Cooking and Baking Substitutes

Did you ever want to cook or bake something but didn’t because you didn’t have all the ingredients on hand? While you can’t find substitutes for or create everything you might need, there are many simple substitutes you can make from what you already have.

For instance, baking powder is baking soda and cream of tartar, smoothed with cornstarch. Take equal amounts of baking soda and cornstarch, then add that much cream of tartar. For example, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cornstarch and 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar. Mix them together well and store in a cool, dry place and do your baking with it just like you would with commercial baking powder. That was easy, wasn’t it?

How about cake flour? Here’s an easy substitute for that, too: Sift 3/4 cup of regular, all purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. That makes one cup of cake flour, believe it or not. If you make your own cake flour, you don’t have to store extra flour and making it this way is cheaper than buying it already made. You’ll be ready for baking any time you feel like it.

Now you want to bake that cake and decorate it with colored sugar, but you don’t want to go to the store to get the colored sugar… Just use white sugar with a drop or two of food coloring. Put the food coloring into a container with a tight lid, add a couple of tablespoons of white sugar, put the lid on and shake it hard. Spread it to dry. If the color isn’t as intense as you like it, do it again. If the sugar clumps when it’s dry, shake it again.

Oops… wait a minute. You need cream for that frosting and you don’t have any. Time to make another substitute: Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to 7/8 cup of milk and there you have it. If you need heavy cream, add powdered milk to it, too – about 2 generous tablespoons per cup will do it.

Does cold weather make you hungry for a hearty breakfast? Pancakes to the rescue! I like mine with sausage. Or maybe I like sausage with pancake syrup, but either way, there is a way to make pancakes more frugal.

If you like buttermilk pancakes, but can’t keep buttermilk on hand for that sudden urge, substitute powdered milk with a little vinegar added to sour it. You don’t have to keep any special ingredients on hand, and it’s cheaper than buying buttermilk, too.

Ok, so now you can make the pancakes or waffles, but you don’t have any syrup? That’s easy, too. Mix 1 cup of white sugar, 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 2/3 cup of water and cook it at a simmer it until it gets to the soft ball stage. Remove it from the heat and add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and maple flavoring to taste. If you keep a small bottle of maple flavoring on hand, you won’t have to store syrup at all and you’ll save space and money.

Let’s dream… it’s cold outside and you’re dreaming of a cup of hot chocolate. There’s one problem, though… you don’t have any! Old fashioned to the rescue. Besides the recipe on the box of baking chocolate by a famous chocolate company, you can make “instant” hot chocolate mix yourself and keep it on hand for those cold days. Just mix 1/4 cup baking cocoa, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/3 cups powdered milk and a dash of salt. When you use it, add a drop or two of vanilla. Or mix only the baking cocoa, sugar and salt, then make your chocolate with hot milk and a drop or two of vanilla. No cooking needed.

When I was a kid, we lived a half hour from town, Daddy worked 12 hours a day six days a week and Mom didn’t drive… she had to learn to make do. When she ran out of something, she figured out how to substitute something else. It worked then and it works now. And the more you stay out of stores, the less you’ll be tempted to buy other things you don’t really need.

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