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Baking help

Neither cream of tartar nor molasses are readily available where I live but many of the cookie recipes I like call for one or the other. Is cream of tartar necessary? What does it do? Is there a substitution? And is there anything that can be substituted for molasses? Thanks for your help.

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  1. Regarding molasses, I can't get it where I am either (Bhutan). In preparation for holiday gingerbread I had checked the web for substitutions and found a couple of sites that recommended 3/4 cup brown sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup water for one cup of molasses. Trouble is, that doesn't give you a cup, more like 2/3. I did my own experiment and found that 260 grams (about 1 and 1/3 cup) of brown sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water yields 1 cup. Heat the sugar and water together until the sugar is dissolved. I will admit that I have yet to actually use this in a recipe, but I think it should work, because liquid sugars like molasses and honey are much heavier than dry sugar, so it makes sense that there is more than a cup of sugar in one cup of molasses (a cup of sugar weighs 200g, a cup of honey about 370, haven't actually weighed molasses).

    As for cream of tartar, it is an acid frequently used to help stabilize egg whites or prevent crystallization in candymaking, in those cases you can just add a little lemon juice or vinegar instead, I'm not sure about other applications.

    I hope that helps!

    5 Replies
      1. re: babette feasts

        That might give you the sugar sub for the molasses, but if the recipe is depending on the molasses as an acid, then you'll probably need something else with it or to re-balance the recipe by decreasing the baking soda and/or baking powder slightly.

        Also, you won't get the same molasses flavor from the brown sugar + water sub, as most commercial brown sugar is made from white sugar with a small percentage of molasses stirred in for color/flavor. To make up for the lack of molasses taste, use dark brown sugar, if possible, since it has more molasses in it, and add more of your typical gingerbread spices. Can you get treacle where you live?

        This is one of the better substitute charts, that actually addresses the acidity issue of molasses: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foo...

        1. re: anniemax

          Thank you, Annie. And no, I've never seen treacle here either. Really any of these items can be found in the few American or British stores (in Madrid) but the cost is often prohibitive since they're imported items. I made snickerdoodles the other day which called for cream of tartar, which I didn't have. I don't know if the final result is a good snickerdoodle but it was certainly a good cookie. And indeed I am looking at gingerbread recipes, hence the need for molasses. I'll try the brown sugar substitution, and thank you for the link to the sub site, and as long as what comes out is a good cookie that's all that matters. No one is going to compare them to their mother's gingerbread since it doesn't exist. I'll let you know what happens. Thank you.

          1. re: anniemax

            I find it odd that the colostate site doesn't call for brown sugar as their substitute - maybe why they call for additional acid. You're probably right about still needing more acid, but if you use dark brown sugar, maybe not as much as they suggest for white sugar.

            1. re: babette feasts

              I make my own brown sugar at home all the time and it only takes 1-2 Tablespoons molasses per cup white sugar to yield light brown sugar. So there is not a lot of molasses in brown sugar, that's why in some recipes you need to add a little more more acid or reduce the baking soda slightly. Of course there are recipes where its not a big deal, you're just subbing one sweetener for another and the acidity doesn't matter much.

              I'm allergic to corn and all its derivatives, so I've had to get pretty good at figuring out valid substitutions in baking- plus I've learned a lot about what various ingredients bring to the party. I find it strange so many list white vinegar as sub for cream of tartar in baking instead of apple cider vinegar. Personally, I feel apple cider vinegar provides a better flavor match for most baking; now if I need a cream of tarter sub to help stabilize egg whites where taste is an issue, I'd rather use a copper bowl.

        2. If a quick bread recipe calls for cream of tartar and baking soda in combination, you can substitute baking powder.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PamelaD

            There is something called, Lyle's Golden Syrup that might work, but I don't know if that's available to you either.

          2. Sixty years ago in Argentina my (American) mother used to get cream of tartar at the pharmacy so just now I googled for further details. Its real name is potassium hydrogen tartrate (KC4H506). Also, if you google "cream of tartar" there's a detailed bit on substitutions.

            1. wiki sez re "molasses" substitutes:

              "Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking, often used in baked goods such as gingerbread cookies. There are a number of substitutions that can be made for molasses; for a cup of molasses the following may be used (with varying degrees of success): 1 cup honey, or ¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar, or 1 cup dark corn syrup, 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup water, or 1 cup pure maple syrup."

              1. Thanks for all your help on this. I may check for the cream of tartar at the pharmacy but I did try using lemon juice as a substitute according to one of the websites in a snickerdoodle recipe. I found no difference between the earlier batch of cookies with no substitute and that with the lemon juice. And the important thing is that I ate all the cookies. Next week I hope to have a chance to try the molasses substitute in gingerbread. Wish me luck and again, thank you.

                1. You might try substituting the darkest honey you can find for the molasses one for one in the gingerbread recipe. It will be different in flavor, but still good, and the texture should be the same. Add a little lemon juice to make up for the acidity.