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Published: Tuesday, 10/6/2009

Substituting ingredients: When and how to swap one item for another in baked goods

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

There's more than one way to make many recipes.

For example, a frosted orange cookie can be made with or without an egg, depending on the version of the recipe. Or a quick bread like Grape and Lemon-Rosemary Tea Bread can be made with regular vanilla yogurt or a low-fat version. There are variations on zucchini breads, cakes, and more.

When a co-worker shared a recipe for Frosted Orange Cookies with me, I had to go home and make it. But midway through the recipe, I realized there was no egg. I was tempted to add an egg, but I opted to follow the recipe and see how it would turn out.

The result was a marvelous, delicious little cake-like orange cookie (from Taste of Home magazine) with an excellent orange frosting. What was the secret? Two medium-size navel oranges were listed in the ingredients. The oranges were scored into quarters, the peel was removed, and the white pith was taken from the peel and discarded. Then the orange was quartered and placed in the blender, the peel was added and the cover placed on the blender to process. The mixture measured three-fourths cup (the size of the orange affects the amount).

It reminded me of using applesauce or prune puree in recipes during the early 1990s when the low-fat trend was consuming home bakers.

Party Gingerbread Cake. Party Gingerbread Cake.
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This is a great little cookie to make if you are out of eggs or allergic to eggs.

“The role of fruit in a recipe [is to] add moisture,” said Susan Reid of the King Arthur Flour test kitchens in Vermont in a phone interview.

“You can substitute fruit puree for fat for a moist cake-y texture,” she said. “But in a low-fat recipe, you never will get a crisp low-fat cookie.”

Don't confuse low-fat with low-calorie, she advises. Cutting the fat cuts calories, but many recipes add other starchy ingredients or sugar for flavor or texture, “so it's a wash.”

In the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (Countryman Press, $29.95), the Orange Blossom cookie recipe does have an egg, but it is still described as a soft and cake-y recipe.

Low fat recipes

To adapt a baked good recipe to make it lower-fat, substitute half the fat with a fruit puree, Ms. Reid said. If you want to go for a lower-fat version of a recipe made with cream, “switch to low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt that is non-fat and is wonderfully rich.”

That's what we did with Grape and Lemon-Rosemary Tea Bread. The Blade's recipe tester, Angela Benko, used low-fat vanilla yogurt in place of the regular vanilla yogurt in the moist bread. She estimates it could be called a low-fat recipe because there are 15 slices or servings of bread.

She also tested the Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread recipe that Jean Neshkoff of Sylvania sent to me this summer. Ms. Neshkoff has had the recipe for several years; it originally came from Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe uses applesauce as an ingredient and it is considered low-fat. “The texture is nice, it's flavorful and moist,” said Mrs. Benko.

For recipes made with heavy cream, use half-and-half and even no-fat half-and-half, which has an emulsifier that helps make it thick, advises King Arthur's Ms. Reid. “I've used that in soups instead of cream too.”

She notes that lower-fat versions of baked goods will be less tender.

“If a muffin calls for sour cream, you can use Greek yogurt, but it won't have that rich mouth feel,” she said.

Other substitutions

Among the other ingredients that can be substituted are eggs. In the case of the Frosted Orange Cookies, the eggs were replaced by the pureed orange and orange zest. You can also use egg substitutes for eggs. “These won't make a meringue or sabayon,” Ms. Read said. “There are powdered egg substitutes for people with allergies, which may not work as well in recipes.”

“You can only substitute things out so far until you see a degradation in the quality of the product,” she said. “Once you swap two or three things, everything needs to be recalibrated. Think of it as a choir ... you don't want the bass so the tenors have to sing louder.”

She said that a two-layer cake needs one cup of fat, and oils are almost interchangeable, whether you use canola, olive, or butter. In the test kitchen she uses sunflower oil, which is neutral. “I can taste things that are rancid or bitter (alkaline), such as too much baking soda,” she said.

Baking soda is used as an ingredient in a batter that is particularly acidic from ingredients such as buttermilk or molasses, brown sugar, cocoa, or bananas. One-half teaspoon of baking soda can replace two teaspoons baking powder.

Baking powder contains both baking soda and an acid. It creates carbon dioxide bubbles even when extra acid is present, according to The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook by Brinna Sands (Countryman Press, $24).

For those who want to include soy in their diet, soy flour can be added to baked goods, giving a protein boost to recipes. Soy flour is free of gluten, which gives structure to yeast-raised breads, so it cannot replace all of the wheat or rye flour in a bread recipe. When interchanging soy flour with regular flour in a bread recipe, using about 15 percent soy flour produces a dense bread with a nutty flavor. Use two tablespoons soy flour for every cup of wheat flour before measuring all-purpose or other flour in a recipe.

Soy flour can be used to thicken gravies and cream sauces and to replace up to one-third of the all-purpose flour with soy flour in pancake recipes. Soy flour is used in Party Gingerbread Cake.

Contact Kathie Smith at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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