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Culinary Lesson #31 - Substitutions

Friday, January 08, 2016

Although I've brought up several food substitutions in various posts before (such as how to make cake flour out of all-purpose flour and corn starch or how much instant dry yeast to use if you don't have active dry yeast on hand), I've never devoted a post to the subject — until now.

As the reader who suggested this post idea pointed out, there are several key reasons why a home cook would want to know common food substitutions.  First, it can save us money.  If a recipe only calls for a couple ounces of cake flour, we can easily make the exact amount that we need at home using the proper proportion of all-purpose flour to corn starch rather than buying a whole pound at the store and having no use for the rest of the bag.  Second, it can save us in unforeseen cooking situations.  What if you thought that you had the right amount of buttermilk for a recipe, but at the moment that you need it, you realize you're short a cup.  Luckily there are several substitutions that use common items in our fridge.

So without further ado, here is a list of what I feel are the most common substitutions that a home cook would find helpful.  My hopes for this post is that it continuously gets added to; so if there's a substitution that you don't see below, feel free to comment or message me, and I'll get it added.

  • Baking Powder
    • Mix together 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar for 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Brown sugar
    • Mix together 1 cup of granular (white) sugar with
      • 1 tablespoon of molasses in a food processor for 1 cup of light brown sugar.
      • 2 tablespoons of molasses in a food processor for 1 cup of dark brown sugar.
  • Buttermilk
    • Combine a scant cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes for 1 cup of buttermilk.
    • Combine a cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar and let stand for 10 minutes for 1 cup of buttermilk.
    • Mix 3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream with 1/4 cup water for 1 cup of buttermilk
  • Cake flour
    • Take 1 cup of all-purpose flour, subtract 2 tablespoons, and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Pass the mixture through a sifter twice for 1 cup of cake flour.
  • Crème Fraiche
    • Whisk together 1 cup of heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt.
  • Dry yeast
    • Multiply your active dry yeast amount by (33/40) to get your instant dry yeast amount.
    • Multiply your instant dry yeast amount by (40/33) to get your active dry yeast amount.
  • Half-and-Half
    • Mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup heavy cream.
  • Herbs
    • Use a 1:3 ratio of dried herbs to fresh herbs.
  • Sour Cream (for baking)
    • Plain yogurt.
  • Tomato Sauce
    • Whisk together equal parts of tomato paste and water.
  • Vanilla beans
    • Use 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for 1 vanilla bean.
  • Whole Milk
    • Mix 5/8 cup skim milk and 3/8 cup half-and-half.
    • Mix 2/3 cup 1% milk and 1/3 cup half-and-half.
    • Mix 3/4 cup 2% milk and 1/4 cup half-and-half.
    • Mix 7/8 cup skim milk and 1/8 cup heavy cream.
  • Yogurt, plain (for baking)
    • Sour cream.

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  1. This is really useful and I didn't know over 1/2 of them. Thanks for the tips!!

    1. That's great to hear Vicky, thanks! Glad it's working :)

  2. This is great TJ! Bookmarking this page. Thanks for sharing!