By Angela Hui
We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus lockdown. for another time if you have any leftovers? Butter makes the world go round and it’s the magical ingredient that elevates the simplest of dishes, but there are ways around using the rich staple that makes baked goods taste irresistible.
“In place of butter you can use a direct swap of margarine, dairy-based and dairy-free ‘spreads’, shortening, Trex, coconut oil, or even lard,” suggests food writer and chef Olivia Potts. “Expect the batter or dough to be softer than normal – it might be slightly trickier to handle, but it’ll still work.” Coconut oil will give a faint hint of coconut, while lard is better for savoury bakes like pie pastry as it can make for a slightly fattier taste.
The usual oil and fat suspects might be ticked off, but venture further afield and look into adding vegetables into the mix. “Grated vegetables such as carrots and courgettes release their moisture during baking, in part because the salt in the baking powder and sugar draws water out of vegetables as it’s heated,” explains Lepard. “Oil or any fats in a cake interfere with the way proteins in the wheat flour bond, so it stops the crumb turning too elastic and chewy.”
Eggs act as the glue that helps bind ingredients together, but it’s not the only versatile bonding agent when it comes to baking. Egg substitutes come second nature to vegan bakers and they’ll already be well familiar with, including but not limited to aquafaba, linseeds, chia seeds, bananas and apple puree. “There are plenty of times when you can do without the eggs altogether,” admits Tandoh. “If you’re up for a foray into the world of sweet dough and buns, you can make cinnamon swirls, Chelsea buns, doughnuts, sticky cardamom knots and much, much more without so much as looking at an egg.”
Don’t panic if you find yourself without any of the above, there are still sticky solutions to help bring bakes together, Potts recommends: “A tablespoon of custard powder, cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water, or 50g of tofu blended with the liquid ingredients works just as well.”
Sugar does more than satisfy sweet cravings; it plays a key role in keeping baked goods soft and moist, as well as adding sweetness and flavour.
“You can switch caster for granulated or Demerara. Yes, it’ll adjust the texture but you’ll still get a cake.” Pastry chef and cookbook author of The Pastry Chef’s Guide, Ravneet Gill, advises. “You can’t always switch sugars that are moist for ones that are drier. For example, muscovado sugar for caster sugar sometimes won’t work. Sugars change the texture of your product.”
Those without the sweet stuff can opt for fruits because they contain natural sugars and it’s no surprise they make a great sweetener for baking. Bananas, apples and raspberries are a baker’s best friend and they’re the secret to a fruitful bake.
“A lot of fruit or vegetable-based batters like banana bread or carrot cake where oil is used or melted butter means you can usually switch out your sugars,” Gill adds. “Because it’s such a wet mixture you can replace the sugar with honey, date syrup and maple syrup usually.”
Bakers tend to gravitate towards ground cinnamon and it seems to be the number one item in cupboards. When in doubt, spice it up or better yet, change it up. Try introducing different spices such as cloves, cardamom, aniseed, allspice, ground ginger, nutmeg or mace to replace the trusty old cinnamon.
“Oil replaces butter most effectively when you’re not needing a buttery flavour to enhance what you’re making,” suggests Lepard. “Spices and bold tastes are your friend here.”