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Lauren here. Have you ever found yourself in the mood to bake yourself a tasty treat, and found you have everything on hand except one pesky ingredient? Or returned from the store only to discover you forgot something crucial on your list? We’ve all been there. Check out these tips to get around some of the most common ingredient deficits.

While it’s the best practice to use what the recipe calls for, if you’re in a pinch, buttermilk, crème fraiche, sour cream and yogurt are all fairly interchangeable. What you are looking for is rich dairy with a bit of acid. If you don’t have any of these on hand, you can substitute one cup of any of the above with whole milk or heavy cream plus 1/16th of the total weight of lemon juice or vinegar. Just be sure to mix it well and let it stand for at least 10 minutes before using.

Cottage cheese and ricotta are also interchangeable. Be sure to drain the cottage cheese if it’s wet, so that it’s more like the consistency of ricotta.

Cream of tartar is one of those ingredients that only seems to pop up on rare occasions, so it’s rare that many of us keep it in our pantry. It’s not there for flavor, but as an acid, it does an important job. While some say you can substitute it with an equal portion of white vinegar or lemon juice, you could be throwing off the liquid ratio of your recipe. Proceed with caution!

When a recipe calls for self-raising flour it is calling for the leavening agent to already be mixed into the flour blend, along with a little salt. For 4.5 ounces of all-purpose flour, add 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt.

Lard and flour in a sieve with whisks and eggs to the side

Lard is an old school ingredient, often used in pie crusts with delicious results. It’s making a comeback as people are trending away from processed foods like shortening. If you have a pastry recipe that calls for lard, you’ll want to use leaf lard, a high quality and neutrally flavored fat from the loin of a pig. If you don’t have lard, or are squeamish about introducing pork products into your pie, you can substitute with shortening or butter. Be warned that while shortening is 100% fat, butter is usually around 85% fat and 15% water which may affect the texture of your baked goods.

If you’re working with a recipe that calls for gelatin, you’ll need it in either leaf, sheet or powder form. Pastry professionals tend to use leaf or sheet gelatin as produces a more transparent end product, while powdered gelatin is typically sold in grocery stores and more widely used by home cooks. There are various theories on how to substitute one for the other, but it’s not a perfect science. One packet of gelatin contains about 2 ½ teaspoons and can be substituted for 3 or 4 sheets or leaves, depending on how firm you want your final product to be.

Caster sugar, popular in the U.K., is another one of those seldom called-for ingredients that I never seem to have on hand. The good news is, as long as you have a food processor, blender or spice grinder, you can make it from granulated sugar. Just measure the quantity of caster sugar you need and process it until it’s very fine in texture, but not quite powdered sugar.

Heart shaped cookies dusted with icing sugar

Do you have any substitutions you commonly use in your baking? I’d love to hear about them.

Let us know in the comments below.

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