Learning the 'Art' of Substituting Food must begin with a knowledge of ingredients.
It is difficult to change a recipe to make it healthier, or for those unfortunate sufferers, allergy free; if you do not understand the ingredients. This post will be the first of a series which will endeavour to make you ingredient aware.
So let's start with......
The flavour of butter is impossible to substitute, accept that and move on.
Other flavours can enhance the product instead.
Use chocolate, spices and extracts as the dominant flavour in sweet bakery,
Use herbs, roots, and spices, in savoury.
The 'fat' content can be substituted easily to give a better baked product in many cases.
Vegetable Oil is neutral in flavour but gives added moisture to breads, cakes, muffins and brownies.
This is especially apt when using gluten free flours which tend to make baked goods drier.
If using oil in cookies and pastry, use less oil than the quantity of butter called for in the recipe as the mixture will be 'wetter' and will spread! How much less depends on the quantity of ingredients. About 10% less usually works well. You can substitute with olive oil; it does impart its flavour so use the lighter varieties of oil.
I prefer to use White Vegetable Shortening in pastries as it is suitable for both Vegans, and Lactose Intolerant. Unlike block margarine, it does not contain any water so the end product is more crumbly and gives a much better texture; this is especially so with pastry. However, unlike butter it does not have any flavour; adding ground nuts as part of the flour content gives a super flavour profile, as does adding coconut.
You need to replace a little more nut than the flour taken out due to weight/volume issues. You can easily grind down any nut in a food processor; do be careful though and don't over grind or you will end up with a nut 'butter'. Add a little flour when processing and it will help keep them from becoming a paste. Not a problem really if you do end up with a 'butter' as mix in some melted chocolate, butter (or other fat), and sugar (honey, or other sugar substitute), and you have your very own choc/nut spread! By first roasting the nuts for about 15 minutes until golden brown, the flavour will be really enhanced.
Block margarine does give some 'butter like' flavour and colour, but the water content is higher. This might cause some issues in producing a short crumbly texture in pastry; you are developing the gluten structure within the flour when rubbing in margarine. Combine with vegetable shortening for a better effect.
Do be aware when using margarine: never use 'soft' margarine, the water content is far too high; and never use hydrogenated solid fats as they have Cancer issues!
If Vegan, always check that the margarine you are using is Dairy Free - not all are. It is a personal preference as to the type of margarine you use - Soya, Sunflower, or other Vegetable 'type'!
Coconut and Avocado oils can also be used as a substitute fat but they do impart their flavour.
Coconut oil is a solid fat in storage which creams and rubs in very easily. It has a high 'flash' point which makes it an excellent frying medium. It also has fantastic health benefits, and can be used externally on your body as a hair and skin moisturiser - who would have thought it! Avocado oils are much more expensive and, a liquid. There will be a predominant flavour if you use them do make sure they are relevant to the dish, or, mask with stronger flavours.
Ghee is a fat used in Indian cooking. It is pure butter fat clarified to remove all traces of milk protein (casein) and the milk sugar lactose, (if processed correctly). The advantage is the flavour as it does give you the butter taste. It is not suitable for Vegans.
You can use a mild, creamy Mayonnaise. This can substitute for part of the fat in strong flavoured baking recipes, eg., chocolate recipes.
Fat free? Lowering the fat content in a recipe is quite easy. Substitute mashed fruits or vegetables, the most popular being Apple Sauce.
This works particularly well in recipes which include fruit and cinnamon. eg., muffins, cookies and cakes. Usually, the denser the fruit the better. 'Blackened' over-ripe bananas are another popular addition but do not use too much as they leave a distinctive flavour profile.
Bananas are better used as a significant part of the recipe, eg., date and banana cookies.
Even beetroot can be used, especially in rich, dense, chocolate cake.
Any fruit or root vegetable can be used within reason, but do remember many have a high water content which will mess up the structure of your baked goods. You must take this into consideration when reviewing your recipe. Adapt by reducing moisture content, egg/milk, and increasing the raising agent.
However, you can remove some of the water content from the fruits and vegetables easily. Drying them out in a warm oven is a simple and effective way. As with roasting vegetables, moisture is removed, concentrating the natural sugars and making the fruit and vegetables 'drier'.
Gluten-free baby food in jars can also be used, such as pears, apricots and even prunes! Purees of fruits and vegetables add body and moisture to the batter, with no added fat.
Do remember though, strong fruit and vegetable flavours are better in recipes which are equally strong - cocoa, dark chocolate and warm spices such as cinnamon and ginger.
More Interesting Posts:
@knittybynature has made the most scrumptious coconut and strawberry cake. I wanted a slice but it was all eaten up. Oh well, I'll just have to make my own!
@musingsltd had a fascinating sushi meal which looked amazing. However, the raw fish part was just a little bit too substantial for my taste.
@natashahall gives us another delicious curry recipe. This one just perfect for vegans.
and finally for now ......
@tikotiko. I love spinach and this recipe is for a fantastic spinach pie. I will be making this; the pastry looks incredible.
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