It’s happened to all of us. We’ll be reading over a recipe and realize that we don’t have one of the ingredients called for. There’s no time (or energy) to run out to the store again…so what do we do? Well, this is where we learn…
Today’s Tip: Learning the art of substitution
And it’s a very fine art. Mind you, not everything has a substitute. If you’re out of eggs…then my friend you’re out of eggs. But there are so many times where one can improvise. For example, if you don’t have buttermilk, then you can make your own. If you’re out of white wine vinegar, then find another vinegar that will achieve the flavor you’re going for. It’s all a learning process. One that comes with years of experience. But as they say…knowing is half the battle, and essentially, you’re striving to know more. To get to that eventual point where you don’t panic when you’re out of something, because you know a good substitute in your mind. Or…if that fails, the overlords at Google can help you find ANYTHING.
What’s extremely important to keep in mind, is what you’re going for. For instance, you really want to add some almond extract to this batch of cookies you’re making, but you don’t have any. You can use vanilla extract. Will it be exactly the same? No. Will it be close enough for comfort? Yes.
Flavor profile is what’s key. Going for tangy? Make sure your substitute is tangy. I.E., vinegar = lemon juice. Sweet and out of sugar? Try some honey. Creamy but don’t have heavy cream? Use half n’ half or whole milk. That’s the rule of thumb. Don’t be throwing in ketchup when it calls for mustard.
I have compiled several common examples that the average household doesn’t have on hand.
- 1 cup Buttermilk = 1 cup of milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand at room temp for 10 minutes.
- Creme Fraiche (you hear that ALL the time on food network) = 1 cup heavy cream + 1 tablespoon buttermilk, let sit overnight in a warm place. Stir every 6-8 hours. Refridgerate. Good for sweet and savory stuff.
- Bread crumbs – Crushed crackers, crushed corn flakes, crushed potato chips
- Ricotta cheese – Cottage cheese
- Gruyére – Swiss
- 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese: (the Italian version of cream cheese) = 3/4 cream cheese, beaten with 1/4 heavy cream.
- 1 cup heavy cream = 3/4 whole milk, 1/4 cup melted butter, or you could just use 1 cup half n’ half (for a less dense flavor)
- Amaretto – Almond extract
- 1 cup Cake flour = 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift together.
- Yogurt – Sour cream and vice-versa
- Apple cider vinegar – You can use white vinegar or lemon juice
- Lemon Zest – Orange zest
- Nuts – Good news, Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds…can all be used for most things calling for nuts. Cashews on some occasions, but keep in mind cashews have a rich, buttery flavor that could throw the dish off
- Cornmeal – Polenta – Grits= All the same thing.
- Cookie crumbs – Any kind of cookie really. Almond, vanilla, graham, ginger, etc. Unless you’re going for oreos. Mmm…oreos.
- Kale, mustard greens, collard greens, swiss chard can all be treated the same
- Onions, scallions, leeks all similar.
- Pumpkin = Sweet potatoes
In fact, I just stumbled across a Blog on the Joyofbaking that has a bajillion substitutes. How handy is that? It’s pretty thorough. I mean, this page has an entire dictionary. This could go on FOREVER. My advice for just learning? Google it. (or call your chef Dad all the time)
Stay tuned, as we’ll do a blog on “Healthy substitutes” at some point…you know, trying to make things HEALTHIER. Which is a different kind of substitution.
Happy Cooking! Next week: Zesting