Now that we are all spending a lot more time at home, for many of us it’s a chance to get out the mixing bowls, baking trays, wooden spoon and whisk and get creative in the kitchen with homemade bakes. If you’re keen to get cracking but are finding it difficult to buy all the ingredients you need, whether it’s for a feather-light Victoria sponge or rich chocolate brownies, there are some substitutions you can make using things you may already have at home…
Adding structure and body to recipes, flour helps to keep the rise in your cakes and the crunch in your cookies. You’ll always get a slightly different texture using a different flour than the one stated in the recipe, but it can still give great results. And there are plenty of other ingredients that you can add to flour if you’re running short. Ground almonds for instance will be slightly crumblier but are wonderfully moist. If you do have some flour in the cupboard, consider using 20% flour with 80% ground almonds to make up the amount required for your recipe. Or use 1:1 for a delicate, crumbly finish. Oats are another good flour alternative as they can absorb liquid and add structure to bakes, especially in things like biscuits and pancakes that can be a little more delicate. Whizz a 1:1 quantity of oats in a food processor until reasonably fine and use as per recipe.
To make your own self-raising flour, simply add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to 100g of plain flour and whisk well to combine. Scale this up to fit your recipe or make extra and store in an airtight container for next time. Another idea is to use cooked, plain puréed beans – 224g of the beans is the equivalent to 125g of self-raising flour. This is ideal for recipes that contain cocoa but it may make the finished bake a little denser.
When a recipe calls for melted butter, you can always substitute for the same amount of a neutral tasting oil. If the recipe needs softened butter, vegetable shortening or softened coconut oil can work too; just remember that the flavour might be a little different – especially if you use coconut.
Most dairy-free alternatives can be used 1:1 to replace cow’s milk with great tasting results. Consider the source of the milk substitute, as strong flavours such as coconut or hazelnut may take over. Oak and cashew milk both provide a good amount of creaminess without being overpowering. In many instances you can also use water to replace traditional cow’s milk. For every 100ml you replace, add an extra 5-10g of fat such as butter or oil to replace that richness you would have got from the milk. For recipes where extra tang would be favourable such as pancakes, muffins or lemon cake, try using yoghurt or sour cream as a 1:1 replacement. If the yoghurt is extra thick, thin it out slightly with a splash of water and whisk until smooth.
Eggs are the multitasker of the baking world, providing structure, helping things rise and keeping them moist. When you need eggs to hold things together such as pastry or cookies, you can use flax or chia seeds instead. To replace one egg, combine 1 tablespoon of ground seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Mix well and allow to hydrate for 10 minutes then use as you would the eggs in your recipe.
Fruit purées can also help with moisture and binding. Half a mashed banana can be substituted for one egg in a cake mix or batter, as would the same amount (around 60g) of puréed apple or pear. It can make the end result a little heavier though, so add ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda if you want to give it some lift.
Speaking of giving bakes a lift, a combination of vinegar and baking powder can imitate this effect – perfect for sponges. For each egg you would have used, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the mix – adding the vinegar to the wet ingredients and the baking power to the dry.
Whether a recipe calls for caster, light brown, Muscovado or granulated, you can still achieve great results with a sugar substitute. Interchange any granular sugar such as white or brown, light or dark, with an easy 1:1 ratio. As brown sugar has more moisture than white, you will find that recipes take a minute or two longer to bake and will be slightly softer once cooled. White sugar is slightly sweeter in taste, as it has no molasses to give that caramel flavour, so take this into consideration when using other substitutions such as fruit purée.
If you have black treacle or molasses in the cupboard, add 1 tablespoon per 150g of white sugar to get the flavour of brown sugar. Liquid sweeteners such as honey or agave syrup can also replace sugar as a 1:1 for sweetness but this will change the texture. Use for smaller amounts and when bakes don’t need to be crisp or crunchy. Avoid using liquid sweeteners in cookies or biscuits, as it will stop them from solidifying.
So long as you aren’t changing the base ingredients, you can add whatever tasty elements to a recipe that you like. Be creative and let your culinary imagination run free. Add citrus zest at the beginning of a recipe to cakes, batters and doughs for a fresh flavour. Use spices with dry ingredients to pep up a plain recipe – a good pinch of cinnamon and ginger for instance will give banana loaf added warmth. Fold some dried fruit into a cake mix or knead into dough for texture and sweetness. A handful of chopped dates will also give natural sweetness to cookies. And don’t forget that fresh fruit can be chopped or sliced and added to moist recipes such as sponges and cakes. For cookies and traybakes, a sprinkle of frozen berries works wonders.
Hopefully these ideas will inspire you to carry on baking during this testing time. And you never know, you may just find something that you prefer, changing the way you bake forever.
for design and recipe inspiration and to receive an exclusive Miele Taste of Design course offer