Last Updated on April 27, 2023 by Lori Walker
If you’re new to baking, you may come across the term “short” in recipes and wonder what it means. Shortness is desirable in many baked goods, including pastry crusts, cookies, and biscuits.
However, achieving the right level of shortness can be tricky and requires understanding fat’s role in baking.
We’ll explore what “short” means in baking and how to achieve this texture in your baked goods.
What Is “Short” In Baking?
In baking, “short” refers to a crumbly and tender texture, often achieved through fats like butter or shortening.
Shortness is desirable in many baked goods, including pastry crusts, cookies, and biscuits . This texture is achieved by coating the flour particles with fats, which prevent gluten formation.
“I have dreams of becoming a professional pastry chef and having a little bakery – that’s how much I love baking. I love to cook, but my heart lies in desserts.’– Kim Barnouin, Author
Gluten is a protein structure in baked goods, but too much gluten can produce a tough, chewy texture.
By inhibiting gluten formation, fats create a tender, delicate texture desirable in many baked goods.
What Baked Goods Benefit From A “Short” Texture?
- Pie crusts: A tender, flaky pie crust is essential for a delicious pie. Shortness in the crust can enhance the flavor and texture of the filling. A pie crust that is too tough or chewy can detract from the overall enjoyment of the pie.
- Cookies: Cookies should be delicate and tender rather than tough or chewy. A short texture in cookies can create a melt-in-your-mouth experience, making them more enjoyable to eat.
- Biscuits: Biscuits should have a light and fluffy texture; shortness can help achieve this. A crumbly and tender biscuit can be enjoyed independently or used as a base for other dishes, such as biscuits and gravy.
- Shortbread: As the name suggests, shortbread is a type of cookie that relies on shortness for its characteristic texture. Shortbread should be crumbly and delicate, with a slightly buttery flavor.
- Pastry dough: Pastry dough is used in various baked goods, including tarts and quiches. A short texture in the pastry dough can enhance the flavor and texture of the filling and make the pastry more enjoyable to eat.
You might also like to read about the steps on making a peach cobbler with pie crust here.
How Do You Achieve A “Short” Texture?
- Use the correct type of fat: Butter and shortening are the most common fats used to achieve shortness in baking, as they have high-fat content and can coat the flour particles to inhibit gluten formation. Specific recipes can also use lard, vegetable oil, and coconut oil.
- Use the right amount of fat: The amount used can vary depending on the recipe, but generally, a higher fat-to-flour ratio will result in a shorter and tender texture. Be careful not to use too much fat, which can lead to greasy or crumbly baked goods.
- Refrain from overworking the dough or batter: Overworking the dough or batter can result in too much gluten formation and a tough texture. Mix the ingredients until combined, and avoid kneading or stirring too much.
- Use additional ingredients: In some recipes, additional ingredients like sugar or vinegar can help to achieve a tender texture. Sugar  can help to inhibit gluten formation, while vinegar can help to tenderize the dough.
- Chill the dough: Chilling the dough before baking can help to solidify the fat and prevent it from melting too quickly in the oven. This can result in a more tender and flaky texture.
Can You Use Other Types Of Fats Besides Butter & Shortening?
While butter and shortening are the most common fats used to achieve shortness in baking, other fats can also be used.
For example, lard, vegetable oil, and coconut oil can all be used to achieve a short texture in specific recipes. Each type of fat has unique properties and may affect the final baked good’s flavor, texture, and appearance.
It’s essential to consider the specific recipe and choose a fat that will complement the other ingredients and achieve the desired texture.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Achieving A “Short” Texture In Baking?
- Structural integrity: A baked good that is too crumbly or delicate may hold together poorly and be challenging to work with. For example, a pie crust too crumbly may not hold the filling together correctly, while a cookie or biscuit that is too delicate may break or crumble easily.
- Too much fat: Achieving a “short” texture often requires high fat. While fat is necessary for creating a tender texture, too much fat can result in greasy or heavy baked goods.
- Flavor: While shortness can enhance the flavor and texture of some baked goods, it may only be desirable in some cases. For example, a too-tender cake may lack the structure and texture to showcase other flavors and ingredients.
Why is a cookie called short?
A cookie is called “short” because it has a crumbly and tender texture achieved through fats like butter or shortening.
What does it mean if shortbread is very short?
If shortbread is very short, it has a crumbly and delicate texture that is achieved through a high amount of fat, typically butter.
“Short” in baking refers to a crumbly and tender texture achieved through fats like butter or shortening. Shortness is desirable in many baked goods, including pastry crusts, cookies, and biscuits.
Achieving the right level of shortness requires understanding fat’s role in baking and the right amount of fat to use.
While there are some potential disadvantages to achieving a short texture, like structural integrity and excess fat, experimenting with different fats, techniques, and recipes can help achieve the desired texture.
Understanding what “short” means in baking can help you achieve the perfect texture in your baked goods and enhance their flavor and texture.