If your casual baking hobby has turned into an obsession, you’re in good company. Baking swept the nation as a way to pass the time in 2020, with an overwhelming 84 percent of respondents identifying as bakers in an end-of-year Packaged Facts survey of Americans.
However, there’s a difference between good and great baking, and it all starts with what’s in your pantry. According to the Baking at Home experts, here are seven must-have items you need to take your at-home recipes for breads, cobblers, cakes and more to the next level, as well as tips for using these pantry essentials to their fullest potential.
1. A flour-based baking spray: As every home baker knows, one of the trickiest steps of any recipe is the final one—releasing your treat from the pan without damaging it. If you’ve had a few failed attempts, you may have seen your creations go from masterpieces to flops in just a few short, heartbreaking seconds. To stick the landing every time, (and never see your efforts go to waste again) try using a flour-based baking spray like Baker’s Joy for an easy release from the pan, and faster, more successful baking overall.
2. Shortening: While many view shortening and butter as interchangeable, they’re not the same. Be sure to reach for shortening any time you want your recipe to rise high and retain its shape or to attain that perfect flaky pastry or crust. Making plant-based swaps? An all-vegetable shortening like Crisco can be successfully used in place of butter for an all-vegetable twist on classic recipes.
3. Baking powder: The workhorse of many recipes, one can’t overstate the importance of a dependable, double-acting baking powder. To that end, stick with tried-and-true brands like Clabber Girl, which has been making pastry perfection for over 100 years. Pro tip: quickly test baking powder’s efficacy by mixing a teaspoon with hot water. No fizzing reaction? Time to toss it.
4. Baking soda: Baking soda is the wild and more potent cousin of baking powder, so it’s important not to get them mixed up, especially as baking soda is often specifically called for in recipes containing an acid (think buttermilk and citrus.) While there are many liberties you can take in the kitchen, guessing how much baking soda to use is not one of them. Always measure the exact amount listed to avoid a bitter taste in your finished product.
5. Premium spices, seasonings and herbs: Any serious baker worth their salt will have a “go big or go home” mentality when it comes to spices. Give dishes extra depth by culling your collection to include only high-quality selections that pack a punch, like Spice Islands. Remember, keeping spices dry prolongs flavor, so place your rack in a cool, dry place away from oven heat.
6. Molasses: When mixed with white sugar, molasses can make a great substitute for brown sugar, but that’s just one of its many uses. A pantry staple and American tradition, it’s vital in dishes where moist consistency and depth of flavor are essential, such as pecan pie or gingerbread. Molasses from iconic brands like Grandma’s Molasses can also be the oohs-and-aahs-provoking secret ingredient that has friends and family reaching for seconds.
7. Vanilla extract: Whether you’re cutting back on added sugars or you’re simply low on the sweet stuff, you can use vanilla extract as a flavorful, better-for-you sugar substitute.
With a well-stocked pantry and a good understanding of your ingredients, your creations will come out just the way you want them, every time.
For more baking tips, recipe ideas, and tutorials, visit bakingathome.com.