Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An Update on Shortening -- Earth Balance Product Review

My favorite, go-to shortening for baking has long been Earth Balance Natural Shortening. This is the shortening I use for creating recipes, and I even wrote the product name into many of the recipes in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free. This product has now been renamed "Vegan Shortening," but contains the same ingredients as the previously named "Natural Shortening" and still comes in a green and pale yellow box, in stick form.

The problem with Earth Balance Vegan Shortening -- for some with food allergies -- is that is contains soybean oil. (If you are allergic to soy, your doctor may or may not direct you to also avoid soy fats e.g., soybean oil and soy lecithin.) Those avoiding soybean oil must choose another option when a recipe calls for shortening. The Earth Balance product available (until recently) to meet that need was the Soy Free Buttery Spread. This product is not as stiff as shortening, making it less than optimal when a recipe really needs shortening because it gets weepy and blends too easily. If you are cutting shortening into flour (e.g., for pie crust) or creaming shortening with sugar (e.g., in the cookie recipe used here) you want to choose the most solid shortening you can (while still avoiding your allergens).

Enter Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks. I stumbled upon these recently in my local health food store. They were all out of the vegan shortening so I picked up a package of these buttery sticks to try. Here's a comparison of what the soy free buttery sticks look like (on the right) compared to the vegan shortening (on the left). The soy free sticks have a deeper color but they did hold their own after sitting at room temperature for a few minutes:

Unlike the vegan shortening, the soy-free sticks do contain some pea protein, making them a little bit softer than the vegan shortening but stronger than the soy free buttery spread. Nevertheless, I wanted to give the product a really good test as a shortening to see how it would perform. I decided to do a controlled test by making the same Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies I posted a couple weeks ago, and changed just one ingredient -- I subbed the soy free buttery sticks for the vegan shortening.

I am really pleased with the results:

The cookies spread while baking (more so than when made with the vegan shortening) but not in an unruly way. The taste was virtually indistinguishable, but the texture was a bit softer.

My overall assessment of this product is quite favorable. I would still choose the vegan shortening, if you can, but the soy free buttery sticks are a great second choice!


Kathryn @ Mamacado said...

Very helpful Colette, thank you! And wow...those cookies look delicious.

Anonymous said...

We just discovered your blog and love your product reviews! How do you go about finding new products?

Colette said...

Kathryn, thanks! Yes, definitely try the cookies!

Felicia, I find products lots of different ways. Often, brands come to me (having found me either through this blog, at an event, or my books). In this case, I stumbled on the product at the health food store!