Why Some Baking Ingredients Aren't Swappable
Food & Drink

Why Some Baking Ingredients Aren’t Swappable


It’s no secret that not all ingredients are the same. However, some people assume that specific ingredients are interchangeable. Let’s debunk these misconceptions and learn why some baking ingredients aren’t swappable. This way, you and your kids can create yummy recipes without worrying about the final product not turning out as expected.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda

At first glance, baking powder and soda seem like sibling ingredients—they’re both leavening agents that help your bakes rise. However, they’re quite different.

Baking soda, combined with an acid and a liquid, produces the carbon dioxide bubbles that puff up your pancakes or cakes. It’s about four times as strong as baking powder, so you need much less.

However, baking powder already contains acid, which means you don’t need to add acid. It’s a two-for-one leavening agent that activates with liquid and heat.

Substituting one for the other will likely result in a denser baked good than you intended.

Flavor Extracts and Concentrates

The main difference between flavor extracts and concentrates is their composition. Flavor extracts have an alcoholic or non-alcoholic liquid base. They’re intense, upholding the flavor they represent.

For instance, a teaspoon of vanilla extract can impart the same flavor as a vanilla pod. Conversely, flavor concentrates are additives that manufacturers create by intensifying the profiles of synthetic flavors. They’re more potent than extracts, so a little goes a long way.

Using these ingredients interchangeably may give baked goods an overpowering or overly subtle flavor, depending on which way you swap.

Fats and Oils

Butter, margarine, and shortening are common fats. The primary purpose of fats in baking is to tenderize the gluten. This helps create everything from flaky pastries to moist cakes. Fats also add moisture and richness to the final product.

Butter is about 80 percent fat, 15 percent water, and 5 percent milk solids, which gives it a unique flavor and texture. Shortening is 100 percent fat and can produce a flakier texture in some pastry applications due to its higher melting point.

Oils are 100 percent fat and bring different flavors and textures. Swapping fats and oils requires adjustments to maintain the baked good’s intended structure, texture, and flavor.

Coconut Flour and Wheat Flour

Coconut flour and wheat flour are baking ingredients that aren’t swappable. Coconut flour is more absorbent than its wheat counterpart. This high absorbency can lead to dry and crumbly baked goods if you don’t adjust the liquid ingredient measurements.

Wheat flour contains gluten, a protein that helps dough rise and maintain its shape. As a gluten-free flour, coconut flour lacks these binding properties, often leading to baked goods that don’t hold together.

Lastly, coconut flour has a distinct and sweet taste that can drastically alter the flavor profile of your recipes. In contrast, wheat flour has a neutral taste.

The Baker’s Wisdom

The golden rule of baking is to follow the recipe closely, especially if it’s the first time you’re making it. Each ingredient has its own role in the recipe’s final texture, structure, and taste.

Swapping in an ingredient you think might be similar could throw off the balance entirely. So next time you’re considering a swap, pause and consider the impact it might have.


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