Useful Baking Substitutes

Useful Baking Substitutes
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Pandemic or not, knowing useful baking substitutes is essential for any home baker. As a chef, I can tell you, the most important skill in the kitchen is adaptability. While in lockdown the last 44 days, I can assure you, I have run out of all sorts of pantry/baking essentials; from flour to eggs, but that hasn’t stopped me yet.

Baking is considered a craft of precision, I get that, but here is some wiggle room when needed.  If you are making substitutions, what’s critical to remember, is you have to be realistic of the outcome. For instance, with some substitutions (like flour) the end result could be a bit “different” than what you normally make, but in most instances, it can still “work“. Right now many ingredients we once took for granted are not as readily available as they previously were, you need to be flexible and roll with it. Below are helpful substitutions I think every home baker (and cook) should know about.useful baking substitutes

FLOUR SUBSTITUTE

The general rule with flour is you should strive to substitute a flour with a similar protein content flour because the protein content affects a baked goods final texture and crumb. What this means, is baked goods made with higher-protein flours tend to be denser, while those made with lower-protein flours are lighter and softer.

Common Protein Contents of Flour “Higher/Stronger” to “Lower/Softer”:

  • Whole-wheat: 14 percent
  • White whole-wheat: 13 percent
  • Bread: 12 to 13 percent
  • Spelt: 12 to 13 percent
  • All-purpose: 11 to 12 percent
  • Whole-wheat pastry: 9 to 11 percent
  • Pastry: 8 to 9 percent
  • Cake: 6 to 8 percent

NOTE: When substituting a flour with a higher protein content or lower protein content, know that the moisture of the dough or batter will most likely be affected. If a stronger (higher protein flour) is substituted in, there is a risk for dryness. Similarly, if a softer (lower protein flour) is added, there is at risk there will be be too much moisture  So, if it’s dry, add 1 teaspoon water as needed and combine. If a mixture is too wet, add 1-2 teaspoons of flour until the desired texture is reached.

Whole-wheat flour has the highest protein content, so, when substituting it for all-purpose, use 50 percent whole-wheat, and 50 percent of another flour, (ideally all-purpose, pastry flour or spelt), to avoid a dense result. Note: Whole-wheat flour is made from hard red spring or winter wheat, which has a nutty, hearty taste. White whole-wheat flour is made from hard white spring or winter wheat, and a milder flavor and slightly paler color. But whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour has the same nutritional value.

Bread Flour

Bread flour has a higher percentage of protein than all-purpose flour. Protein is what strengthens the dough, encourages gluten formation, and helps bread rise. But the truth is, it’s not a huge percentage difference, about 1-1.5%. The takeaway is that if you have bread flour, but not all-purpose (or vice versa), you can make an easy one-to-one swap. But bread flours high protein could result in a dough or batter that’s dry, so you may need to add water. Also, be sure not to over-mix or it can lead to a tougher result. Note: You would not want to make this swap when making recipes that you don’t want a lot of gluten formation, such as biscuits or pie dough.

Spelt Flour

With a protein content of 12-13%, spelt flour is actually the closest to all-purpose in terms of protein content, so spelt flour can easily be swapped cup for cup. The only thing you will need to monitor is the consistency of the final dough or batter because it may require a bit more moisture.

All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft and therefore in the middle. AP flour is hard enough to use for making bread, but soft enough to use for making cakes. If a recipe calls for 1 cup (130 grams) of all-purpose flour,  to substitute you can combine about 70 grams of bread flour with about 60 grams of cake flour. That will produce the middle-of-the-road compromise most similar to traditional all-purpose flour. Alternatively, all-purpose flour can be used in place of bread flour, but its lower protein content means it could yield a slightly wetter dough or batter. Use all-purpose with whole-grain flours to help reduce the overall protein content in the recipe and avoid too dense of a baked good.

Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blends

Gluten-free all-purpose flours perform very similar to regular all-purpose, and can often be substituted one-to-one. These blended flours are great for making cookies, quick breads and scones, so if you can’t get all-purpose flour, it’s worth picking up a bag of a gluten-free blend to have on hand.

