Thursday, April 8, 2010

What to have in your Pantry when the mood to bake calls you!

I thought that I would write a piece on what to have in the pantry when the desire to bake calls you.  Have you ever read a recipe and decided that you had to try it then and there.  I know that I have and when I have gotten to the pantry and found that I am missing essential ingredients one of three things happens; (1) I grab the car keys and head to the store, (2) I go back to the cookbooks or the internet to look for a similar recipe that will use the ingredients that I have on hand or (3) I pop a bowl of popcorn and sit down and watch the food channel.   Neither of the three choices is optimal.

Here is the list of the ingredients that you must have in your pantry in order to bake most things.  The list might appear to require a large storage space but many of the items are small and can be stacked.

(1)  All purpose flour.  I buy it in 25 pound bags but that is because I bake so much.  If you do not bake a lot the 5 pound bags will be perfect — try and store in a cool place.   I have started using the whole wheat flour from King Arthur.  This is a nutritionally superior flour that looks and tastes like white flour.  If you can find something like this it is a better flour to use than bleached all purpose white flour.

(2)  White Sugar

(3)  Both dark and light brown sugar.  The darker brown sugar has a higher content of molasses and is a bit deeper in flavor. You can however,  interchange the two without impacting the recipe.   Once your open the sugar store in a tight container or a ziplock bag with either a piece of apple or a sugar stone.  This will prevent the sugar from drying out and becoming rock hard.  Change the apple every week or so.  If in fact your sugar does harden you can place it, one cup at a time, into the microwave for 30 seconds.  Make sure that it does not melt.

(4)  Baking Soda

(5)  Baking Powder

(6)  Pure Vanilla, lemon and orange extract.

(7)  Instant espresso coffee.  Any brand is fine.

(8)  Corn starch and cream of tartar.  Corn starch is used as a substitute for flour and cream of tartar is used as a stabilizer for whipping egg whites.

(9)  Unsweetened Baking Chocolate - I use Baker's brand.  This chocolate is good for brownies, cakes and frosting.  The package contains individually wrapped one ounce squares.

(10)  Semi Sweet Baking Chocolate. - Baker's brand.  Also 8 one ounces squares per package.

(11)  Bars of dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate.

(12)  A bag of semi-sweet Nestles morsels.  This is perfect for brownies, ganache and frosting.

(13)  Unsweetened cocoa powder.

(14)  Any kind of nut.  Peanuts, pecans, walnuts.  When you buy them place in a ziplock bag and place in the freezer.  Nuts, because of the high oil content,  will go rancid fairly quickly.

(15)  Dried cranberries which I use for oatmeal cookies.

(16)  Karo light corn syrup.  To make toffee or marshmallows.

(17)  Grandma's Unsulphured Molasses.  You cannot make gingerbread without this!

(18)  Regular or Quick acting oatmeal  (Never use instant - it will not hold up in the recipe)

(19)  Spices:  cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

(20)  Parchment paper.

(21) Pam or Baker's Joy.  Baker's Joy is a spray that contains both a greasing agent and flour.  It is a great product.  If you use Pam make sure that it is the one with no taste.

While butter is not a pantry ingredient it is an essential ingredient.  I buy unsalted butter in one pound boxes that are divided into quarters.  One quarter of a stick is equal to a half a cup a therefore a pound of butter is equal to two cups of butter.  The other ingredient that you will need is eggs.   I buy both whole eggs and the pasteurized egg whites.  The pasteurized egg whites are excellent for use in egg-white icing.

This list is what I would consider for the ideal pantry and it is what mine is stocked with.  But what do you do if even with all these items the recipe calls for something else.

For instance, what happens if your recipe calls for cake flour?  What is the difference between cake flour and regular flour?  Cake flour has a lower protein and gluten percentage than regular flour and therefore makes a more tender baked item.   In order to convert regular flour remove three tablespoons of flour from each cup and replace with cornstarch. This will give you chemical properties similar to the cake flour.

What happens if your recipe calls for Buttermilk?  Simply take a cup of regular milk,  and add either a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice.  Let stand for five minutes and then use as directed.

What happens if you are out of baking powder?  For every teaspoon of baking powder that you need substitute 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 5/8 teaspoon of cream of cream of tarter.

This is an extensive list but the good news is that most of this list lasts for a long time.  The only things that I seem to run out of  are the flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

I hope that this helps you get set for your next baking experience.


  1. Great tips, Suzanne! I really like the idea of putting the nuts in the freezer.

  2. Suzanne - I am not a creepy stalker - my mom sent me the link to your blog. And since my childhood was filled with your treats I love to browse your postings. I felt i had to comment on this one because there is a recipe I have to make... yours! please post the recipe (if you have already I cant find it) for those hard carmel squares with chocolate and i think nuts on top... I have been craving those for like 8 years.
    - Consuelo Mejer