Baking Basics: Essential Ingredients to Stock your Baking Pantry
There is nothing more annoying than deciding that you want to bake something and then realising you’re missing half of the ingredients. Instead of shopping every time you want to bake, why not just keep your pantry well-equipped? Here are the essential ingredients to stock your baking pantry.
Stock your Baking Pantry Properly
Any baker should have these pantry essentials in order to be prepared to get baking.
If you’re making bread, particularly sourdough, then you’ll need to make sure you have bread flour in your cupboard. Bread flour has more protein content than all-purpose or cake flour, which helps with gluten development. Look for a stoneground version that has retained the germ and bran, which adds to the flavour and nutritional value.
Cake Wheat Flour/All-Purpose Flour
Seeing as flour makes up the base of most baked goods, you’ll need to have this on hand at all times. Buy a large container to store your flour, helps keep it dry and bug-free. Depending on the brand, it may also be referred to as all-purpose flour, cake wheat or cake flour.
Some recipes specify the use of self-raising flour, but if you’re in a serious pinch, simply mix 1 cup of cake flour with 7.5 ml baking powder and 1.25 ml salt.
This is probably the most common and widely used raising agent out there. Baking powder is a non-negotiable ingredient, and no baking pantry is complete without it. Treat it the same as flour — keep it well-sealed to maintain its freshness. To check if it’s fresh, add a teaspoon to some warm water, if it fizzes, it’s fresh. If not, chuck it!
Bicarbonate of Soda
‘Bicarb’ is another raising agent, similar to baking powder. When using bicarb, often an acidic element is needed to activate the raising qualities, such as yoghurt or buttermilk. Baking powder on the other hand, is made up of bicarb, as well as an acid, so that it doesn’t necessarily need to be mixed to be activated.
Good ol’ butter, while not a pantry item per se, is an integral part of baking. We recommend keeping a block on standby in your freezer, that way you won’t be using it for making sarmies and will always have baking butter available.
Cream of Tartar
Otherwise known as potassium bitartrate — cream of tartar is a dry, powdery, acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine. It has stabilising qualities, so if you’re making a meringue, you can add a pinch to your egg whites once they’ve reached the foamy stage. This ensures they hold tight once baked.
Granulated White Sugar
Simply a hard-working sugar that will work in most of your bakes and cakes.
Castor sugar is a much finer sugar and is normally used when the baked good is more ‘delicate’. Meringues, icings and very light cakes usually call for castor sugar, as the grains are smaller and are dissolved more easily. Again, if you’re stuck, you can blitz sugar in a jug blender to make castor sugar. Just be sure to give it a good shake in between to ensure that it all blitzes evenly.
Also sometimes referred to as ‘confectioners sugar’ or ‘powdered sugar’ as it is superfine. Icing sugar is essential if you’re making frosting. Hot bakers tip, a dusting of icing sugar over any baked good hides a multitude of baking flops.
Generally, if the recipe you’re using calls for granulated sugar, you can easily swap in brown sugar for a slightly more toasty flavour. As your baking advances you may also want to stock your baking pantry with demerara sugar, caramel sugar and dark muscovado sugar, which all add a different flavour profile to your bakes. They are a little fancy but add great flavour, colour and texture to things like crunchies and carrot cakes where you want the flavour to be a bit more caramelised.
If you’re making all things chocolate-y, you’ll need cocoa powder. Dutch-process cocoa powder has a less bitter flavour compared to ‘natural’ process cocoa, as the beans are rinsed prior to grinding to remove the acidity. But, using either should be acceptable in most recipes. It just boils down to which flavour you like more…
No matter what you are making (chocolate goods included), vanilla adds to the flavour of your bake. The difference between vanilla extract and the cheaper essence is that extract (as the word suggests) is extracted from the actual vanilla bean, whereas essence is chemically engineered. So, if you’re after a stronger, more natural flavour in your bakes (as you should be), go for the extract. If you’re making something like ice cream or crème brûlée however, you’ll need to use a really good quality extract, or even better — get hold of dried vanilla bean pods, from which you can scrape the seeds. Check out our favourite vanilla recipes.
As with cooking, salt is hugely important for flavour but in baking it can also have a leavening property. Don’t be shy about seasoning your baked goods, they won’t end up tasting savoury or salty, just all the more flavourful.
If bread is your game, then you’ll need yeast. Fresh yeast tends to have a better flavour but dried yeast works perfectly.
Oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower, avocado, olive etc.)
Most cakes are either butter or oil-based, so if a recipe doesn’t all for butter it will most likely use oil. It really depends on what you are baking but oils are pretty versatile from sunflower oil to avocado, even olive oil. Keep at least one of them on hand and check the smell and flavour before using as oils can go rancid if opening and not used for long periods of time. Try these recipes for an olive oil based Chocolate Torte or this Vegan Chocolate Bundt Cake made with avocado oil.
It doesn’t hurt to have these goodies stored…
Keep a pack of ground almonds in your freezer so that you can always add an extra element of nutty moisture to your cakes. It’s also an integral ingredient in macarons and other baked goods. Ready to tackle a macaron? Try this recipe for Lemon Macarons.
Don’t use that cheap cooking chocolate, simply buy a bar of dark chocolate (we like 70%) and chop it up when you need chocolate chips. Hide it from yourself in your freezer if you think you might be tempted to eat it. Try these classic Choc Chip Cookies.
Keep these in the freezer too – they make a great addition to loaves, cakes and cookies. Try this Walnut & Cranberry Loaf.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to add some food-safe colouring and even sparkles or sprinkles from your local baking shop. You can add colouring to your plain cakes and icing to give them a little ‘funk’! Check out this vibrant Ultimate Rainbow Sprinkle Cake.
Once you’ve made your shopping list of everything you need to stock your baking pantry, check out these amazing recipes for inspiration.
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