When it comes to substitutions, I wish I could answer each and every one of your questions. Unfortunately, I can’t. You see, I don’t have a crystal ball with the answers; they’re not in my head, they’re in my hands, but I’ll get to that later.
For me, baking involves the use of techniques and ingredients that come together in a magical way –each recipe is unique. Like my hero Virginia Satir, I believe in “leading the change process a half a step behind,” which has meant learning to use my senses and see what is called for in each recipe. In some ways, my recipes develop themselves as I test them. I let things happen and unexpected outcomes can be my friend during this process.
This observational experience in which I arrive at answers by using my senses –of sight, touch, smell and taste (sometimes sound too) is an organic process. I test and test my recipes until I arrive at something that appeals to me. After that, I give samples to my family. If they approve, I test the recipe without changing it, a few more times just to make sure I have something that is reproducible.
You may have noticed that recently, I’ve begun to use some new and different ingredients. You may also have noticed that I’ve cut back on my use of agave and grapeseed oil. Many people have asked me if I am substituting ingredients in place of these. The answer? Right now I am interested in creating new recipes that use different ingredient combinations.
Have I ditched my old recipes? No! I make them for my husband and children several times per week. Have I converted my old recipes to be like my latest? No. I’ve come up with new ones that are formulated from scratch.
Still, people want a linear answer, something black and white. Here’s what I can provide. Some of my readers have left comments reporting that their experiments using honey in place of agave often work –if you are looking for an agave substitute, I encourage you to validate these findings for yourself through trial and error.
Likewise, many people are curious about oils. In my newer recipes I have moved towards coconut oil and vegan palm shortening and am enjoying both. Feel free to experiment with the fats in my existing recipes and customize them to your needs, whatever those may be.
So, some practical words of advice. Stick to my more recent dessert recipes (from the last 3 months) if you are looking to cut down on your intake of sweeteners and don’t want to work at reformulations. Also stick to my more recent recipes if you prefer coconut oil and vegan palm shortening.
If you can tolerate agave or like to tinker, check out my older dessert recipes. And if you like to customize recipes to your individual preferences in terms of taste and nutrition, by all means, go wild and experiment! Just make sure to stop back by and leave a comment on your alchemical experience –and let us know your results. And feel free to share your findings with me on Twitter, as I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about holiday foods and new recipes over there lately.
So here’s my answer to your substitution questions. I don’t have a magic wand that I can wave to come up with the answers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find them –just get out that bowl and spoon and start stirring!