Mmm! Science-y!

Amid all the hubbub about trans fats, local newspapers nationwide are testing trans-free oils in their own recipes to see if the healthier versions measure up. The results, it seems, vary as widely as the tasters themselves. Ohio’s Akron Beacon Journal ran its own taste test on Wednesday, pitting the new transless Crisco against the partially hydrogenated original in two batches of otherwise identical Nestle Toll House cookies (an admirably nonhaute application). The group’s findings:

Try as we might, we couldn’t detect an ounce of flavor difference between the two batches of cookies. When it came to appearance, the differences were subtle, but noticeable on close inspection. The trans fat-free cookies had a slightly grayer color, and they developed more cracks than the batch baked with the original Crisco. One tester described the trans fat-free cookies as ‘looking older’ than those made with the trans fat shortening, which had a slightly more golden color and smoother surface.

But the most striking differences were in the texture of the two batches. The newsroom team found the cookies made with original Crisco to be moister and chewier, while the trans-free ones were deemed crispier and more crumbly.

When another paper tested biscuits, crispiness was on the side of the trans oils: In this January taste test in Asheville, North Carolina, three out of four tasters liked the flakier, multilayered tranny batch better, claiming that the flavor was the same in both batches. And the group was stumped when the same test was performed with shortbread cookies—it couldn’t discern any difference between the two versions, either in texture or in flavor.

The recipe likely has a lot to do with the results of any trans-versus-transless bake-off. What recipes do you swear work best with hydrogenated fats, and which ones are always better with butter or unadulterated oils?

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