Friday, July 29, 2011

Frugal Friday - Frugal Baking tips

Some of my friends are always thinking I spend a fortune on grocery bills. I don't. I bake a lot, yes. I agree. Most of the times I give away lot of things that I baked, I agree to that too. But, the purpose it serves is more valuable than the the money spent on ingredients. I also try not to bake anything exotic buying specialty ingredients. For example, unless I have frozen the berries that I bought for less in summer, you will not see me baking strawberry cupcakes or pies in winter. Small things make a little bit difference if not a lot when you follow some guidelines.

Here are the pointers that I follow for anyone who might agree with me.

1. If you are baking with the small oven, you don't have to worry a lot about it. But when you are turning on the oven to bake something in a standard sized oven, it takes quite a bit of power. More power, more energy bill. Most recipes tell you to preheat the oven to a certain temperature at least 15 - 30 minutes before placing the tray to bake. Have you ever wondered why? It is because it takes a while for the temperature to be uniform all around the oven. I don't do this. The reason is I have an oven thermometer. It costs about 4 dollars and is very useful. You place that on the rack where you are going to place your baking tray. For example when baking cake, it is on the center rack. When baking pizza, it is on the lower rack and so on. When the oven is preheated (beeps in my oven), check the reading on the thermometer. If it is showing you what the temperature setting you wanted, you are good to go. Start baking.

2. Most of the times, I try to bake more than one item when I turn the oven on. Loss of power in turning it on all over again is saved. But then, you don't want to bake too much and waste it. So, use your discretion.

3. Bread flour is expensive than all purpose flour. If you replace 1/2 - 1 TBSP of all purpose flour in a cup of flour with vital wheat gluten, you can use that instead. I have done it and like the results very much.

4. Even though some perfectionists say buttermilk tastes better in a baked good than its substitution, unless you have homemade buttermilk, it is expensive to buy just for that. Add 1 TBSP of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup and top it with milk to make one cup of sour milk and use it in place of buttermilk. Or dilute yogurt with some water or milk and use that instead.

5. Butter is expensive compared to oil. Even when you cannot use oil in every recipe that calls for butter, you could in most cases where the recipe calls for melted butter. But, use 1/3 cup oil in place of 1/2 cup melted butter. If you are worried about losing the flavor that butter gives, add 1/2 tsp of butter extract to the batter/dough.

6. One of the frequently used ingredient in baking is nuts of different kinds. Buy them when on sale and freeze. You will save quite a bit there.

7. Extracts - go easy on them. Just because a recipe calls for cappuccino extract, don't buy it. Your kitchen cupboards will start looking like mine. Yes, I am guilty of buying too many extracts. Use part of liquid as strongly brewed coffee instead to get the same flavor if the recipe calls for espresso powder or cappuccino extract. Lemon, orange and lime extracts can be replaced by using their zest and juice in the batter. If a recipe calls for coconut extract, use coconut milk as part of liquid to get the same effect if you don't have coconut extract on hand.

8. Yeast - Don't buy those individual packs of yeast. They are convenient agreed, but very expensive if you are into regular bread baking. Don't buy those jars either. Best bet is to buy in costco or BJs. I can get yeast enough for two years for about 4 dollars (you know how much bread baking I do, don't you?).

9. Baking chocolate bars are more expensive than cocoa powder. You can use the tips given in this post to replace them effectively. 

10. Parchment paper is expensive. I hardly line my pans with it. If you grease with shortening and flour well, it won't stick. In more than a decade of baking experience, the cake stuck to the pan only twice for me. That is probably because I had not done a good job of greasing and flouring.

I know there are many of you who are silent readers. But, I need you to speak up for these posts. You might have a great idea. If you do, let others benefit from it. If you don't, I need you to tell me that you like it. Maybe you like recipes and not these tips. Whatever it is, will you tell me?

Happy Friday everyone. Pin It


  1. Useful tips.. Thanks for sharing..

  2. I understand the point of baking in the normal oven ( under the stove top for us here). I have a counter top oven which I use for smaller batches of baking veggies etc.

    I was wondering if I could use the counter top oven to bake small cakes / cup cakes, cookies etc. Can you elaborate on the pros and cons of using the counter top oven, I think the heating is not uniform ..any info on that??

  3. Harini,
    I don't like convection ovens for cakes and breads. You have to bake at lower temperature in them and I have seen many people complaining about the end product getting dry. It works great for cookies though. Since all counter top ovens are convection, I am not a big fan of them. Having said that, it doesn't make sense to turn the big oven up to bake a batch of muffins and nothing else. In winter, it is fine since it helps turn the heat up and you can actually turn down the heater when you are baking. Hope this helps.

  4. thanks thanks thanks. am at loss of words to thank you for every baking related post. I follow almost the same route as you mentioned. I have a very small oven and am happy with it unless we shift to our own place with bigger kitchen.

  5. wow very useful tips about baking....thanks dear....

  6. your knowledge of baking speaks volume of your experience with baking.
    you don't only cook and bake good but also write well.
    by reading your blog it becomes obvious that you are a multi-tasked lady.keep up the good work
    All the best.

  7. I came across a eggless cake recipe which calls for 2 tsps of Ener G -egg replacer powder.,this powder is not available how can it be substituted? without compromising on the end product?