Pastry flour is a softer flour that substitutes well for all-purpose in recipes where tenderness is desired such as, muffins and cakes. If you can find it, whole-wheat pastry flour is an even better. But the good news it, you can also use all-purpose flour in any recipe that calls for pastry flour.

Cake Flour

With the lowest protein content of this group, cake flour is best used for cakes. But like pastry flour, cake flour is great to use in soft baked goods, such as scones or biscuits. The best way to substitute cake flour is a pretty simple formula. For every 1 cup of all-purpose flour, substitute 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour. To make your own cake flour substitute, sift together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 3 tablespoons cornstarch which equals the equivalent to 1 cup of cake flour. The cornstarch will help inhibit the production of gluten and help create a lighter more delicate cake texture.

useful baking substitutesDAIRY SUBSTITUTE

Both flavor and texture are critical when substituting dairy products. With liquids, you can thicken the consistency easily, a little flour or cornstarch can thicken milk to mimic half-and-half, or water can thin out out Greek yogurt to replicate milk.

Milk

To substitute milk, half-and-half or heavy cream thinned with water, evaporated milk, light coconut milk, light cream, oat milk, nut milk, soy milk. Yogurt or sour cream, you can use those as a one-to-one substitute. Alternatively, you can also thin out evaporated milk with 1/2 cup water, to approximate milk. And in a real pinch, you can just use water.

Half-and-Half

To mimic half-and-half, thicken milk with a little cornstarch or all-purpose flour (approximately 1 tablespoon per cup of liquid) or thin heavy cream with a little bit of water.

Heavy Cream

To make 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 cup milk plus 1/4 cup melted butter (for richness), or thicken 1 cup milk with 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch or all-purpose flour. Other options include coconut milk or coconut cream, softened cream cheese whisked with a little water. Note: You will not be able to beat the alternatives into whipped cream.

Buttermilk

To substitute 1 cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or light vinegar, such as white vinegar, white wine vinegar or even Champagne vinegar) to a measuring cup and add enough milk to reach 1 cup. Or, thin one part yogurt, sour cream or other creamy dairy product with one part milk, or thin two parts yogurt or other creamy dairy product with one part water.

Sour Cream

For sour cream, you can swap in an equal amount of yogurt, mayonnaise, or even pureed cottage cheese. Note: Tangy, textural ingredients like crème fraîche, mascarpone, Neufchâtel, Quark, queso fresco, sour cream or yogurt can also be used interchangeably.

Nondairy 

If substituting out milk, almond, cashew, oat or soy milk can, for the most part, replace milk one-to-one.

useful baking substitutes

EGG SUBSTITUTE

Eggs are a baking essential, a glue that holds everything together. Replacing eggs in a baking recipe does require some special considerations depending on what you are making.

For Cakes + Cupcakes:

For each whole egg used you can substitute it with one of the following:

  • 1/2 a medium Banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Apple sauce
  • 1/4 (4 tablespoons) Silken Tofu 
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Buttermilk

For Cookies:

For each whole egg used you can substitute it with one of the following:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Sweetened Condensed Milk

For Brownies:

For each whole egg used you can substitute it with one of the following:

  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoon water*
  • 1/2 a medium Banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Silken Tofu 
  • 1/4 cups (4 tablespoons) Yogurt (vegan or regular)
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Buttermilk

Note: When using flaxseed as an egg substitute, grind the flaxseed in a coffee grinder and mix with water. Allow it to rest till it becomes gelatinous, then use.useful baking substitutes

FAT SUBSTITUTE

Fat has many functions in baking. Although the end product is never exactly the same once fat has been replaced, many fat substitutes produce delicious and moist products.

Butter 

If you are out of butter, but need it for baking, you can often use full fat margarine. Vegetable oil or coconut oil also make good butter substitutes. If you have some butter but just need a little bit more to supplement what you already have, add a bit of Greek yogurt if available to helps stretch it out.

