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Welcome to KGB in Wanderland’s Baking Tutorial Series!
Let’s talk about baking ingredients. Since we are talking about Baking for Beginners, I have simplified the baking pantry list to include only the very basic ingredients you would need to start your baking journey.
Whenever I’m on a baking frenzy and needed to restock my pantry staples, I find it convenient to always have a list on hand to save me from going back and forth to the grocery store. I try to buy the same brands as much as possible, to achieve consistency with my baked goodies.
As your skills progress, you’ll learn more about what type of baker you are and will influence your preference in ingredients. Without going too technical, I’ve listed down the most basic baking ingredients you’ll need. This is enough to cover simple home baking recipes like cookies, muffins, cakes and cupcakes, dessert pastries, and even the occasional bread and rolls.
Don’t forget to download a FREE copy of my baking pantry grocery list at the end of this post!
Essential Ingredients For Your Baking Pantry
All-purpose flour is your basic flour. It is a blend of strong and weak wheat flours making it very versatile to use especially in home baking. Most recipes that call for flour refers to all-purpose flour. It can be used for cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, and bread.
Bread flour is made from strong wheat and is best to use for breads.
Cake flour is made from weak wheat. As the name suggests, it is best to use for cake recipes or any pastry that needs a soft and light texture.
There are many types of specialty flours available in the market today. Whole wheat flour and rye flour are commonly used in bread-baking and can produce a dense and very flavorful bread. Self-rising flour has baking powder and salt already included and may be specifically asked for in some cake recipes. There are tons of non-wheat and nut flours that are gluten-free options for people trying to work around their diet restrictions or allergies.
Occasionally, you’ll find cornstarch in a recipe. Cornstarch acts as a thickener for creams, cobblers, and compotes. It can also be mixed with all-purpose flour to make cake flour substitute.
Aside from the primary role of sugar as a sweetener of baked goods, it’s also responsible for the color, crumb structure, moisture and food for the yeast in a baked product. There are three types of sugar we commonly use in baking:
Granulated sugar is sometimes referred to as refined sugar, white sugar or table sugar. When a recipe calls for sugar, it usually means granulated sugar.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added in. It is usually used for added flavor and moisture. You can use either light or dark brown sugar. My preference is dark brown sugar for that richer molasses flavor.
Confectioners or powdered sugar is finely ground white sugar mixed with a little starch to prevent caking. This is primarily used in icings, frostings, glazes, and for certain applications that needed sugar to be dissolved quickly in liquid.
Honey does not only add sweetness but also adds a distinct flavor to a dessert or pastry.
Corn syrup adds moisture to baked goods and acts as a stabilizer for many applications like in candy and ice cream-making.
I don’t regularly bake recipes with molasses, but when I do come across a recipe that requires it, I don’t skip or replace it with anything else. Its bittersweet intense flavor pairs very well with spices like ginger.
4. Leavening Agents
The two leavening agents we use in cakes, cookies and other delicate pastries are baking soda and baking powder. However, these are not interchangeable and are used in correct proportion to the recipe.
Baking soda is a base or alkali that, when mixed with an acidic liquid, creates carbon dioxide that will cause a baked good to rise. Recipes using baking soda will always have an acidic ingredient included in such as vinegar, natural cocoa powder, lemon or buttermilk.
Baking powder contains baking soda (base), cream of tartar (acid) and cornstarch (buffer to keep the base and acid from activating). It is activated when liquid is added and no other acidic ingredient is required. Double-acting baking powder is usually used in home baking.
Yeast is used in bread baking. The yeast feeds on the sugars of flour during the fermentation process generating carbon dioxide that causes the dough to expand and rise during baking. The two types of yeast usually available in a grocery store are instant yeast that you just mix in with the rest of ingredients and active dry yeast that needs to be dissolved first in liquid before combined with the rest.
5. Milk and Cream
Whole milk is generally used in baking recipes. The fat in whole milk adds flavor, moisture, richness, and color in baked goods. You can also use low fat or skim milk as a substitute for whole milk but keep in mind that doing so will alter not only the taste but also the texture of the final product. Replacing the lost fat content and not overmixing the batter will help to keep the baked good moist and tender.
Powdered milk is a good alternative to fresh milk because of its long shelf-life. Buttermilk does wonder in baking too, producing tender and tasty products. It is also available in powder form but you can certainly use milk and lemon or vinegar to make buttermilk.
I also like to keep stock of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. These are usually used for use in pie fillings, custards, and some cake mixtures.
I also use heavy cream that’s at least 35% fat to make ganache, caramel sauce, mousses, and custards. Whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar is also great for frosting cakes or garnishing desserts.
6. Cream Cheese
I used to think of cream cheese as an add-on baking ingredient but through the years I’ve realized how essential it is to make desserts. Cream cheese is not only for cheesecakes. Use it as a frosting or as part of the batter in your cakes, cookies, brownies, and breakfast pastries.
Eggs are a baking staple. It creates structure in baked goods. It also acts as a binder and thickens sauces and custards. and Use large fresh eggs unless otherwise specified.
Liquid or powdered whole eggs, egg yolks, and egg whites can also be used. The conversion is as follows:
1 large egg is 50 grams of liquid whole eggs
1 egg yolk is 20 grams of liquid egg yolk
1 egg white is 30 grams of liquid egg whites
Oil is not only used to grease baking sheets and pans but also as a baking ingredient. It helps to produce a moist cake or cupcake and also help extend the shelf-life. Vegetable oil or canola oil are good choices because of its neutral flavor.
