation.
Why use shortening in baking? Shortening melts at a higher temperature than butter, so cookie dough holds its shape longer in the oven, allowing the flour and eggs to set before the cookie collapses and spreads. Using butter or margarine (which has a melting point only a degree or two above butter) produces a cookie that spreads out more. Vegetable shortening is ideal for pastry, too, since it blends well with the flour.
I never mastered the art of using measuring cups to extract shortening from the can, so I'm a huge fan of vegetable shortening sticks. Wowie zowie... they're mess-proof and easy to use, and allow for more exact measuring. Shortening can be stored at room temperature, but once I've opened the package, I usually keep it in the fridge, and return it to room temperature before using.
By the way, there are good reasons to limit consumption of hydrogenated oils and the trans fat that has been proven to wreak havoc on serum cholesterol. If you're a frequent baker, or frequent cookie eater, check at your market for Spectrum Naturals' organic shortening, free of hydrogenated oils and trans fat.
Makes 4 dozen.
2 cups unsifted all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups granola (I use Quaker Natural with raisins, but any granola-type cereal will work)
1/2 cup golden raisins, optional (if, like me, you really like raisins)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on wax paper, and stir to blend. Cream shortening and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well. Stir in blended dry ingredients, granola and raisins. Mix well.
Refrigerate 30 minutes or until dough is firm enough to handle. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Let stand for a minute or two, then transfer to cooling rack.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies, from Pinch My Salt
Chewy jumbo chocolate chip cookies, from Cooking on the Side
Oatmeal raisin cookies, from Simply Recipes
The famed Neiman Marcus cookie, from Brown Eyed Baker
Granola cookies with chocolate and roasted almonds, from Bake or Break