Vegetable Oil 

Butter and vegetable oil can be used interchangeably at a one-to-one ratio. If you don’t have vegetable oil, but you do have another neutral tasting oil, like avocado oil, coconut oil, or a milder olive oil, just replace the vegetable oil with the oil you have. You can also swap out the oil for an equal amount of mayonnaise or yogurt.

Ground Flax Seed

The soluble fiber in ground flaxseed absorbs moisture and forms a gel which retains moisture and keeping baked goods soft and moist. To use ground flaxseed as a fat substitute, add 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed plus 1 tablespoon of water for every 1 tablespoon of fat or oil called for in a recipe.

useful baking substitutes

LEAVENER SUBSTITUTE

In baking, leavening is the air that causes breads, cakes and other baked goods to rise when in the oven. There are three main types of leavening agents: biological (yeast), chemical (baking soda and baking powder)and steam (water vapor).

Yeast 

In baked goods, you can replace yeast with an equal amount of baking powder. Just keep in mind that the leavening effects of baking powder will not be as distinct as those of yeast. For this reason, it’s used to leaven quick types of bread like pancakes, cornbread, biscuits, and cakes.

You can substitute yeast with equal parts lemon juice and baking soda. So if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of yeast, use 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Note: If using this replacement, bread will not need the typical proofing time and the dough will begin rising right away.

Baking Soda

Since baking powder is made from baking soda, so you can actually use baking powder as a substitute for baking soda. You do need to adjust the proportions however. Simply use three times the amount of baking powder as a substitute for baking soda: 1 teaspoon baking soda = 3 teaspoons baking powder but you must remember to omit/reduce added salt in the recipe.

Baking Powder

You can also use baking soda combined with acid to replace yeast. Baking soda and acid work together to cause the same reactions as baking powder: 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. Note: If you don’t have cream of tartar on hand, you can use another acid like lemon juice or vinegar. In such a case, you would combine a 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice.

Sourdough Starter

The good news is, If you have a sourdough starter, but no yeast, you can use 1 cup (300 grams) of sourdough starter to replace 2 teaspoons of yeast. Note: You may still need to adjust the amount of flour or liquid in the recipe and double the rise time.

Making Your Own Sourdough Starter (Without Yeast)

Growing a sourdough starter takes a minimum of 5 days. Here’s steps on how to start one:

Day 1: In a large glass jar stir together 1/2 cup (120 grams) of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup (120 mL) of water in a large glass container and cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature.

Day 2: Feed the starter with 1/2 cup (120 grams) of AP flour and 1/2 cup (120 mL) of water and mix well. Cover loosely and leave at room temperature. By the end of day 2, you should see bubbles forming.

Day 3: Repeat the steps in day 2. The mixture should smell yeasty and have a good amount of bubbles.

Day 4: Repeat the steps in day 2. You should notice more bubbles, a stronger and more sour smell.

Day 5: Repeat the steps in day 2. Your sourdough starter should smell yeasty and have many bubbles. It’s now ready to use.

NOTE: To maintain your sourdough starter beyond day 5, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use or discard half of it every week, and feed it with another 1/2 cup (120 grams) of flour and 1/2 cup (120 mL) of water. Sourdough starter with any contamination of fuzzy, white, or colored mold should be discarded.

useful baking substitutes

SWEETENER SUBSTITUTE

Sugar doesn’t just contribute sweetness to a recipe. It also leavens, contributes to browning, and adds chewiness and crispness. Sugar also draws moisture from the air into the baked goods, which helps keep them moist for days.

Brown Sugar

Granulated sugar is the simplest substation for brown sugar. For every cup of brown sugar you need, add 2 tablespoons of molasses, ( or maple syrup or agave nectar) to 1 cup of granulated sugar and blend it briefly it in a food processor.

Powdered Sugar

Grinding up granulated sugar in the food processor is the best substitute for powdered sugar. Blend 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a food processor until very finely ground.

