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.