Cooking

Don't Get Your Pantry in a Twist

6 staple baking ingredients you can make in a pinch
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table
Baking Ingredient Substitutions
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It's Baking Month: Switch your oven on and get warm, cozy and festive with us this December.

You have everything ready: The cake recipe is printed, apron is secured and kitchen jams are blasting. That is, you thought you were ready—as you open the refrigerator and realize you're out of eggs and cake flour. Ugh.

When you don't even have time to wait for an Instacart delivery, let alone take a trip to the grocery store, follow these substitution tricks and bake on.

① Cake flour
Many cooks don't have cake flour sitting around in the pantry. But it's crucial, because it helps give cakes their light, airy texture, since it has a lower gluten level than all-purpose and bread flours. To make your own, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, which helps prevent too much gluten from forming. You'll need cake flour for this showstopping 18-layer tiramisu crepe cake.

② Self-rising flour
It sounds as though it has magical properties, but self-rising flour is simply all-purpose flour that has leavening and salt already included. Though it's not seen too often in recipes, it can be a shortcut ingredient to speed up recipes like this 20-minute pizza dough or always-fun ice cream bread. To make 1 cup of self-rising flour, add 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of salt. Self-rising also works as a stand-in for all-purpose: Just leave the baking powder and salt out of the recipe.

③ Buttermilk
You need this staple to make a Southern feast of fried chicken and biscuits. To make 1 cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of acidic liquid, like white vinegar or lemon juice, to a measuring glass and add milk until it's filled up to the 1-cup mark. On the flip side, if you have too much buttermilk, try one of these tips to use it before it goes bad.

RELATED   How to Use Every Last Drop of Buttermilk »

④ Pumpkin pie spice
Don't spend money on a new spice jar to make a classic pumpkin pie when you have the ingredients on hand already. Doing this also lets you tweak it to your own preferences. Can't stand cloves? Leave them out. Like spice? Up the ginger. For 2 tablespoons of a basic blend, combine 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ginger, ½ teaspoon of cloves, ½ teaspoon of allspice and ½ teaspoon of nutmeg.

⑤ Eggs
Eggs help bind the ingredients in a recipe. If you just ran out, try making your own binding agent by combining 1 tablespoon of flax with 2½ tablespoons of water and letting it sit. This works best with recipes that use one or two eggs, especially in quick breads and muffins. You could also sneak in a serving of fruit by using applesauce instead.

⑥ Butter
Everything is better with butter, but either by choice or necessity, sometimes you need to go with an alternative. Churn makeshift butter by whipping cream to oblivion or learn how they make it at Roberta's in Brooklyn. But for a need-this-now solution, try creamy avocado, Greek yogurt or applesauce again. All three help keep your baked goods equally tender and moist, and whatever they lack in buttery taste, they make up for with in their own unique flavors.

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