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Scones are an individual quick bread, similar to a sweet biscuit. Vegetable shortening is usually used in scones because shortening provides a light, tender crumb. Whether you are looking to avoid the hydrogenated vegetable oils used to make shortening or just have none on hand, there are substitutes you can use for shortening in scones.
Lard is rendered pig fat. The highest quality lard, called leaf lard, is made from the fat that surrounds a pig's kidneys. Lard produces a flaky crumb, like shortening, and also increases how long the scones stay fresh. Most supermarket lard has been hydrogenated, just like vegetable shortening, so you won't be avoiding hydrogenated fats by switching to lard. Homemade lard is composed of monounsaturated fat and so is a healthier choice than vegetable shortening.
Butter does not produce as flaky a texture as vegetable shortening, but does have a richer flavour. If using butter as a substitute for shortening, you can improve the flakiness of the scones by freezing the butter first. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and combine lightly with the other ingredients in the recipe. Handle the dough gently and work quickly, to keep the butter as cold as possible before baking the scones.
Vegetable oil can be substituted for shortening in most scone recipes, but it will produce scones that are dense with a heavy crumb. If you need to use vegetable oil, refrigerate it first, and use three-quarters of the amount of shortening called for in the recipe. So, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening, use 3/4 cup oil as a substitute.
Fruit purées are sometimes used as a fat substitute to reduce the fat and calories in a recipe. Fruit purées will change the texture of the scones, making them more cake-like, and will also add flavour and sweetness. Fruits that can be substituted for fat include applesauce, puréed prunes, apple butter and mashed bananas. For best results, only substitute three-quarters of the fat with a fruit purée and use a solid fat, such as shortening, butter or lard for the remaining one-quarter.
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