Short Stuff

But then non-wheat substances aren’t the only way to “shorten” a dough. You can also do it with fat, which coats the ends of gluten molecules, keeping them from bonding to one another. This is the science behind what are known as “short crusts” and “short breads”, and where we in America get the word “shortening” (our term for the solid, hydrogenated vegetable fat we use in pie crusts) from. Yet there are such things as high-fat doughs that are also very rich in developed gluten. It all depends when the fat is added, for while fat can prevent gluten molecules from bonding to one another, it can’t dissolve those bonds once they’re formed. This is how brioche, a very rich and elastic dough is made, by kneading the heck out of the dough (i.e. developing the gluten) and adding all the fat afterward. Neat eh?

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