Shortening. The stuff dreams are made of. Pie dreams, that is.
Have you ever wondered why shortening is called shortening? What’s short about it?
One explanation is that baked goods typically made with shortening, like pies, cookies, or biscuits, are different from yeast breads that you knead. When you knead dough, you are attempting to make the gluten strands long and elastic. On the other hand, when you make pie dough, you try to work the dough as little as possible to avoid formation of long gluten strands so the crust will be flaky and light. So bread=long, pie=short. Shortening.
But, shortening has been called shortening probably long before people understood about “long gluten strands” or “forming a gluten matrix.” Those words don’t sound very 15th century, you know?
There’s actually evidence that “short” was used at one time as a synonym for “tender.” Ahh. Now that sounds a bit more historical. The Damsel finds it curious and interesting indeed that both meanings for the word “shortening” work pretty well.
It will be easier for us all if you think of shortening as “pie crust ingredient” instead of “big blobs of solidified fat.” Some things are better the less you think about them. Besides, Grandma made pie all the time and she seemed quite at peace.