Baking has become the go-to activity for those in quarantine. Since the second week of March, search interest for banana bread has increased more than 400% and search interest for sourdough starter has increased 100%, according to Google trends data.
This spike in interest is reflected in what grocery stores are selling more of right now. Baking soda sales have increased 39.2% from what they were at this time last year, while yeast sales are up 62.1%, according to Nielsen data. Egg and milk sales have also jumped.
As a result, some third-party sellers are boosting prices on Amazon. For example, King Arthur Flour regularly sells a pound of SAF Gold Instant Yeast for $6.95. On Amazon, marketplace listings currently start at $14.50.
If your grocery store is sold out of common baking ingredients, there are affordable substitutes you can pick up instead. Here are low-cost, expert-approved alternatives for when you can't find eggs, yeast, or other common baking ingredients.
Eggs, which act as a binding agent, might be hard to find. Sales are up 35.5%, according to Nielsen, and demand is such that stores like Target are putting purchase limits on how many cartons you can buy.
However, chickpea water, called aquafaba, can be substituted for eggs and egg whites, says University of Washington epidemiology professor Anne-Marie Gloster, who studies food science and human nutrition.
"This is the liquid in canned chickpeas," Gloster says. "It can be used to make meringues, mayonnaise, or as an egg white substitute."
For every egg a recipe calls for, you can add three tablespoons of aquafaba, and for every egg white you can add two tablespoons of aquafaba, according to cooking site Kitchn.
Chickpeas are inexpensive: A Goya can retails for $0.89 in Target. And you can cook other meals with the actual chickpeas.
You can also use flax seed meal as an egg substitute, says Julia Calleo, founder of cooking blog My Lavender Blues. To make one "flax seed egg" you mix one tablespoon of flax seed meal with two and a half tablespoons of water, according to baking blog Minimalist Baker. A 16-ounce bag of Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Flaxseed Meal retails for $24.85 on Amazon and will make 32 flax seed eggs.
Baking soda is a leavening agent, or a substance used in dough to make it rise. Whipped egg whites can act as "mechanical leavening agents," according to Healthline.com. However, using egg whites instead of baking soda might slightly alter how your baked goods taste.
"Egg whites do tend to have a little more flavor, so if you're baking something sweet, try adding an extract if the recipe doesn't call for one," Calleo says.
You can also use baking powder, according to Food & Wine magazine. However, you need to use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
Video by Jason Armesto
Yeast, like baking soda, is a leavening agent. If you're out of yeast and can't find any at your store, you can use a one-to-one mixture of baking soda and lemon juice as a substitute, Calleo says. For every teaspoon of yeast the recipe calls for, mix together a half teaspoon of baking soda and a half teaspoon of lemon juice.
"The rise time will change on this as it will begin to start right away," she says. "Flavor and texture will change slightly, however you'll still be able to bake fresh warm bread, or whatever it is you are baking, and I can't see any harm done there."
However, some bread does not call specifically for yeast packets, which opens up more options, Calleo notes: "Beer breads are a great one for this. The yeast comes from the beer." Alcohol sales are up, too, so you may have some on hand.
Cooking oil sales are up 36% this year, according to Nielsen, and vegetable oil is essential to making your cakes moist. If you can't find it, consider what other oils you have in your pantry that tend to be good for baking. Oils like extra-virgin olive oil and grapeseed oil, according to Martha Stewart, or coconut oil, according to Self magazine, might work just as well, depending on the recipe.
Another option: Try using apple sauce, Calleo suggests. A 24-ounce jar of unsweetened apple sauce at Whole Foods is $2.49, and all you have to do is swap out the amount of oil the recipe calls for with the same amount of apple sauce.
"I personally love using apple sauce in some of my baking recipes — think morning baked goods like muffins and pancakes," she says. "It is a healthier alternative and even adds a little bit of extra flavor."
Milk plays a number of roles in baking, including moistening dry ingredients, dissolving sugar, and activating gluten, according to Livestrong.com. But cow's milk sales are up 12.2%, according to Nielsen, and it's another grocery staple that many grocery stores are running low of or putting limits on.
You can try thinning out some half and half, Gloster says, in lieu of using whole or 2% milk.
"I always have ample half and half on hand because we are a coffee-centric house and it is such a versatile milk product," she says. "It's wonderful in soups, gravies, sautéed spinach and vegetables, and in place of milk in baked goods."
If you're not comfortable going off-recipe, try making something that doesn't require your missing ingredient or specifically calls for the substitution you do have on hand. For example, if you don't have eggs, look up recipes that already have egg substitutes. "There are plenty of people out there with an egg allergy who are still enjoying their chocolate chip cookies," Calleo says.
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