  8. Thanks everyone.
    Thank you for your kind remarks.
    Usually ener-G replacer is 1 1/2 tsp per egg with about 3 TBSP of warm water. Whoever wrote the recipe might have used 2 tsp by mistake or on purpose. Try using 1 flax egg instead of that (1TBSP milled flax seed + 3 TBSP warm water). You could use the corn starch replacer also. Check my post on egg substitutes.

  9. Thank your for your useful tips and sharing your wonderful experience here with us all. I use a microwave with the convection mode oven and I use different sizes of wares so that it is easy to store and you can get desired portions for everyone.
    More over if I'm going to buy yeast in large qty what could be the best way to store them?. I live in India. hot n humid for most of the time as you would know. What after some storing time the yeast does not rise. Your view on this would be appreciated.

  10. This is an amazing post!! Thank you for sharing. I shall share it on my FB will be very helpful to others as well.

  11. Preeti, Thanks.
    I store the yeast in the freezer. I keep about 1/2 cup all the time in the refrigerator to use. The rest stays in freezer to be taken out when the one in the refrigerator is over.

  12. I think you have a fantastic blog! I tend to eat a mostly vegetarian diet and there are some inspiring posts that I can't wait to try out! I'm your newest follower :)

  13. Very good post Champa! These are very useful. You rock!

    Take care, Have good weekend.

  14. This is a great post! You have so many helpful tips. I love getting nuts when they're on sale and saving them like you said, but it also works with dried fruit or even fresh fruit that can be dried or frozen to bake with later. That saves so much!

  15. It's a great post with loads of interesting information. About the yeast .. i think a bottle should be bought only if someone bakes a lot or else they should stick to packets. Reason I say this is because it can spoil and happened with me :)

  16. Thanks for the tips Champa. Can we substitute whole amount of chocolate bar with cocoa powder (plus butter/sugar) or should we substitute only half?

  17. Heidi, Thanks for mentioning the dried fruit one. I had missed it.
    I have stored yeast in freezer for more than 2 years and they stay fine.
    You can replace whole of the chocolate with cocoa powder and butter+sugar combination. You cannot do that if you want the chunks to stay like that though.

  18. I think all of your tips are incredibly true and useful. Ultimately it's cheaper to bake for your family than buying store bought

  19. Nice and useful post, Champa!

  20. Champa,you are a real baker.Best thing about your blog is you know the science and art of share your tips,experiences and alternatives.
    Keep baking.
    love you.

  21. Hi champa.
    you have an an excellent and informative blog.i am new to baking and have an electric oven 2000w which has a fan on the right side .I tried to make pav bread yesterday . I used 3 1/2 cups of maida and 31/2 cups of wheat flour,31/2 cups water,21/4 cups of dry active yeast , salt little ghee.i allowed it to raise for 2 hrs and then 30 min after making balls.After 35 min of baking in convectin mode at 190c the top was white in color, then i increased the temp to 200 c for another 5 min and got the brown colour.even though the inside was soft the top and bottom were hard and dry.could you say what went wrong.i would be glad if you could help

  22. Sita,
    Thanks for the comment. First of all, the proportions are wrong. You need about 1 cup of water to 3 cups of flour. And I am sure it is a typo for the yeast proportion you have given. I think it had too much water and baked too long and got dry. You can check the way I make here -

  23. Dear champa,
    Thanks for the reply.i will try with the proportion given by you.Hope I succeed this time.Is it the same for wheat flour also.

  24. Sita,
    Yes. You might have to adjust the water by a TBSP of so. Whole wheat flour takes more water than all purpose flour and you will have to knead it longer.

  25. Yessss I likedddd yourrrrr tipsssssss!!!!!!!! This & the other one money saving tips on food!!!! Your experience talks!
    I've been following you since recently, but today came across these posts. Excellent blog!!

  26. Thanks. Those are great tips. Very helpful.
    I bake often and live in space constrained NYC - I use white sugar in many recipes that call for brown/ dark brown etc. with success - I'm sure it is marginally compromised on moistness but I cannot have a jar of dark brown sugar staring me down from limited shelf space. I also use apple sauce in place of butter/ oil often - more for health reasons.
    I really liked your tips - it is most annoying to see recipes that call for cake flour, bread flour etc etc. When faced with a complicated ingredient list, I sometimes just walk up to the bread store and buy the darn loaf!!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree that specialized ingredients kind of repel you from even considering to try the recipe.

  27. Champa ! I came upon your site after reading about the Bread Machine story from Veggie Whiz, then the interesting bits on frugal, yet clever kitchen shopping. I was curious as to how you got yr baking chips and zucchini, then realized you lived abroad too. I lived & worked in the Gulf for a long time, where every item was easily attainable and available, from nuts to cocoa varieties to u name it. My pantry was much like yours - I would not just buy 1 bottle of vanilla but vanilla in all forms. Now having returned back to India, most cooking staples are just touch and go,forget getting specialized products. Incredible as it will seem, most of your tips on bulk buying, substitution and homemade ring very true, it not just makes too much sense but envisions better planning skills for any housewife. I salute you for this element in your blog more than the cooking recipes you envelope us in. I still have to go through more of your tips but look forward to more of this.


If you have a question and you leave it as a comment, I'll surely answer the question to the best of my knowledge. Thanks for visiting.