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Stocking a Baker’s Pantry

Novice wannabe bakers or couples just starting a household for the first time often aren’t sure what kind of items they’ll need on hand when it’s time to make a cake, bake some cookies, or craft a fancy dessert for a church potluck dinner or other social engagement. Indeed, everyone needs to have some essentials in their pantry and refrigerator, the kind you’ll need for a wide variety of baking projects, including cookbooks, ingredients, tools, and more. Those who bake all the time wouldn’t think of being caught without these items.

Cookbooks

If you haven’t amassed a collection of cookbooks yet, it’s time to start. And if you’re more interested in baking than “cooking”, look for books that concentrate on the art of baking in particular. You probably have a few in mind. No doubt there are some that Mom or Grandma used on a regular basis that you’ll want to be sure to have on hand. There are certainly some tried-and-true basic baking cookbooks that you’ll also want to consider including those published by King Arthur Flour Company, like the Baker’s Companion Cookbook. It includes about 450 recipes and covers everything from very basic bread, cake, and cookie recipes to much more complicated desserts.
If you have friends or family members who are adept at baking, ask them to share their favorite recipes with you but be sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep it simple for a while until you are more familiar with common baking terms and other basic baking knowledge.

For the Pantry

Many baking recipes call for some basic “staple” ingredients, so it’s always a good idea to have these around. Many of them last for a long time in your pantry or refrigerator while others will need to be replaced now and then. These basic ingredients include:
o Butter – Be sure to have both salted and unsalted butter in your fridge. Which one you’ll need will depend on the recipe.
o Eggs – Some recipes call for large eggs while others don’t specify. So, it’s probably best to keep the large variety on hand.
o Whole milk – Even if you don’t drink whole milk, it is indeed the variety most called for in recipes, unless you’re baking from a low fat recipe. Since milk doesn’t have a long life, check your recipe beforehand if you need to make a milk purchase.
o Flour – Most of the time, you can get away with using the all-purpose type of flour, so be sure to have at least a 5 lb. bag in your pantry. Some recipes may call specifically for cake flour or self-rising flour instead but that’s fairly unusual in beginner recipes.
o Granulated sugar – This is common table sugar that you put in your coffee. Nothing fancy here but the name.
o Brown sugar – Used in such basic recipes as Toll House Cookies, brown sugar generally comes in small boxes or plastic bags. DON’T open it until you’re ready to use it as it will get hard. After opening it, be sure to store it properly. (See our article on Storing Brown Sugar) It comes in two varieties – light and dark. Buy a box of each.
o Confectioner’s Sugar – Also known as Powdered Sugar or 10X Sugar, this is a common ingredient in frosting and can also be used to dust cakes or cookies.
o Baking soda and baking powder – These are 2 DIFFERENT ingredients. Baking soda comes in a box and baking powder in a can. Purchase one of each.
o Salt – Common table salt is all you usually need for basic recipes.
o Cocoa Powder – If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll definitely need this. And if your recipe calls for squares of chocolate, you can substitute cocoa and oil for the squares (look for the instructions on the side of the can). Just purchase the plain Hershey’s stuff, not the Dutch process variety.
o Vanilla (and other flavored) Extract – You’ll find that vanilla is the flavoring most often called for in basic recipes, but if you’d like to add some others to your pantry, purchase the almond variety as well.
o Spices – The ones most often used in baking include cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Buy them in small jars because they can get stale if you keep them for too long.
o Cream of Tartar – This is not a cream at all. You’ll find it on the spice aisle in your grocery store. It stabilizes and gives more volume to beaten egg whites and also produces a creamier texture in sugary desserts.
o Chocolate Chips – ‘Nuff said!
o Food Coloring – Ideal for cookies, frostings, and other things that need a little color, those little squeeze bottles of food coloring last forever. Invest in a few. Or for more vivid colors, buy gel colorings like the kind made by Wilton.
o Sprinkles, jimmies, etc. – You’ll want to have these on hand for decorating cookies, cakes, and cupcakes.