Improvisational Baking


Pros will tell you that you can change this and that in a cooking recipe but that, for the most part, you shouldn’t go changing things in baking recipes. Cooking is art; baking is science. A recipe for regular cooking is a guide; a baking recipe is a formula.

And I agree with that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some tweaking of ingredients to change the base flavors.

I wouldn’t, say, change the amount of baking soda, powder or salt in a baking recipe, though I might try cutting back the sugar a little bit or using whole wheat flour instead of white. And I regularly change out things like using pecans instead of walnuts or cranberries instead of raisins.

Changing a Great Recipe

I have this recipe for cranberry muffins from one of my fellow About Guides. I like the original recipe a lot. So much so that I was thinking about these muffins when I was driving home from taking the girl to daycare the other day. I hadn’t had much of a breakfast yet, and I figured I had time to make some muffins before I would be completely starving.

The original, you’ll note if you click that link or read the title, had cranberries. Also, orange marmalade (though that’s not in the title). I had neither thing in my house. But I wasn’t about to go to the store before I had breakfast; I might as well just stop somewhere for food if I were going to stop somewhere for ingredients.

So I scavenged the pantry. I had dried blueberries. That seemed like a good start. But what to use instead of the marmalade? It happened I had some raspberry preserves, which have in no way the same flavor as orange, but I thought would still be tasty.

blueberry muffins
My blueberry muffins from a cranberry muffin recipe.

And it was. You don’t really taste the raspberry, other than as sweetness, but I’m not sure I could taste the orange in the original either. I also made half the flour whole wheat. Which totally negates the fact that I used real butter, right?

Point being: don’t be afraid to play with baking recipes and try different flavors. So long as you know the chemistry behind a recipe is sound, changing parts of the recipe to change the flavor is totally acceptable and a lot of fun.

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