This week, I started a seven-week online pastry making course offered through Boston University. One of the cool things about the course is that we have access to the instructor, both in weekly online chats and via email/text support. As I started prepping on of the items, I realized I didn't have the item that was exactly called for in the recipe. Dang. I was hoping to avoid having to run out to the store.
I texted my instructor and said, "The recipe calls for almonds. In my pantry, I have blanched almonds and roasted almonds, would either of these work?" Fortunately for me, the answer was, yes (the blanched almonds would work). I felt like I was on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" and I'd just used my "call a friend option." Sometimes you know someone who you can reach out to with a quick question, and it makes all of the difference in the world. I try to keep a mental note of my friends who are gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, or allergic to nuts. These folks have to navigate food exchanges on the regular and are often great go-to resources when I have a question.
On Friday, I was teaching a class and one of the students said, "I don't have baking powder. What can I substitute?" I know the basics properties of baking powder as a leavening ingredient and how it works in combination with acids, but off the top of my head, I didn't know of a good substitute. I turned to Google. I scanned through 2-3 articles telling me what could be used as a substitute for baking powder. The consensus was that there are about 10 items. I ruled out 3-4 right off the bat. Then there were liquids like buttermilk and yogurt. The recipe was already using buttermilk. If she added more, the dough would be too wet and sticky. Cream of tartar was offered as an option. Of course, the student didn't have that on hand. Hmm, Google, you are not helping! I'd say, yes, look for answers on Google, but even if you find something, it might not be the right answer to help with your recipe.
I do love Google when I'm looking for weight conversions (such as: ounces to grams or cups to grams). It lets be lazy, so I don't need to do any math to figure out the answers. And, there are certain weights you just learn. I know that an egg is 47 grams and two sticks of butter (1 cup) is 232 grams. On the other hand, I can never remember how many grams in a cup of flour. I always have to look that up. So, go ahead, trust Google when you are looking for information on weight/measurement exchanges.
I have also had great success with some online resources. One in particular, King Arthur's baker's hotline has been very helpful. You can call or chat with a trained baker. They have helped me figure out recipe modifications when I don't have the same size pan the recipe calls for. From them, I've learned that an 8X8" recipe for brownies can be multiplied by 1.5X's and then baked in a 9X13 rectangular pan. I've called to ask about freezing/storing certain baked goods, and whether or not that's possible. The major challenge is the limited time the hotline is open. It's often not when I'm baking and have a question.
How about you? What resources have you found helpful when you have a baking question?