Dan shows you some easy swaps when you may find you don't have a certain ingredient on hand!
- Dan: what is cake flour? Cake flour is a different subset of wheat. It has a lower protein content than the wheat we find in regular all-purpose flour and it is ground more finely. That protein becomes gluten as the flour reacts with liquid around it. Cakes need less gluten to stay together than bread. And knowing that can save you in a pinch!
What can we use to subsitute for cake flour?
- Dan: Swap out two tablespoons of your all purpose flour for two tablespoons of corn starch, that will lower the protein content and increase the starch ratio (eliminating some gluten formation and creating a light and soft cake).
Sugar: when it comes to sugar we have a few options.
- For superfine sugar, run your granulated sugar in the food processor for 30 seconds. But don’t spin it too long, the heat from the motor can start molecular breakdown (caramelization).
- For powdered sugar, run 1 cup of sugar and one teaspoon of cornstarch in a spice mill. Why the spice mill instead of the food processor? The smaller volume of the container on a spice mill means the grains of sugar are hitting the blades more often, eventually becoming more pulverized than they would with a food processor with all its vacuous space.
- For brown sugar, mix one cup of granulated sugar with one teaspoon of molasses in your food processor.
- Dan: Buttermilk tends to be an ingredient that we don’t have on hand, but when we need it, we really need it! As with other ingredients, understanding what buttermilk really is will help us make a substitution. Buttermilk, traditionally is the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream. Things to remember about buttermilk: it is tart and it is thick. What makes it tart? Acid, specifically lactic acid produced by bacteria fermenting lactose. Lactose is the sugar found in dairy products, notice anything familiar about the name? Let’s take a quick latin lesson. So, if we’re looking to replace a thick, slightly tart, acidic dairy product, what do you think makes sense? Milk with a touch of vinegar or lemon juice! We add it, then let it sit for 5 minutes in order to let the milk clabber. The lemon juice will simultaneously lower the ph of the milk (acidification) while it begins to unfold casein (the milk protein) which thickens the liquid.
- For one cup of buttermilk, let one cup of whole milk stand with one teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice for five minutes.
- Dan: there is one major chemical we use to help give lift to our baked goods. Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda. But what about baking powder? Why is it called double acting baking powder? Baking powder is nothing more than sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) with tartaric acid (also known as cream of tartar). Why is it double acting? Sodium bicarbonate is a weak base, and cream of tartar is an acid. When they react, we see the release of carbon dioxide. This is often demonstrated by pouring vinegar over baking soda, we see the classic grade school volcano experiment. But baking powder is perfect in baked goods that don’t have an additional acid content. We need acid to react to the base in order to release carbon dioxide. Well, plain water will dissolve the tartaric acid in baking powder, releasing it to react freely with the sodium bicarbonate and releasing carbon dioxide, giving lift to cakes and cookies. If you run out of baking powder use this instead: for one teaspoon powder, swap in 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 tsp cream of tartar.
- Dan: when it comes to replacing eggs we have to mimic a unique combination of protein, fat, and water. The chemical structure of eggs can provide lift, heft, and binding all in one but most replacements can cover only one or two of those traits. For my miscake i wanted to replace heft (lift i had in spades from the buttermilk and baking powder). Considering my need for body in the cake, banana was an excellent replacement. Water, fat, protein, and mass!
- Dan: vanilla is truly a flavor powerhouse in baking, but it isn’t the only aromatic alcohol. Indeed, vanilla is made by steeping whole beans in alcohol until the liquid is suffused with its floral notes. When you’ve tapped the end of your vanilla bottle mid-recipe, simply raid your liquor cabinet. Surely you have some rum, whiskey, rye, bourbon, or even tequila hanging around. These dark alcohols are full of flavor compounds not dissimilar from our stalwart vanilla extract.
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