By Linda Davey.

Have you ever gotten halfway through a recipe only to find that you don’t have an ingredient? When is it okay to substitute and how do you know what to use? I recently had a week of reaching for an ingredient in the fridge or pantry, only to find that I didn’t have it, or it had gone bad—like the heavy cream when I was making chocolate ganache for a peanut butter pie.

Chocolate ganache is typically made with equal amounts of heavy cream and chocolate. With no heavy cream, I had a shortbread covered in a fluffy peanut butter filling. I did have whole milk and butter, and access to the internet… where I found that I could make ganache with 4 ounces chocolate, 4 ounces whole milk, and 1 ounce butter (salted or unsalted). Warming the milk and butter until the butter is melted and the milk is steaming but not quite simmering, pour over the chopped chocolate and let sit five minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the whole thing is glossy. Allow to cool for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, and it’s ready to use. Pour it over a cake (or in this case a peanut butter pie), let it set. You could also whip the cooled ganache and use it to frost a cake or fill a macaron.

Speaking of frosting, did you know that you can make it without powdered sugar? Ermine frosting is light and silky, and made with flour and sugar that are cooked with milk until very thick, then cooled and whipped with butter. It has become my go-to but does require a bit of advance planning. The good thing is that my cakes are completely cooled before I frost them. (I’m often too impatient to wait for them to cool and my frosting melts off the still-warm cakes.)

But what about some of the more basic ingredients, like baking powder or buttermilk, or even chocolate? After a bit of research, I thought I’d share some suggested substitutions with you, for when you’re halfway through that holiday baking project and can’t find what you need.

Linda Davey is the Executive Chef at KAM Appliances and the President of Cape Cod Culinary Incubator. Her favorite season in the kitchen is winter, when food warms the heart and the home.