Whether you’re a complete baking novice or just looking to expand your baking horizons beyond boxed brownie mix (no judgment here!), this is the list for you! Make sure your pantry is stocked with these essential ingredients the next time you take on a baking project.
We’re starting with the very basics here. If you’re new to baking, your best bet is to grab all-purpose flour. As the name suggests, this flour can be used in pretty much any baking venture you set out on.
Once you get a little more comfortable, you can experiment with bread flour, whole wheat flour, and the myriad of gluten-free flours like rice & almond flour.
In most cake, cookie, and brownie recipes, the rising agent is either baking soda or baking powder. What’s the difference between the two? According to A Baking Journey, “Baking Soda starts working instantly, while Baking Powder has a delayed rising reaction. You usually want the rising action to start in the oven and not while you are making the batter, which is why Baking Powder is more commonly used.”
For bread and crust recipes, the rising agent is typically yeast.
There are three types of sugar you should have in your pantry. White sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar. Most recipes call for white sugar, though classics such as chocolate chip cookies require both white and brown sugar. Powdered sugar is typically used in frosting and icing.
Of course, there are many options for sugar alternatives, such as Stevia, maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc. Once you’re comfortable with the role sugar plays in your baked goods, feel free to experiment with different sweeteners! Just make sure to look up the conversion. Most times it’s not a one for one swap.
Another important ingredient in most recipes is fat. In most cases, butter or oils are used. I’d stick with regular butter or canola oil for baking at first, and then you can experiment with all the alternatives.
The best oils for cooking include canola and vegetable oil. Others like peanut, sunflower, and saffron oil will be effective as well, though they might add additional, unwanted flavor.
Eggs are essential when it comes to baking, particularly the egg yolk. The yolk binds fats and liquids by emulsifying. Eggs are also used as a way to bring air into a cake batter and make it nice and light.
When it comes to baking cakes, cookies, and other sweet desserts, salt might seem like an odd choice for an essential ingredient. However, salt is actually super important! It helps balance out the sweetness so the end result isn’t overly cloying. Plus, it actually enhances the sweet flavor by providing contrast.
Dairy is used as a liquid binding agent. The fats in dairy also help add richness and flavor to the end result. Milk is the most common dairy used in baking recipes, but lots of cooks substitute for heavy cream. You can experiment with other kinds of dairy like yogurt or even sour cream.
Chocolate & Cacao Powder
I don’t think I need to explain how important chocolate is, just in general. It’s even more so when it comes to baking. It’s good to have two kinds of chocolate on hand – baker’s chocolate and cacao powder. The baker’s chocolate will likely be melted and used as a liquid ingredient, while the cacao powder will be used as a dry ingredient. Both will give you the chocolatey flavor we all love, just in different ways.
There are so many spices out there it can be overwhelming to know what you should have on hand. Cinnamon is the most used spice in baking, so definitely invest in high-quality cinnamon. Other common spices used are nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and star anise.
For extracts, vanilla is by far the most used. Others you might want to have on hand include almond extract, peppermint extract, and coffee extract, depending on the kinds of things you enjoy baking.
Lastly, the mix-ins! Some mix-ins that I love include shredded coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruits, graham crackers, and marshmallows.SKM: below-content placeholder