Posts Tagged ‘substitutions’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Vanilla 101

September 8, 2015


Vanilla is a flavoring that is used in almost every sweet thing that we bake. The type and quality of vanilla is crucially important to the taste of our baked goods.
Vanilla can be used in either its original pod form, which is derived from the orchid plant, or the more commonly used extract, which comes in a bottle. The pod imparts a stronger flavor than the extract, and leaves behind tell tale dark specks. Vanilla pods are on the more expensive side, and require more effort to use.

The extract is made from macerated vanilla beans which have been soaked in alchohol and water, and then aged for several months before filtering. The FDA specifies that pure vanilla extract be made from 13.35 oz. of vanilla beans per gallon during the extraction process. Imitation vanilla is comprised of artificial flavorings, commonly paper industry by-products and chemicals. Bottles marked vanilla flavoring are made from a blend of extract and imitation vanilla.  The faux versions tend to have a slight chemical flavor that is unpleasant.

For the best outcome in baking, stick with the real deal; either vanilla pods or pure vanilla extract. Although these are more costly, the outcome is well worth the investment. Remember, most recipes only call for a teaspoon or so.

When purchasing vanilla extract, look for a pure amber color. Clear or very dark liquid indicates that it is either a synthetic vanilla, or that dyes have been added.



One notable high quality commerically produced, commonly found vanilla extract is Nielson-Massey. There are many other very good vanilla extracts at slightly lower prices as well.

Store your vanilla extract in a cool, dark place, and make sure it is tightly sealed to avoid evaporation.

Ultimately, the two types of vanilla can be used interchangably. The rule of thumb is:

1 vanilla bean is equal to 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

You can also make your own vanilla extract, using vanilla beans and alcohol, such as vodka, bourbon or rum. Here is a great tutorial from The Kitchn.

Happy Baking!

Top photo: Glasshouse Images

Bottle photo courtesty of Nielson-Massey

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Chocolate Substitutions

September 1, 2015


We try to keep a well stocked panty, but sometimes inspiration hits, and we find we don’t have the exact ingredients that the recipe calls for. A quick trip to the store isn’t always an option, or a necessity. Here are a few swaps for different types of commonly used baking chocolates:

If the recipe calls for semisweet chocolate, substitute 1 oz. of unsweetened chocolate + 1 tablespoon of sugar, for each ounce of semisweet needed.

If the recipe calls for sweetened chocolate, substitute 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of nuetral flavored cooking oil* for every 4 oz. of sweetened chocolate required.

If the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, use 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 tablespoon of neutral flavored cooking oil* for every oz. necessary.

*neutral cooking oil is one which does not impart a strong flavor. Try canola, vegetable oil, corn oil or sunflower oil. Olive oil will give your baked goods a detectable flavor that may be unpleasant. Coconut oil also will be detectable, but may be a more pleasant alternative.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Substitutions Welcome

September 10, 2012

I am extremely health minded when it comes to fitness and nutrition. I don’t believe in using anything fake in my food to make it lower in fat, calories, sugar or even gluten. I prefer to avoid these things on a regular basis, and indulge in the real deal from time to time.
Recently, I have started experimenting with substituting a bit, and have been creating recipes that still use all natural food based ingredients, but make things just a bit healthier in the process.

When last night’s gluten free cheesecake with an almond meal crust drew rave reviews from people who preferred it to my usual cheesecake recipe, I realized that I was onto something.

Butter is a mainstay to baking, and I would never consider using margarine or “fake butter” instead.  There are lots of healthy and even vegan foods that can be substituted that will still yield moist, rich baked goods without sacrificing taste.

Applesauce is a great alternative to butter in denser baked goods, such as muffins and banana bread. Substitute ½ the butter for the same quantity of applesauce. You can use all applesauce if you like an even moister, heavier texture.

Avocado is also a good butter substitute. Use ½ butter and ½ of the equivalent amount of mashed avocado. It creates a softer, chewier texture, making it a great choice for cookies.

Greek yogurt is a rich creamy dairy product that can also be used instead of butter. The rule of thumb is replace ½ of the butter, with ½ the amount of yogurt. (If the recipe asks for 1 cup of butter, use ½ cup of butter and ¼ cup of yogurt.)

You may need to experiment a bit to find the consistency you like best.

I have made an amazing lemon yogurt loaf cake that is one of best versions of a lemon pound cake around. It uses both yogurt and canola oil, instead of butter.

I will continue to experiment and share some of my successes here on indigo jones.

Remember that even with substitutions to make baked goods a little more virtuous, they still are not “diet foods.” With a little practice, you may actually come up with something better than the original recipe!

photos: Glasshouse Images 

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