a baker’s pantry has everything you need to whip up a “something sweet” at a moment’s notice!
I realized something recently. I realized that I often use this phrase when sharing a recipe:
“and you probably have all the ingredients you need on-hand right now!”
But maybe you don’t?
I’m a baker. Baking is my passion, it’s often my profession, and it’s something I do several times a week, all year long. So I always have “on-hand” a lot of what I consider to be essential ingredients.
But maybe you don’t.
And that would make my above statement somewhat presumptuous, don’t you think?
I thought a lot about this, and then as luck would have it I was invited to once again participate in Project Design with Annie, Mary Ann and Cindy (if you recall I’ve collaborated in the past on appetizers, cheese boards and grilled recipes) – all about pantries!
And I knew just what I wanted my contribution to be.
Because I think everyone should be able to whip up a “something sweet” any time – whether it’s an unexpected snow day, you want to bring a treat to a friend, or the school hits you up for a bake sale contribution. And for that you need a baker’s pantry.
I’ve assembled a “baker’s dozen” list that assumes you already have flour, sugar, eggs and salt. Let’s take a look!
1. Unsalted butter – I can’t think of a baked good I make – aside from my vegan treats – that doesn’t call for butter. The reason I use unsalted is because it allows me to control the amount of added salt in the recipe. If you don’t bake a lot, or prefer to use salted butter for eating, keep a pound or two of unsalted in the freezer. If you pre-slice it you can take out just what you need and it will defrost relatively quickly!
2. Baking powder/baking soda – Essentials, for sure. Almost all cookies and cakes use one or both, and it’s tough to substitute them, so they’re worth having on-hand if you want to bake (try these, these and this if you need to bake without them!). And if you’re wondering if that can lurking in the back of your cupboard is fresh, try this test before you start baking.
3. Unsweetened cocoa powder – Indispensable for most brownies and chocolate cakes, I always have a can at the ready. And here’s one of my favorite “hacks” – if a recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, you can substitute it with cocoa powder! For every ounce of unsweetened chocolate in the recipe, substitute with 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
4. Semi-sweet chocolate chips – Obvious, right? I mean, you can’t make those “back of of the bag” cookies without them! But they’re even more versatile than you thought. I use chocolate chips for dipping/drizzling cookies, and for making magic shell, Muddy Buddies and the best fudge sauce you’ve ever had.
5. Frozen puff pastry and pie crusts – These “shortcut” ingredients defrost quickly, roll out easily and create dozens of impressive looking desserts. For example? Use puff pastry for palmiers, turnovers and spinach pinwheels (one of my most beloved appetizers). And pie crusts turn into hand pies, apple pie “fries” and pie “pops” in a flash. Keep a box of each in your freezer; you’ll be happy you did!
6. Vanilla extract – whether you buy a bottle or make your own, good vanilla extract adds delicious flavor and subtle depth to almost all of my recipes. I wouldn’t think of stocking a kitchen without it (and if you’re lucky enough to have some fresh vanilla beans, here’s the best way to store them!).
7. Confectioner’s sugar – a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar instantly dresses up all manner of cookies, brownies and cakes. And it’s the sugar I use when making buttercream frosting, as it avoids the grainy texture that you get with granulated sugar.
8. Ground cinnamon – while I have many spices in my pantry, if I had to pick the one I use the most it’s cinnamon. It’s the most versatile and the most universally loved. A staple in my streusel, coffee cake and homemade pumpkin butter.
10. Raw unsalted almonds – a package of these in your freezer can do more than you realize. Of course you can chop them up to use in a recipe (sweet or savory), but wait – there’s more! Grind them finely to make your own gluten-free almond flour, or grind them up some more to make the most delicious homemade almond butter (seriously, you will never buy the jarred stuff again).
11. Brown sugar – I LOVE brown sugar, and always have a bag in my freezer, since many of my favorite recipes (like these amazing cookies) call for it. Freezing it reduces hardening, but if you have a bag that’s rock solid try this hack to soften it up.
12. Cream of tartar – Mastering meringue couldn’t be easier, and is a basic technique that I truly wish everyone was comfortable with. Meringue is naturally gluten-free and fat-free, and contains only 3 ingredients – egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar. I swear by this technique, and these little cookies are a perfect “starter” recipe as they’re pretty much foolproof. Please give it a try!
13. Flaky sea salt – This is a relatively new one for me. When I started baking over 30 years ago, flaky sea salt wasn’t “a thing”. But I have since fully embraced the next-level deliciousness that a sprinkling of good flaky salt imparts to so many baked goods (like this bark, these peanut butter cups and these caramels).
I obviously could go on and on – for example, I always freeze leftover berries (for this and these) and overripe bananas (for THIS). And I typically have a jar of Nutella and Biscoff in my cupboard. As a lover of all things coffee-flavored I’m also never without some instant espresso powder.
So what do you think? As you can see, many of the ingredients can be frozen, to prolong their shelf life. And all are readily available at your grocery store. I get SO happy when someone tells me they’ve made a recipe from my blog and it “came out great!”, so I hope this inspires you to stock up on “the basics” and try something new!
My fellow bloggers have written some fabulous posts on the subject of pantries – click the links below to read more!