When it is crunch time in the kitchen, running out of a crucial ingredient is no picnic. Neither is running out to the store at midnight. If you are missing an ingredient knowing its equivalent or substitution can save the day. Adapting recipes from antique cookbooks can also cause confusion. What is arrowroot and must I consult a wizard? Today, Mom helps cooks with tips on milk, cream and other sauce thickeners.
Milk: If you don’t have one cup of fresh milk substitute 1/2 cup of evaporated mile plus 1/2 cup of water. Or follow the directions on a box of powdered milk. It’s a good idea to have a can of evaporated milk handy for emergencies. If you don’t use it during holiday baking, keep it for your other emergency kit.
Buttermilk: Also called sour milk, is used to give recipes a little zip. Substitute 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using), OR use 1 cup whole milk plus 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar OR use 1 cup of plain yogurt.
Whipping Cream: Whipped cream from scratch is worth the work. If you don’t have time, just use frozen dessert topping. 1 cup whipping cream equals 2 cups dessert topping. Heavy cream is the same as heavy whipping cream as both have a butterfat content between 36% to 40%.
Light Cream: if you don’t have 1 cup of light cream use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of milk plus 2 tablespoons of butter. Light cream is the same as coffee cream or table cream with18 to 30% butterfat, but it won’t work for whipping cream because of the lower fat content.
Cornstarch: Great for thickening sauces; if you don’t have 1 tablespoon of cornstarch use 2 tablespoons of flour. Always dissolve it in a little water, broth or juice before you add it to your sauce to avoid lumps.
Arrowroot: Not a mystical ingredient but another thickening agent for sauces and soups. For one tablespoon of arrowroot substitute 2 tablespoons of regular flour or 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Dissolve in water or broth for easier mixing. Some sources recommend using more flour or cornstarch.
Depending on your altitude and other factors in your recipe you may decide to add more. I’ve always found it’s easier to add than to subtract from a recipe. As a general rule if you are baking in the oven, you must follow the recipe as closely as possible. Not only do your ingredients add flavor, they also serve a specific function like making your bread rise, or binding ingredients together. If you are using milk or cream in a sauce, you have more flexibility. For example, if you are making gravy, a splash of milk instead of cream is fine. The fat content should only effect the flavor of your sauce, not the final product.
Laura Zinkan is a writer in California. She cultivates a gardening site at http://www.theGardenPages.com with plant profiles, growing tips about succulents and native plants.
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