In the entire list of Jean B. Macleod’s How-To publications, BAKING SUBSTITUTIONS: The A-Z of Common, Unique, and Hard-to-Find Ingredients is perhaps the most interesting. In creating a catalog that provides suggestions that allow the replacement of less easily sourced ingredients, Macleod has consequently opened our eyes to a wide spectrum of unlikely ingredients. For obvious reasons, the ingredients used in everyday baking tend to exist within our general shopping spheres and don’t include ingredients such as mosto cotto, guar gum, or caciocavallo, and as a result, most will not have heard of these before. Macleod’s guide is fantastically dynamic in providing ideas of how to replace missing baking items while also helping you to make healthier recipes, save money, imitate branded products, or conform to dietary requirements. But in explaining the nature and use of ingredients like sacha inchi oil, matzo, and ashtar, as well as which ingredients may be used in their place, her book becomes a catalog of the everyday and the more exotic components of baking.
Macleod appropriately finishes her how-to guide on baking substitutions with chapters on “Food Equivalents and Yields,” “Baking Pan Equivalents,” and “Oven Temperature Equivalents.” These chapters round off the guide by covering other topics of baking that cause issues such as measurements, cooking instructions, and using baking vessels. However, how useful the lengthily titled chapter “Measuring Methods and Weight Equivalents for Flour in Cookbooks and Food Magazines,” it is questionable, as it is merely a list of other publications relating to a particularly specific area of baking. Certain other substitution suggestions, such as “Beer – 1 cup, for baking,” would benefit from further explanation on the suitability and limitations of the substitutions suggested. However, these are minor criticisms and do not bear any significant impediment to the valuable didacticism of the book.
Baking Substitutions is a detailed point of reference on substitutions and conversions of ingredients, allowing many recipes to be converted into low fat/salt/sugar, vegan, and gluten- or lactose-free methods without having to provide a separate index for each category but by making each ingredient a choice. It seems there is little that Macleod’s guide on baking does not do, as it even provides many “Make Your Own” suggestions that suffice as useful impromptu recipes for various items. All things considered, this book might actually be more useful than having a competent baker assisting you in the kitchen, as it provides helpful ideas and suggestions that most simply wouldn’t think to give. And just in case you were wondering, there is a surprisingly lengthy list of potential substitutions for bacon and bacon bits, both meat and plant-based. What more could you need?