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15 Secret Ingredients and Substitutions

Whether you're missing an ingredient or want to spice up a classic dish, these swaps and secret ingredients are sure to surprise.

By
Bruce and Jeanne Lubin,
secret ingredients

Whether you're unprepared or just plain curious, read on to find some suprising swaps and combinations.

For Sweets & Baking

1. DIY Brown Sugar
Out of brown sugar but the recipe calls for it? You can make your own if you have white sugar and molasses. Simply mix in a bowl with a fork (or in a mixer) 1 tablespoon molasses per 1 cup granulated sugar for light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons molasses per 1 cup sugar for dark. Keep mixing until the molasses is fully incorporated—it may not look like it’s happening at first, but keep the faith and fork stirring!

2. No Need for Heavy Cream
Making whipped cream? Save a trip to the store! Heavy cream isn’t something we all keep in our fridge stock. You’re more likely to have light cream, which can work perfectly fine for whipped cream if you know the trick. To whip light cream into a firm, mousse-like consistency, simply add 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water for every 2 cups of cream. After whipping, refrigerate it for 2 hours.

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3. Fast, Easy Fluff
However you make your whipped cream, you can give it more lasting power to hold its shape longer. The secret: Add a little marshmallow fluff to the mix.

4. Sensational Cookies
Want to take your classic chocolate chip cookie recipe to the next level? Simply shake on some coarse sea salt before baking.

5. Add This for Extra-Rich Brownies
It may sound strange at first, but mashed or pureed avocado can replace oil or butter in many baked goods. It’s especially good with chocolate and adds a rich, creamy texture to brownies. Bonus: It has healthy fats!

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6. Slice a Log of Cookie Dough
Using floss (rather than a knife) to slice will give you clean cookies that don’t crumble or smoosh. This technique works well for cinnamon rolls, too.

7. Release Dough from Cutting Board
When you’re rolling out dough, it’s not hard for it to get stuck. Slide the floss under the dough and lift gently to free your dough.

8. Tie and Dry Herbs
Bundle them using the floss and hang them with leaves facing down to dry. It should take about 10 days for leaves to feel dry to the touch—that’s your indication that they are ready to use.

9. Cut Wraps, Burritos, Calzones, Sushi Rolls, and More
A heavy knife will slice but also drag out all the filling. Try a gentler approach with floss.

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