Honey 

Honey can be replaced, measure-for-measure, with maple syrup, agave syrup, molasses (as long as it’s not blackstrap molasses), or corn syrup. Note: works well for soft, moist cakes and quick breads, puddings, and ice creams.

Molasses 

Truthfully, molasses is a tricky one to substitute because it has such a distinct flavor and consistency. Molasses adds a distinct spicy flavor that you can’t easily get from these substitutes. If needed, you can substituted Molasses with 1 cup dark corn syrup, 1 cup honey or 3/4 cup dark brown sugar. Note: you will need to increase the spices in your recipe as well to help with the flavor profile. Note: works well for gingerbreads, cookies, additions to other sweeteners

Maple Syrup 

Honey, agave, maple syrup, and corn syrup are all great substitutes. The general rule is a 1 for 1 substitution, but you also want to add a little vanilla extract. Note: Maple syrup does have a distinctly maple taste to it, so be sure to add a teaspoon vanilla per 1 cup of corn syrup or honey. Note: works well for caramels, candies, ice creams, and puddings.

useful baking substitutes

CHOCOLATE SUBSTITUTE

To clarify, both chocolate and cocoa are tricky things to substitute, but there are some things you can do in a pinch.

Unsweetened Chocolate 

For unsweetened baking chocolate you can use cocoa powder as a swap.

  • 3 level tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening for every 1-ounce unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • 3 level tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening, butter, or oil for every 1-ounce unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • If you need unsweetened chocolate, but you only have semisweet chocolate, use that, at a ratio of 1 ½ ounce of bittersweet or semisweet to every ounce of unsweetened chocolate, and omit 1 tablespoon of sugar from the recipe per ounce, as a well.

Semisweet Chocolate 

You can replace or semisweet chocolate with unsweetened chocolate plus a little sugar. For every ounce of chocolate you need, swap in 2/3 ounce unsweetened chocolate and one tablespoon sugar. Similarly, you can use 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and three tablespoons sugar.

  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips for every 1-ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate.
  • 1-ounce bittersweet baking chocolate for every 1-ounce semi-sweet bittersweet baking chocolate.
  • 1-ounce unsweetened baking chocolate and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for every 1-ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate.
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening for every 1 ounces of semi-sweet baking chocolate.

Bittersweet Chocolate

To clarify, bittersweet and semisweet chocolate can be used interchangeably in recipes, but there may be slight differences in flavor and texture.

  • (1-ounce) square semi-sweet baking chocolate for 1 (1-ounce) square bittersweet baking chocolate.

Chocolate, Sweet Baking (German):

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 4 teaspoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter, shortening or vegetable oil for every 1-ounce German’s sweet baking chocolate.
  • 1 ounce dark sweet chocolate for every 1 ounce German sweet baking chocolate.

White Chocolate 

  • Substitute 1-ounce milk chocolate or white chocolate chips for every 1-ounce white chocolate.

Milk Chocolate

  • Substitute equal amounts of sweet chocolate OR semi-sweet chocolate for milk chocolate.

Chocolate Chips (Semi-Sweet)

  • 1 ounce semi-sweet baking chocolate for every 1 ounce of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • 1-ounce sweet baking chocolate for every 1-ounce chocolate chips.
  • 1-ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar for every 1-ounce chocolate chips.

Cocoa, Unsweetened

  • Substitute equal amounts of Dutch-processed cocoa for unsweetened cocoa. Leave out any baking soda called for in the recipe.
  • 3 tablespoon carob powder plus 2 tablespoons water for every 1-ounce unsweetened cocoa.
  • Do not substitute instant cocoa mix for unsweetened cocoa in any recipe.
  • Use 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, but remove 1 tablespoon sugar from the recipe.

Dutch-Process Cocoa

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda for every 1-ounce Dutch-Process Cocoa.
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (but reduce fat in recipe by 1 tablespoon).
  • 3 tablespoons carob powder for every 1-ounce Dutch Process Cocoa.

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2 thoughts on “Useful Baking Substitutes”

  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! This is tremendously helpful and appreciated, especially for those of us taking up baking for the very first time! Be well 🙂

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