Friday, January 20, 2012

Pantry Staples for Easy, Stress Free Baking

One of the most important aspects of successful baking is being prepared. Deciding on the recipe you want to make, reading the ingredient list and then making sure that you have all the ingredients on hand. During the winters, especially in Montreal, being in the kitchen can bring warmth and sunshine to an otherwise snowy, blustery and gloomy day. I have learned, from experience, that the most frustrating thing of all is wanting to do something in the kitchen and then discovering that I don't have the right ingredients. When this happens I usually close the cookbook, turn the lights off in the kitchen and put on the Food Channel.

Looking downtown in Montreal on a grey snowy day

To help you avoid this impediment to your culinary fun I have developed a list of the most important pantry items that you should have on hand at all times. This is an updated list from the one that I did two years ago. If you keep this group of ingredients in your pantry you can bake away with no problem.

Dry Ingredients:

White Sugar
Light Brown Sugar
Dark Brown Sugar (the difference in light and dark brown sugar is the amount of molasses that is in the sugar)
Confectioner's Sugar (10X sugar)
All purpose flour
Cake flour (used for baked goods that are lighter in texture)
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
Cream of Tarter
Corn Starch
Table Salt
Fleur de Sel (sea salt - used for finishing)
Dry Yeast
Powdered Gelatin
Powdered Milk
Oatmeal (not the instant kind)
Meringue Powder (for decorated sugar cookies)
Graham Crackers
Shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
*Most of the dry ingredients last a very long time if kept in a dark place in a tight container.


Nutmeg (whole)
Ground Ginger
Ground Cloves
Black Pepper
Chile Powder
Cinnamon Sticks
Instant Coffee and Expresso powders.


Dark Corn Syrup
Light Corn Syrup
Dark Unsulphured Molasses
Chocolate Syrup
Evaporated Milk
Condensed Mile (can be turned into Dolche de Leche - recipe to follow in upcoming blog)

Other Ingredients

Unsweetened Chocolate (comes in a blue box with 8 one ounce cubes)
Semi-sweet Chocolate (comes in a red box with 8 one ounce cubes)
Bittersweet Chocolate
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (Nestle's or Guittard)
White Chocolate Chips
Butterscotch Chips
Blocks of milk chocolate, 70% cocoa chocolate for finishing
Medium Size Marshmallows (if you don't want to make your own)
100% Madagascar Vanilla
All natural lemon, orange and peppermint extract.


Almonds (whole, blanched - you can always toast them)
Whole Pistachios

** - Store all the nuts in the freezer whole where they will keep for one year.

Other Necessary Items

Parchment Paper
Baker's Joy (a spray that is a combination fo Pam and flour)

Refrigerator Items

Unsalted Butter
Whole Milk
Whole Extra Large Eggs
Heavy Cream and Half and Half
Egg Whites
Cream Cheese

With this list of ingredients you can make cakes, cupcakes, buttercream frosting, cookies, brownies, tea cakes, candy, marshmallows, caramel sauce, whoppie pies with different fillings - just about anything!

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