You’ve heard it a million times; baking is a science, follow the recipe, stick to the rules. Rules Shmules, I say! I’m about to tell you how you can go rogue with a recipe and change it without getting a flop. And yes, it’s possible – because I do it all the time!
First, start with a recipe you really like that’s similar to what you want. In other words, don’t try and change a cake recipe into a cookie. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, just reinvent the flavour combinations.
Don’t mess with the basics. Chopped almonds, pistachios and other nuts, herbs, zest, choc chips, vanilla, liqueurs, spices – flavourings are easy to play with and won’t affect the structure or texture of your baked goodies. Fresh and dried fruits can also be fiddled with but just keep their textures and acidity levels in mind when you’re changing them out. Ingredients like eggs, sugar, flour, butter are all there for a reason so it’s best to leave those alone.
If you want to go seriously rogue and fiddle with the eggs, butter, sugar and flour, make small changes. And record them as you go! There’s nothing worse than inventing the best choc chip cookie recipe only to forget what you did!
Ask yourself if the ingredient you’re swopping has a similar fat/sugar/consistency/structure and acidity to what it’s being replaced for? This is vitally important in avoiding a huge flop. Eg. You cannot substitute sugar for honey if you’re making toffee because it caramelizes at a different temperature. This is when baking really does become a science!
Here are some simple replacements you can make to a recipe:
Dairy milk can be replaced with almond, soy, rice or coconut milk. It can also often be replaced with water, fruit juice, brewed tea, beer or even wine.
If you want to add cocoa powder to a recipe, simply remove part of the cake flour. Eg. if a recipe calls for 100g cake flour, you can change it to 80g cake flour + 20g cocoa powder. Don’t change more than half the cake flour, though.
Peanut butter can be swapped for tahini or any other nut or seed butter. Sunflower seed butter, almond, nutella etc.
Buttermilk, yoghurt, sour cream and crème fraiche are all interchangeable.
Oils can be substituted for each other – think olive oil, sesame seed oil, peanut oil, etc to change up the flavours
Nut meals – almond, hazelnut, pecan nut flour are all interchangeable. This also applies to seed flours like ground sunflower seeds, linseeds etc.
White sugar, soft brown sugar, muscovado, molasses sugar and demerara sugars all give different flavours but have the same structures. Muscovado will make cookies super moist, white sugar will make them crispy!
If you really love creating your own recipes and want to make your own from scratch, Michael Ruhlman’s RATIO is a must. All recipes can be broken down into a simple ratio and once you know that ratio, the possibilities are endless!