Baking tips

A few pointers to add some clarity to ‘the methods behind my madness’ when it comes to baking.

Here you will find:
1-      Conversion charts and recipe notation
2-      Common ingredients I use
3-      Principles I follow for healthy, vegan and gluten free recipes
4-   Recipe Nutrition Calculator

Conversion chart and recipe notation

Tbs = tablespoon (equivalent of the American ‘T’)
Tsp = teaspoon (equivalent of the American ‘t’)

The temperature measurements are given in  degrees centigrade  (i.e 180C)

I tend to use two types of measurements in my recipes- either ‘grams’ or ‘cups’. Apologies if anyone finds this confusing, Some of my recipes are amalgamations and variations on recipes I find on the net or in books so I tend to stick with the format of the original recipe (usually cups). The conversion chart below should also help! (Please note I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the chart- it should only be used as a guide as different products vary in weight).

Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 15 grams
1/4 cup / 30 grams
1/3 cup / 40 grams
3/8 cup / 45 grams
1/2 cup / 60 grams
5/8 cup / 70 grams
2/3 cup / 75 grams
3/4 cup / 85 grams
7/8 cup / 100 grams
1 cup / 110 grams

Unrefined Sugar
Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 25 grams
1/4 cup / 50 grams
1/3 cup / 65 grams
3/8 cup / 75 grams
1/2 cup / 100 grams
5/8 cup / 125 grams
2/3 cup / 135 grams
3/4 cup / 150 grams
7/8 cup / 175 grams
1 cup / 200 grams

Ground nuts
Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 25 grams
1/4 cup / 50 grams
1/3 cup / 65 grams
3/8 cup / 75 grams
1/2 cup / 100 grams
5/8 cup / 125 grams
2/3 cup / 135 grams
3/4 cup / 150 grams
7/8 cup / 175 grams
1 cup / 200 grams

Butter / Margarine
Cups / Grams
1/8 cup / 30 grams
1/4 cup / 55 grams
1/3 cup / 75 grams
3/8 cup / 85 grams
1/2 cup / 115 grams
5/8 cup / 140 grams
2/3 cup / 150 grams
3/4 cup / 170 grams
7/8 cup / 200 grams
1 cup / 225 grams

Liquid measurements
(US vs Metric)
1 teaspoon = 5 mls
1 Tablespoon = 15 mls
1/4 cup = 60 mls
1/2 cup = 120 mls
3/4 cup =  180 mls
1 cup = 240 mls
Other  Measures:
Solid fat = 30g/2tbs
Oatmeal = 60g / 1 cup
Agave = 100g/1/3 cup
Rasins = 175g / 1 cup
Fahrenheit/ Celsius 300 / 150
325 / 165
350 / 177
375 / 190
400 / 200
425 / 220

I've also provided this link to a useful page on 'starches' as this details the use and substitutions of the various types available. I typically use tapioca flour and arrowroot in my recipes, so this may help with any substitutions you may need to make and help you anticipate the likely results.

Ingredients I use

There are various ‘healthy’ ingredients that I use time and time again within my recipes, in addition to the principles of my food preparation that I so often follow. I felt it could be a useful tool to share these with you so that you can better understand what I do, why I do it and what I use to do so! That way, if you want to change things around a bit to suit your own needs or preferences, you can do so with a better understanding of how it may all work.  This is by no means a definitive guide and I plan on adding to it over the course of time.

Please note, the ingredients listed below are simply those that I personally choose to use as I feel they represent the best quality and are also most readily available to me in the UK. If I collaborate directly with other companies or their products, I clearly explain this in my posts and I only choose to work with companies I genuinely believe in and whose products I would use anyway.

·         All of my ingredients are organic where possible (there are obviously times when this is unavoidable).

·         Coconut butter and coconut oil- (see here for more info in this). I make my own coconut butter to save on a lot of money. However for some recipes you really do need the oil so I buy Coconoil or Tropicai cold pressed organic.

·         Extracts-  I like to use Neil Massey for all my extracts. I also make my own vanilla as I use so much of it! See here for further info.

·         Flours- so much I could write here but I’ll try and be brief.  In principle I try to use organic wholegrain flours wherever possible, I also try to use gluten free combinations and/or spelt flours in most (if not all) of my recipes. Spelt flour is the most versatile (although not suitable for Coeliacs) as it behaves like a normal wheat flour and is also available in wholegrain and white varieties (the white is only lightly refined and still infinitely better than the standard plain flours). I generally use Doves  Farm flours as they have a good organic range readily available in the supermarkets.  I also purchase some of my specialisy flours through The Real Food Source. See also below for more info re gluten free baking.

·         'Milk'- I use soy milk as my milk alternative of choice as I always have this on hand in my fridge. For most recipes I would suggest that any milk alternative (or even normal milk if non-vegan) would be fine- although please note that this statement has not been tested!

·         Stevia- I use NuNaturals or SteSweet pure powder (see here for more info on Stevia).

·         Agave nectar- other than stevia this is typically my sweetener of choice as it has the most neutral taste. I also use brown rice syrup and maple syrup on occasions.

·         Rapadura- There are some recipes where a liquid sweetener is not ideal, so in these instances I use Rapadura (Sucanat is the closest American equivalent) which is the least refined sugar granule available.

·         Chocolate/cocoa- I use Green & Blacks organic unsweetened cocoa and typically also their 70% dark chocolate. I also use Montezuma’s large dark chocolate buttons as they are a great addition to some recipes in the button form.

·        I also use cacoa nibs or cacoa powder in many recipes to minimise the sugar content whilst still getting a chocolate hit! cacao is raw chcolate in its purest and most nutricious form. I typically source my cacao through The Real Food Source.

Principles I follow for healthy, vegan and gluten free recipes

When veganising a traditional recipe or making a standard vegan recipe more healthy there are number of key principles I tend to follow. In relation to 'gluten free' labelling within the recipes- see also this post for further guidance.

Eggs- I prefer not to use the egg replacer EnerG (or similar) and instead typically use a ‘flax egg’ or 'chia egg'. Mix 1 tsp of ground flax/chia with 1 tbs hot water and sit for a minute to allow to gel before use. Most of my recipes state this as part of the method anyway. Other ‘binders’ are banana or soy yoghurt and whilst these sometimes form part of my recipes, I still tend to use the flax/chia too.

Milk- I use Alpro Organic soy milk (occasionally almond milk or rice milk if a delicate flavour is critical to a recipe). I would imagine that pretty much any milk-alternative could be substituted for most recipes- note that this statement hasn’t been tested! Some 'milks' have different tastes and viscosities. i.e almond milk is lighter and sweeter, whereas coconut milk is thicker and richer.  Soy milk has a viscosity similar to cows milk and this is what I base my recipes on, you may need to make slight adjustments if using others.

Oil- I use coconut butter or coconut oil (see here more more info on how I use coconut butter). In addition to this I also reduce the amount of oil stated in a recipe by substituting between 1/3 and ½ of the amount with apple puree or soy yoghurt. There are some occasions when I would advise against this- i.e if you are aiming for a really crisp cookie.

Flour- In baking, whenever a recipe calls for all purpose or plain flour I either sub this for fully wholemeal flours or white spelt or a combination of white spelt and wholemeal.  My decision on this tends to be the nature of the end product- i.e if it is brown and chocolatey  you can nearly always get away with using wholemeal flour as the colouration won’t change. For a light baked good such as a vanilla sponge, using solely wholemeal flour can risk the cake looking too ‘healthy’ this is by no means a bad thing, it’s simply that I like to disguise the fact that my baked goods are healthy, and that can give the game away!

Gluten free flour- In many of my recipes, particularly those that call for a lower proportion of flour, I use flours that are naturally gluten free. To achieve the best texture you need to combine flour ‘types’ i.e heavy and light flours.  I have had a lot of success with this combination: 1 cup regular flour = 1/3 cup each of almond meal, tapioca flour and buckwheat flour plus a pinch of xantham gum if necessary to help bind. This works well for a denser product.  I also sometimes use brown rice flour for lighter baked goods. Also note in recipes such as these blondies, beans/chickpeas can be used to substitute some of the flour.  The most important thing really is to just have a go and experiment as you soon build up a sense of what is likely to work for any given recipe. When I first began investigating GF baking I found this post at Gluten Free Goddess to be very helpful.

Sugar- I generally substitute refined sugars with a combination of agave nectar, unrefined rapadura (sucanat) and stevia. It is not an exact science but the overall principle is this:  If a traditional recipe calls for 1 cup of standard refined sugar I would sub this for 1/3 cup agave or rapadura plus ¼ - ½ tsp pure stevia. 1 tsp of pure stevia equals 1 cup of sugar in terms of sweetness and I generally tone down the overall sweetness of my baking a little. Note- it is not recommended to use all stevia with no other form of sweetener as it can have a slightly odd aftertaste if not used in combination. Pure Stevia is so concentrated a little goes a long way so use it sensitively!

Recipe Nutrition Calculation

I personally don't calculate the specific nutritional content of each of my recipes, as for me the healthy eating lifestyle choice maintains my balance and I simply work in tune with how my body feels. However I do appreciate that everyione is different and many people do look for additional guidance to assist their diet choices and planning, there are various free calculators availble to assist with this
jo hodsonComment