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When it comes to baking, there are so many recipes out there and so many ingredients to choose from, so how do you know what you need to have on hand if you want to start baking?
A trip to the grocery store can be frustrating when you walk down the baking aisle. There are so many items to choose from. From different kinds of flours, sugars, and extracts to baking powder, baking soda and cornstarch. And not everything you need for baking may be found in the baking aisle. You have to go to a different aisle to find oils and spices.
I know so many people who choose a cake mix over trying to bake from scratch because there are so many products out there, making a mix is easier than reading a recipe and finding the items you need to make it.
But baking doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many basic recipes that use few ingredients and are simple to make if you have the right ingredients on hand.
Below is a list of what is on my shelves in my baking cupboard. The first six items on my list are needed to make just about any recipe. It was the basic ingredients I started with years ago when my aunt taught me to bake. As long as you have eggs and milk in the fridge and some butter or margarine, you will be able to find a recipe using just those six ingredients.
What’s in my baking cupboard:
- Flour- you cannot bake without it. Some kind of flour is the main ingredient in just about every recipe. But do you need cake flour, bread flour and all-purpose flour? My answer is no. I use all-purpose flour for all my baking. The only exception is if I am making pizza, then I use 00 Flour. Or if I am making macarons, these call for almond flour, so I always have some on hand.
- Sugar- this is one ingredient where you need more than one kind. White granulated sugar and brown sugar are the most popular. I have two kinds of brown sugar, yellow (or light) and dark on hand at all times. You can also use demerara sugar as a brown sugar for a darker, crunchier result. I also have icing or confectioner’s sugar, not only for making icing, but it also serves well as a dusting sugar.
- Baking powder- a must for most recipes. (not to be confused with baking soda)
- Baking Soda- again a must for a lot of recipes.
- Salt- a flavour enhancer for most recipes, and if making bread, it is necessary for salt to be added for the best results
- Vanilla Extract- you can use pure or artificial vanilla extract. I have both on hand, but the pure vanilla extract is more expensive. I have clear vanilla extract as well for making white cakes and icings. I also have vanilla bean pods on hand for fancier recipes but the extracts work just as well.
- Cocoa Powder- a must-have for making brownies or chocolate cake. I always have a couple of cans on hand. I use a lot at Christmas for making Chocolate Crackle Cookies.
- Chocolate Chips- There are so many varieties now of chocolate chips. I think I may have every kind on hand right now, although some are not chocolate, they are more of a baking chip. Semi-sweet chocolate is the most popular and is used in most recipes that call for chocolate chips. I also always have mini chocolate chips on hand to add to pancakes, brownies and banana bread.
- Butter Flavored Shortening– This is the only shortening I use in my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have tried recipes with butter, margarine and shortening, but the butter flavored shortening has always tasted better and gave better results.
- Flavorings and extracts- There are many different flavorings and extracts out there. The extracts always on hand for me are almond, brandy, and peppermint. I also have lemon juice (not only for flavoring but also for making buttermilk when you don’t have any on hand) and lime juice. It really depends on your tastes and what flavors you like. It is something I experiment with all the time.
- Molasses- you can’t make gingerbread cookies without it.
- Pumpkin puree- not only needed for making pumpkin pie but you can also make pumpkin bread, muffins and cookies.
- Sweetened condensed milk- used for making fudge or dulce de leche.
- Natural food colouring– I don’t like to add artificial colouring to my baked goods so I choose to use natural. Using natural colourings don’t work in the oven though, so I only use these for frostings and icings. It takes some patience to get used to using natural colourings because you don’t always get the results you want.
- Spices- Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. These can be used in pumpkin and banana bread. I also sometimes add a bit of cinnamon to my chocolate chip cookies to change the flavour a little. Along with ground cloves, these spices are added to my pumpkin pie and spice cakes.
- Yeast- there are packages of yeast on my shelf and a jar in the fridge. Yeast is needed for bread, cinnamon rolls and pizza crust. I use quick-rise yeast.
- Cooking spray- this is used mostly to hold the parchment paper in place in my baking pans. A quick spray before lining your pans makes it easier to keep the parchment paper in place.
- Vegetable oil- some recipes call for oil in place of other fats like butter. It is also good for frying Beavertails and donuts.
- Cornstarch- used to thicken pie fillings. It is also used in shortbread cookies.
- Shortening and Lard- these are used for making pie crusts and tarts. They can also be used for frying donuts.
I have many other ingredients on the shelves but these are my staples, my must-haves.
My ingredients change from season to season as well.
In the fall, I make more pumpkin and apple recipes, so I use more all-spice and cloves.
At Christmas, I buy more candy decorations for cookies and cupcakes. This is also the time of year, I use peanut butter and butterscotch chips to make squares. And maraschino cherries and candied fruit for cookies.
During the summer, my desserts are lighter and use a lot of fresh berries. I don’t bake as much in the summer months because of the heat so I tend to whip up quick desserts like grilled fruit on the BBQ to top ice cream or angel food cake.
You don’t need everything I mentioned in this post, if you have the basics: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla extract, and you have eggs, milk and butter, margarine or oil, you can find a recipe to bake.