When I am forced to prepare my own foodstuffs (a thankfully rare occasion due to my XY live-in cook) I have the bad habit of not following the directions. I usually suppose I can replace whatever I don’t have in the ingredients or tools list with things I do have. This supposition is usually false.
There is no earthly reason for me to think I would know what would work in place of something else. Having once flipped through an issue of Cook’s Illustrated conferes no special ability.
Instead, my family cookbook lists about, oh, one recipe from me. It’s for pancakes. Not handmade or anything, just Bisquick pancakes. Except my recipe says if you don’t have milk (which happens a lot when I’m in charge of procurement) you can just use instant cocoa mix and water.
This is a lie. You can’t replace milk with instant cocoa mix when you make pancakes. So don’t. Just… don’t.
I had to make cupcakes this morning and I didn’t have some of the ingredients for the frosting, which called for shortening, sifting and scalding. I know, technically only shortening is an ingredient. But sifting and scalding require patience, which is sort of an ingredient and one that I definitely don’t have.
So, I replaced the shortening with butter, skipped the sifting and just guestimated what sifted powdered sugar looks like, and just put some milk in a saute pan and put it on the burner on high. And the results?
Isn’t that pretty? The frosting turned out a very nice dark chocolate color even though I overbeat it. (Hey, I was reading and got distracted.)
Here’s the recipe:
- 5 tablespoons of butter, kinda squished up in the bottom of an electric mixing bowl.
- 1/2 cup of Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (I think the Special Dark is what made it such a nice color, but I am sooo not one to say you can’t substitute.)
- Beat together and add 1 1/3 teaspoons vanilla. (Or, in my case, 1 teaspoon and a little more because I refuse to dirty the 1/3 teaspoon measuring spoon with something I or the dog can’t lick.)
- While that stuff is smoothing out, pour 7 tablespoons of milk into some sort of container that won’t burn and put it on a hot stove burner until it starts steaming and bubbling. Which might count as scalding? I have no idea. Probably you could microwave it too, but I don’t have one of those. Pour the hot milk into the cocoa and butter mixture.
- Into that soupy syrup, put — oh, I don’t know, about 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar? I dumped it in in 1/2 cupfuls to give it a chance to incorporate. The actually recipe said 2 2/3 cups of sifted sugar; I figure sifted sugar would look like more, right? So I just did a little less. Makes sense, I thought. Anyway, once all the powdered sugar won’t blow out of bowl, crank up the mixer to somewhere in the middle.
- Go read a few pages of your book until everything’s smooth and spreadable.
- Eat. Spread on your favorite whatever.
Super easy. There was enough to frost two cake mix boxes (What? You thought I’d bake from scratch? Shuh, right) worth of cupcakes.
Above is a color comparison. You can see that the Special Dark cocoa powder made the frosting almost as dark as a black lab mix. (And, yes, I know dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate. She didn’t. I ate the frosted half and gave her the bottom half, in technical lingo the part known as “pointless.”)