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Is there a “good fat” that I can use in cookies?

Eric asks: The amount of shortening I put in my butterscotch oatmeal cookies disgusts me. Is there a “less bad for me” substance that I can substitute, or a type of shortening with only “good fat?”

BakingSOS says: That is a good question, Eric, but there is not one easy answer. Which type of fat you use in baking depends on the results you are looking for.

But in answer to your question about whether there is a substitute that contains only “good fat,” I should explain that the “good fat” is called monounsaturated fat. It is called “good fat” because it raises the good cholesterol and lowers the bad cholesterol. Examples of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil.

When baking cookies, most recipes call for the fat to be in a solid form, so simply using liquid oil such as canola won’t produce the desired results. So what type of “good fat” can you use that comes in solid form?

My favorite fat substitute to use for a healthier option is Smart Balance brand buttery spread. It is made without trans fatty acids (the worst kind of “bad fat”), and it is non-hydrogenated (the process of hydrogenation produces fat that has the same effect of “bad fat”–increasing the bad cholesterol). But I have never baked with Smart Balance, so I cannot say exactly how your cookies would turn out in comparison to those made with shortening or butter.

I personally like to bake with unsalted butter because it has a wonderful flavor. But it is also 80% saturated fat, which is a “bad fat.” Also, as I mentioned earlier, the results are different depending on which type of fat you use. Cookies made with all butter will spread more than cookies made with shortening or with a combination of butter & shortening. Shortening tends to make cookies puffier with less spread.

To answer your question: I went to the Smart Balance web site, and I discovered that they have developed some new products designed specifically for baking. They now make Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks for easier measuring and better baking results than the original Smart Balance Butter Spread. The sticks are a 50/50 blend of butter and Smart Balance. Although the fat is not completely “good,” they do contain 28% less saturated fat than butter. And they are still non-hydrogenated and trans-fatty acid-free. So they are still a better fat substitute than straight vegetable shortening. The sticks also come in an unsalted variety, which is preferable for baking so that the fat does not add to the saltiness of your recipe. The web site (www.smartbalance.com) also includes nutritional information for the sticks, too.

I’m glad you asked this question. I am now inspired to try this new product in my baked goods to see how it compares to my preferred fat of choice!

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