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When baking for this holiday season, there are many reasons you may want to substitute ingredients. Some family members may have allergies, some may have special diets, and some ingredients may be healthier or just cost too much. Whatever your reason to make substitutions, plan ahead to be sure you can find the things you need. Also look for recipes that may say low sugar, no eggs, or whole grain so that you do not have to experiment with substitutions. Simply replacing an item in the recipe with something else rarely works.
Do you know someone who needs to be gluten free? Many ingredients have gluten, not just the type of flour. So if you are looking for a gluten free recipe, you may want to search for one that has gluten free in the title.
Maybe you just want to be healthier and use whole grain flours instead of highly processed flour. This can be done, but remember, any substitutions you make will change the recipe – a little or a lot. And if this is a family favorite or a tradition with your family, too much change may make people unhappy. It is best to try these new recipes through the year. People may have saved up calories just for this one favorite food and there can be an emotional attachment to traditional foods.
Butters and Oils
Lard and shortening have been used for years to give a unique texture to pie crusts and cookies. We did an informal poll at a pie baking class. We asked participants which pie crust was best. They had 3 homemade crusts and one purchased pie crust. They had no idea which recipe they were tasting and most of the people chose the commercial crust made with shortening.
In the past, margarine would help cookies keep their shape. But, we now know that the trans fats in lard and shortening are something everyone needs to avoid. Some will say, “just this one recipe for the holiday.” That may be the choice to keep everyone happy, but think about it before you make too many items with trans fats. If you want to change the type of fat you are using, you need to make other changes. You need to change the amount of the liquid or flour, or even change the amount of butter or oil you use. There are recipes on the internet that use olive oil in baking. Olive oil can have a strong flavor and aroma, so be careful about using this healthy oil as a substitute.
It is common to use applesauce or fruit puree to replace the fat in recipes. This usually works well with cakes and quick breads. But if you want to use one of these in place of fat in a cookie recipe it is best to search for a recipe that has “low fat” in the description. Click on these links for more information about substitutions. Basic Ingredient Substitutions Superb Substitutions Common Ingredient Substitutions in a Pinch
Sugar and Sweeteners
Avoiding too much sugar is a great suggestion. Many people replace granulated sugar with other items like honey and maple syrup. “You may wonder if raw sugar, honey, or agave nectar are more nutritious than other sugars. The answer is no. ” (Bobroff, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs406) These will bring a unique flavor to the foods which many people enjoy, but they are still considered to be sugars. And if someone needs to watch their carbohydrates, they may need to use sugar substitutes.
Follow package directions for the substitute you choose. Almost every one of these has an “after taste” that will effect your baked goods. It is a good idea to us two different substitutes to help reduce the amount of “after taste” or at least make it weaker. Sugar does have a role in the texture of baked goods and you can expect a different texture in addition to a different overall flavor.