A Baking Miniseries, Day Four: Ingredient Speed Dating
You're smart. You know stuff. You've gotten by with whatever baking knowledge you have thus far without poisoning any people or burning any kitchens (hopefully). But in case you'd like to know a little bit more about the foods you've invited into your pantry, here are some tidbits that will help recipes make more sense once you get to know their ingredients a little better. Welcome to Ingredient Speed Dating.
Round One: Hi, Brown Sugar! You seem great, but why are you so clumpy?
Oh, you're going for my worst quality right out of the gate, huh? Cool cool, I like a baker who doesn't mess around. Well, I'm made from granulated (white) sugar and molasses mixed together which makes me complex but sweet, everything you want in your sugar relationship. But molasses is a liquid, so when it's exposed to air, that liquid starts to evaporate. When that happens, the remnants of the molasses acts like an annoying glue that keeps the sugar crystals together in giant unbreakable clumps, making me difficult to work even though it's not my fault! It's just how God made me.
If this bothers you to the point of anger, add moisture back in. My favorite companion is a piece of cheap white bread; it shares its moisture with me and turns brittle while I stay nice and fluffy. It's a kind friend.
Round Two: Hi, White Chocolate? Wait, are you delicious white chocolate or the kind that tastes like sugary armpits?
Brown Sugar told me about you; you get right to the point, don't you! I'm the delicious kind because I'm made with actual chocolate. Sugary armpit white chocolate is made with palm oil and sugar. I mean, palm oil? Such a poser. It sounds like it came from an armpit. Or a palmpit. (Ha! See how funny I am?) Regardless, you want white chocolate like me that's made with cocoa; the ingredient list will say cocoa butter and sugar. That's the real deal. I'm super authentic and want to get to know you better.
Round Three: Hi, Buttermilk! Why the sad face? Oh wait, you're sour.
Yes, I'm sour. Obviously. I'm curdled milk why do you have to get on my case, man??? Sorry. I have anger issues. I sit lonely in the dairy case next to the popular kids regular milk and chocolate milk; even almond milk gets more love then I do!
Could it be because I can make almost your exact version with milk and vinegar?
Maybe. But it still makes me feel unloved! Fine, YES you can make my perfect substitute with milk and vinegar. The best is using a milk with fat; most bakers love whole, but 2% is fine. Fill the liquid cup measure almost as full as you need it for your recipe, and then top it off with white vinegar. After a couple of minutes, you'll have my cheaper doppleganger, and I'll just hang out here next to the low-fat half-and-half. I mean, that's not even a thing!
Round Four: Hi there! Umm, wait, why are there so many of you? I thought all alternative flours were pretty much interchangeable?
Almond Flour: Ugh, I'm so tired of being misunderstood.
Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour: Speak for yourself! Everyone loves me.
Coconut Flour: Of course they do because they don't have to think to use you! You're an exact substitution of the real thing!
Rice Flour: Hey, I'm the real thing, too! Just a real rice thing, not a real wheat thing.
Almond Flour: Okay, let's all calm down. You're right; I'm sorry I got us off on the wrong foot.
Um, are you guys okay?
GF AP Flour: Yeah, we're fine. Everyone is just a little testy at these things because we're all so different, but everyone thinks we're the same. It can do a number on your self-esteem.
Oh, I had no idea. Well, can you each tell me about yourselves individually? I know we only have, like, 12 seconds per flour, but up next is a box of raisins. I'm in no rush.
GF AP Flour: You're nicer than Brown Sugar said you were! Cool, well I'm GFAP, and I'm the most average of the bunch. You can use me cup-for-cup in recipes calling for all-purpose flour. Bob's Red Mill is my favorite brand outfit. I'm still pretty gritty though.
Almond Flour: I have great flavor unlike GFAP, but I am expensive and more finnicky to bake with. You can use a cup-for-cup substitution, but I'm heavier than most of my friends. That means you'll want to use a bit more of your rising agent (baking soda, baking powder, whipped eggs, etc.) to give me some extra lift. I also tend to make things to stick to their pans, so grease the heck out of that thing.
Coconut Flour: Almond Flour, I think you're lovely. Well, I don't want to brag, but a lot of people like me the best. My flavor and texture are uh-MAzing. But I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a bit more high maintenance. You can't substitute me exactly. Like, at all. A little goes a really long way. For every cup of all-purpose flour, only use 1/4 cup of me. And then add an extra egg. I know. I seem like drama, but I promise I'm really down to earth.
Rice Flour: I actually have a split personality, so steer clear! Just kidding. Seriously though, I come in two forms - brown rice flour and white rice flour. The brown is hefty and dense; the white is ethereal and a little ditzy. But if you use them in combination, you can get away with a cup-for-cup substitution for all-purpose flour with an extra egg or yolk for good measure.
GFAP: Oh, and don't use any of us for baking bread. We're not really into stability. Our dates are only with cookies and muffins and stuff. We like the sweet ones.
Coconut Flour: Preach.
Almond Flour: Why hasn't the bell rung yet? It's been, like, ten minutes.
GFAP: Looks like Buttermilk stole the bell. That guy really needs a win. He has such a sour disposition.