Sauce Emergencies Creamed

When it is crunch time in the kitchen, running out of a crucial ingredient is no picnic. Neither is running out to the store at midnight. If you are missing an ingredient knowing its "equivalent" or substitution can save the day. Adapting recipes from antique cookbooks can also cause confusion. What is arrowroot and must I consult a wizard? Today, Mom helps cooks with tips on milk, cream and other sauce thickeners.

Milk: If you don't have one cup of fresh milk substitute 1/2 cup of evaporated mile plus 1/2 cup of water. Or follow the directions on a box of powdered milk. It’s a good idea to have a can of evaporated milk handy for emergencies. If you don't use it during holiday baking, keep it for your other emergency kit.

Buttermilk: Also called sour milk, is used to give recipes a little zip. Substitute 1tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup (let stand 5 minutes before using), OR use 1 cup whole milk plus 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar OR use 1 cup of plain yogurt.

Whipping Cream: Whipped cream from scratch is worth the work. If you don't have time, just use frozen dessert topping. 1 cup whipping cream equals 2 cups dessert topping.

Light Cream: if you don't have 1 cup of light cream use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of milk plus 2 tablespoons of butter.

Cornstarch: Great for thickening sauces; if you don't have 1 tablespoon of cornstarch use 2 tablespoons of flour. Always dissolve it in a little water, broth or juice before you add it to your sauce to avoid lumps.

Arrowroot: Not a mystical ingredient but another thickening agent for sauces and soups. Substitute 2 tablespoons of regular flour or 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for 1 tablespoon of arrowroot. Dissolve in water or broth for easier mixing. You can always add more if you decide your sauce is still too thin.

As a general rule if you are baking in the oven, you must follow the recipe as closely as possible. Not only do your ingredients add flavor, they also serve a specific function like making your bread rise, or binding ingredients together. If you are using milk or cream in a sauce, you have more flexibility. For example, if you are making gravy, a splash of milk instead of cream is fine. The fat content should only effect the flavor of your sauce, not the final product Happy cooking!

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About The Author, Laura Zinkan
For more of Mom's kitchen tips and humor visit her on the web at She also cultivates a gardening website at with plant profiles, growing tips and photos of succulents and California native plants. Copyright 2007 Laura Zinkan. This article may be reprinted as long as author credit is given with a website. All rights reserved.