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How to alter a recipe when you're cooking (and not get a flop!)

Don't be afraid of making tweaks to a recipe you like. Here's how to re-arrange the ingredients so that the recipe still works.

by: Katelyn Williams of The Kate Tin | 03 Apr 2018
brown sugar and butter

Images: Katelyn Williams

ALSO READ: The 9 worst habits of a bad baker and how to fix them

You’ve heard it a million times; baking is a science, follow the recipe, stick to the rules. Rules Shmules, I say! I’m about to tell you how you can go rogue with a recipe without it flopping. And yes, it’s possible – because I do it all the time! 
1. Start with a recipe you really like that’s similar to what you want. In other words, don’t try and turn a cake recipe into a cookie. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, just reinvent the flavour combinations. 

2. Don’t mess with the basics. Chopped nuts, herbs, zest, choc chips, vanilla extract, liqueurs, spices – flavourings are easy to play with and won’t affect the structure or texture of your baked goodies. Ingredients like eggs, sugar, flour, butter are all there for a reason so it’s best to leave those alone.   

3. If you want to go seriously rogue and fiddle with the eggs, butter, sugar and flour, make small changes. And record them as you go! There’s nothing worse than inventing the best choc chip cookie recipe only to forget what you did! 

4. Ask yourself if the ingredient you’re swapping has a similar fat/sugar/consistency/structure and acidity to what it’s being replaced for? This is vitally important in avoiding a huge flop. Eg. You cannot substitute sugar for honey if you’re making toffee because it caramelizes at a different temperature. This is where baking really does become a science! 

5. Here are some simple replacements you can make to a recipe:

- Dairy milk can be replaced with almond, soy, rice or coconut milk. It can also often be replaced with water, fruit juice, brewed tea, beer or even wine. 

- If you want to add cocoa powder to a recipe, simply remove part of the cake flour. 

- Peanut butter can be swapped out for tahini or any other nut or seed butter.

- Buttermilk, yoghurt, sour cream and crème Fraiche are all interchangeable. 

- Oils can be substituted for each other – think olive oil, sesame seed oil, peanut oil, etc to change up the flavours. 

- Nut meals – almond, hazelnut, pecan nut flour are all interchangeable. 

- White sugar, brown sugar, muscovado and demerara sugars all give different flavours but have the same structures. Muscovado will make cookies super moist, while white sugar will make them crispy! 

If you really love creating your own recipes and want to make your own from scratch, Michael Ruhlman’s book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, is a must! All recipes can be broken down into a simple ratio and once you know that ratio, the possibilities are endless. 

Katelyn Williams is the brains and talent behind one of SA's most successful baking blogs, The Kate Tin. Follow her sugary, sweet journey on Instagram!

Have fun and please don't forget to tag us in your creations on Instagram and Twitter!

ALSO READ: 11 things that are guaranteed to turn you into a better baker

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