Pastries made with butter are rich and flavorful. Different brands have varying salt content in their butter that’s why it’s necessary to use unsalted butter as much as possible. If unavailable, salted butter can be used as a substitute but the salt quantity in the recipe will need to be reduced if not removed at all.
Shortening is used to grease pans and as a substitute or in addition to butter. I add shortening in frostings to make it more stable especially during hot months. It is also used to achieve a flaky pie crust.
9. Cocoa Powder
The two main types of cocoa powder are Dutch-processed and natural. Natural cocoa powder is acidic, bitter and lighter in color and is usually used in recipes with baking soda. Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been treated with alkaline which neutralizes the acidity. It is darker in color but mellow in flavor and is usually used in recipes with baking powder.
Do we need to keep both types of cocoa powder in the pantry? The short answer is no. Natural cocoa powder can generally be used as a substitute for Dutch-processed cocoa powder and most standardized recipes usually call for natural cocoa powder. Hershey’s Cocoa Powder is the most common natural cocoa powder you can find in a supermarket.
With that said, I keep both types of cocoa powder in my pantry and use what the recipe specifically says to use for the best result!
10. Baking Chocolate
When a recipe calls for chocolate, it’s usually the dark variety, unless otherwise specified. Baking chocolate comes in unsweetened, bittersweet, or semi-sweet type. I prefer to keep bittersweet chocolate in my pantry stock for use in recipes calling for melted dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate as a replacement for chocolate chips in a recipe.
Some of the popular baking chocolate brands are Baker’s, Hershey’s, Beryl’s, Callebaut and Ghirardelli. For chocolate truffles or even fancier desserts, I recommend using high-quality couverture chocolate like Felchlin and Valrhona.
Baking chocolate comes in the form of a bar, block, coins, or chips. I usually buy the bar or block type if I’m doing bulk baking since it’s more cost-effective to buy in bigger quantity or when I want to make some chocolate shavings for garnish. Chocolate coins are best to use when you need melted chocolate for ganache or frostings. Mini chocolate chips are usually mixed in with the cookie or muffin batter.
11. Fruits and Nuts
Fruits and vegetables are obviously best when it is fresh and ripe but with a few exceptions. Overripe bananas give the best flavor when baking banana bread. You can also freeze them for later use. Fruit fillings are also great to stock if you have extra space in your cupboard. Use them as topping for cheesecakes and custards or as filling for pies and tarts. Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, blueberries, and cherries are excellent add-ons and have long shelf-life
Walnut halves, pecans, pistachios, crushed peanuts, and sliced or slivered almonds are also great add-ons to cookies and pastries.
You may already have ” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>salt in your pantry for use in savory dishes but salt actually plays an important role in baked goods. It balances the flavor and helps with the color of the crust. Use fine grain salt for easier distribution with ingredients.
Spices used in baking are usually in powder form unless otherwise specified.
14. Edible Decor
What’s a cupcake without sprinkles? Nonpareils, jimmies, pearl, and crystal sugar, these are all available in plain or assorted colors.
15. Food Coloring
Keep a set of the basic liquid food colors (red, yellow, blue and green) on hand. You’ll probably want to keep a bigger bottle of the red food color though if you’re a fan of red velvet cakes.
Unsweetened and unflavored gelatin is used in mousses, custards and pudding desserts. The gelatin is bloomed or soaked in cold water prior to melting and is incorporated into the mixture to add stability and form. The more gelatin you add, the firmer is the mixture when set.
Powdered gelatin is more commonly available in groceries. Professional kitchens prefer to use gelatin leaves or sheets as it produces a clearer product. I usually use powdered gelatin for home baking unless I’m making a glaze, in which case a gelatin leaf will produce a more desirable result.
17. Flavor Extracts
Whole vanilla bean is obviously best to use but is also very expensive. Vanilla bean paste, which is a blend of scraped vanilla pod and vanilla extract is a great alternative for use with custards and flans such as creme brulee or panna cotta.
But for everyday use in cakes and pastries, a good quality pure vanilla extract is my choice.
Also great to have some coffee, lemon, mint, peppermint, and almond extracts on hand for when you want variation.
Rolled oats: Use for cookies, breakfast pastries, granola, muesli, and even on pancake batters.
Butterscotch chips: I love toffee so I always keep some butterscotch chips in stock. I like using it as a replacement for chocolate chips in cookies, brownies, and muffins.
Unsweetened shredded coconut: Use for macaroons and as an add-on or garnish in carrot cake.
Peanut butter: I prefer to use the creamy kind for peanut butter cookies and buttercream frosting.
Graham crackers: I usually buy the packaged graham cracker crumbs to save time grinding. Use for a cheesecake base.
Cream of tartar: Cream of tartar is commonly used with baking soda as a leavening agent but since most recipes would already have another acidic ingredient to activate the baking soda, it’s usually left out. I normally use it as a stabilizer for egg whites or meringue.
Sour cream: Sour cream adds richness and flavor to muffins and cakes. It can also be added to frostings and toppings.
Jams or marmalade: These can be used as filling or toppings for cakes, tarts, and cookies.
Espresso powder: Use for coffee or mocha-flavored cakes and desserts.
Coconut cream: I like to keep coconut milk on my pantry not just for tasty curries, but when I want to make some kakanin or Filipino rice cakes. It’s a common ingredient in Asian-inspired desserts.
I hope you find this list helpful! Download a FREE printable list below: