With the holidays here my baking is increased a lot. I don't generally make sweets during the rest of the year, but I love making them at Christmas time. It is only once a year after all!
It is frustrating to me when I go to make a recipe but I don't have something like, buttermilk for example, on hand. It is also silly for me to buy something like buttermilk when none of us drink it, and most recipes only call for a small amount. I just hate to waste the money throwing it out! Over the years I have found easy and cheap ways to make these ingredients at home.
Brown sugar is usually more expensive than sugar, but the great thing is you can make it yourself at home for less! All you need is two ingredients; brown sugar, and molasses! Just combine 1 C sugar with 1 Tbsp. molasses and mix together with fork, making sure to get out all of the clumps. If you need it darker just add another Tbsp. of molasses. Molasses can be stored in a cool dry place after being opened for about a year. Just make sure the lid is on tight and that you wipe down the rim after each use.
Self Rising Flour
If you have a recipe that uses self rising flour you can substitute it by adding 1 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. of salt to every 1 cup of flour. Sift the ingredients together to evenly distribute the salt and baking powder.
Cake flour is a starchy flour used in making cakes and cookies. The bad thing about it is it's expensive! The good thing is you can easily make it yourself! Just take 3/4 C flour and sift it with 2 Tbsp. cornstarch. That is it!
Buttermilk is a great baking product to have. It will make baked goods nice and fluffy, but really how often do you need it? Usually you have leftovers so unless you like to drink buttermilk it is best to make your own. All you need is milk and some kind of acid. I usually mix 1 C milk with 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (white works fine too) and let it sit for 5 minutes. You will see the milk thicken and start to curdle. You can also use 1 Tbsp. lemon juice instead of vinegar.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
Condensed milk is used in a lot of dessert recipes and candy recipes. It is also pretty expensive but easy to make on your own. Just mix 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C water, and 1 C powdered milk in a pot. Turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and stir until thickened. This takes about 15-20 minutes but it is a good workout for your arms!
Evaporated milk is simply milk that has has most of its water content taken out. Just combine 1/2 c non-fat dry milk with 3/4 c water. That is it!