We’ve all found that terrific recipe while leafing through a magazine but realize after reading the ingredients that it would be too expensive to try out. We’ve also been in the middle of preparing a favorite dessert recipe when it’s apparent that some important ingredient is missing. Both scenarios can be frustrating, but there are dozens of substitutes available for all kinds of flour, dairy products, and sugar. Many of them will save you money, while others are for your convenience when you don’t have time to run out to the store.
There is a wonderful book called The Food Substitution Bible (2005), by David Joachim, with more than 5,000 substitutions. These include not only ingredients, but equipment and techniques.
Dairy products, such as milk, butter, eggs, half and half can be quite costly. For even a small family, such purchases can easily destroy your food budget.
Are you aware that powdered milk in cooking and baking is as good as whole milk? Using it this way will save you money, and no one will be the wiser.
Another dairy product you can easily create at home is buttermilk, great in biscuits, scones, and pancakes. One tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar added to one cup of milk is all you need. Let it stand for about ten minutes before using.
Butter in recipes is easy to substitute, too. Just mix 7/8 cup of oil and ½ teaspoon of salt to equal one cup of butter. If you’re concerned about too much fat, since butter has 102 calories per tablespoon, perhaps you’d like to substitute one cup of applesauce in any recipe for one cup of butter. It will also make your dish more moist.
For those who like tofu, it’s a wonderful egg substitute in quiche. Another substitute is one tablespoon of soy flour to one tablespoon of water. Compare the cost of a dozen of these “eggs” with the real thing, you’ll agree that it’s a great deal. (A great cookbook, Bakin’ Without Eggs, by Rosemarie Emro (1999), is a gem that shares egg-free recipes for everything from cakes and cookies to breads, muffins, and more.)
Another costly dairy product we use often in making desserts is half and half. All you have to do is add one tablespoon of melted butter to one cup of whole milk and there you are.
Ricotta cheese is used in cheesecake. To make one cup of ricotta substitute, just add one tablespoon of skim milk to one cup of cottage cheese and stir.
Flour products are sometimes expensive, as well. There are many types of flours, all for different purposes. Now, you can create a cup of cake flour from 7/8 cup of all-purpose flour, minus two tablespoons. You can also make one cup of sifted self-rising flour from 1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour plus 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/8 of a teaspoon of cream of tartar.
When baking with sweeteners, if you need Karo Syrup and don’t have any, mix together two parts sugar and one part water. And who knew that 1-1/3 cups powdered (or confectioner’s) sugar equals 1 cup of granulated sugar? Also, the equivalent of one cup of honey is 1-1/4 cups of sugar, plus ¼ cup of whatever liquid you’re using in the recipe.
All of these substitute ingredients for baking are helpful to know because if you get stuck, you may find the makings of your missing ingredient right there in your pantry.