It’s no secret that baking is experiencing a lockdown boom. As housebound home cooks struggle to come to terms with the monotony of quarantine, the soothing cycle of kneading and mixing is providing a much-needed escape for millions. Granted, it’s not quite as satisfying as sitting outside, but it's important to find comfort where you can.
As many begin to discover the world of baking for the first time, the intricate balance between art and science can seem a little daunting. For cooks who are used to throwing everything at a pot and hoping for the best, fastidiously weighing and measuring precise pinches of flour might sound like kitchen purgatory. This is made doubly complicated if you don’t have the exact ingredients called for in a particular recipe.
Fortunately, the Twisted Team are here to help. To help your home baking become a little more flexible, we’ve pulled together a few of our favourite useful baking substitutes. Whether you’re a few eggs short of a dozen, or finding that plain flour just can’t cut it by itself, this latest Twisted Guide is for you.
1. Plain Flour
Plain flour is the bedrock of baking. It is a workmanlike jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen - hardly a specialist, but still essential. For this reason, recipes calling for plain flour can often be easily adapted, depending on what it is you’re cooking. “Cake flour”, for instance, is ideal if you’re creating something designed to have a delicately crumbly texture, while “bread flour” is ideal for gluten-rich doughs.
2. Self-raising flour
Another member of the flour family that has become increasingly difficult to source, self-raising flour is already something of a baking hack. However, even if you can’t find it in the shops, it’s still seriously easy to make it yourself. Simply add half a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of baking soda to every 150g of plain flour and mix thoroughly before use.
3. Baking soda
For anyone who has ever wondered what exactly is the difference between baking soda and powder, the answer is not all that much. In most situations, you can in fact use baking powder instead of soda, so long as you adjust the measurements. A general rule of thumb is that you should use three times the amount of powder to baking soda, though it’s also important to note that powder often contains a pinch of salt, so you may need to adjust quantities elsewhere in your recipe.
4. Baking powder
Similarly, if you have stocked up on an excessive amount of baking soda but forgot to grab some powder, there is a useful workaround. A popular substitute is the slightly deceptively named “cream of tartar”, which is not, in fact, a delicious fish and chip condiment, but a powdery residue left behind after the fermentation of grapes. Even if it doesn’t sound especially appetising, “tartaric acid”, as it is more scientifically known, will definitely do a job in the kitchen.
Even before we all entered into self-enforced isolation, a growing baking trend had been established away from animal products. If you’re in a plant-based house, finding an alternative to eggs can be tricky. Fortunately, there are several simple solutions. Vegan bakers have come up with numerous nifty workarounds, such as substituting around 60ml of carbonated water for every large egg, or mixing together water, baking powder and vegetable oil.
Check out our incredible Vegan Bailey's Birthday Cake recipe:
6. Egg whites
Many more refined recipes may call for the delicate garnish of a meringue, or perhaps a lightly aerated chocolate mousse. If you have a hankering for pavlova, but don’t have any eggs to hand, an easy alternative is the magical, if admittedly unappetising, aquafaba. The water found in a can of chickpeas, aquafaba can be whipped and whisked just like egg whites, allowing you to make intricate, animal-free desserts with ease.
7. Powdered sugar
There are few things more irritating than perfectly baking a light and fluffy Victoria sponge, only to find that you haven’t got any icing sugar for decorating. Even though this situation might seem like a disaster, there is a solution. Simply take a food processor and blend 128g of ordinary granulated or caster sugar with a teaspoon of cornstarch, and wait until it becomes a fine powder. Mix with a splash of water, and get decorating.
Buttermilk is brilliant if you’re looking to add an extra flavourful element to your cooking, but it can be tricky to find - especially in England. Despite sounding like a slightly mythical component in baking alchemy, buttermilk is actually nothing more than the addition of lemon juice to ordinary milk for a sour kick. Simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice or another acid to every 250mls of milk, leave for a few minutes at room temperature and use.
Especially if you are an inexperienced baker, substituting anything for what’s listed in the recipe can seem like a serious risk. Fortunately for everyone, the situation isn’t nearly as scary as it seems.