Brew fans, rejoice! Once again, it’s time for Beer Madness. It starts today as we unveil our bracket of 32 craft brews that, over the course of the next few weeks, will be whittled down to one winner: our choice for the nation’s best. Readers can taste the contenders and vote for their favorites online, so we hope you’ll play along. Fritz Hahn has the story and will join our Free Range chat at noon.
Also this week in Food, Regina Schrambling overcomes skepticism and discovers the merits of artichokes that come in a can; and Jim Shahin, our Smoke Signals columnist, talks about the food that has sustained him through a serious illness.
Want to talk about Beer Madness, or any other food-related topic that’s on your mind? Then you won’t want to miss today’s Free Range session, our weekly hour of give-and-take. Do submit questions: I’ll need a leftover that I can answer next week. Like this one from last week’s chat:
I tried the Crisco Baking Sticks for some oatmeal-raisin cookies, and instead of the usual result, the cookies were more like shortbread. It seemed that the sticks were much larger than sticks of butter or margarine, but I went with their markings. Have you had experience with Crisco sticks and had the expected results? I hate to keep wasting ingredients.
It’s not clear from your question whether you (1) typically use regular tub Crisco, but tried the sticks, or (2) substituted the sticks for butter or margarine. But it doesn’t matter! I can address both scenarios.
First, though, to confirm your observation about the sticks: Yes, they are larger than sticks of butter or margarine — twice as large, in fact. The standard stick of butter totals a half-cup; a stick of Crisco is one cup. You were correct to just follow the markings on the packaging.
Okay. Assuming you meant that you don’t think the sticks performed the same as their counterpart in the tub, I contacted the folks at Crisco to ask whether there’s any difference between the two products. Or rather I contacted J.M. Smucker, which is the parent company of Crisco. Maribeth Burns, the vice president for corporate communications, e-mailed back with this response: “Crisco shortening is the same in both stick form and in the tub. The only difference is that many consumers find the baking sticks to be more convenient to measure the amount of Crisco needed for their recipes.”
If you look at the ingredients on both packages and compare the nutritional numbers, you can see that they’re exactly the same. So if your Crisco-containing cookies came out different, I can promise you it’s not the fault of the shortening. You’ll have to look elsewhere.
But let’s say you normally use, say, a cup of butter, and you decided to use a Crisco stick instead. In that case, a different outcome would be no surprise. You can’t make a one-to-one trade of shortening for butter, for two reasons. First, Crisco is lighter than butter or margarine. A cup of butter weighs 8 ounces, but that one-cup stick of Crisco weighs 6.7 ounces. Also, shortening is pure fat, but butter contains water. For every cup of shortening that you substitute, you need to add two tablespoons of water to keep the moisture level in balance. And that brings the weight of the shortening up closer to the butter’s weight.
I’ve used the sticks and honestly haven’t noticed any difference from the tub. I think you should give the cookies another shot and see what happens.
Or try another recipe. This terrific, Post-tested oatmeal sandwich cookie from Willow pastry chef-owner Kate Jansen — you don’t have to make it into a sandwich — is spiked with dried cherries and chocolate chips instead of raisins. We know it works: Sour Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies.
For more recipes you can use to put your shortening sticks through their paces, consult our Recipe Finder and search for the word “shortening.” Happy baking.