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Creating a Well-Stocked Pantry for the Home Baker
Moving into a new home, especially if it's your first one, means making sure that you have everything you need to keep it all running smoothly. For someone who likes to bake at home, whether it be bread, pies, cakes or other pastries, there are certain staples that every kitchen pantry should have, and a few that make nice additions as well. Consider the following when setting yourself up to do some home baking.
Have the Right Tools on Hand
Before buying flour, sugar and everything that goes into your baked goods, it s a good idea to make sure you have all the pans, utensils and other hardware that you will need for the things you wish to bake. As far as appliances go, you should have two different types of mixers: a handheld mixer and a stand mixer. A handheld mixer is useful for making batters, whether it's for cakes and brownies or even waffles and pancakes. A stand mixer is ideal when making dough, such as for bread and pizza. A standard 5-quart stand mixer is usually big enough for most home baking needs.
Electric mixers aren't the only way to mix things for baked goods, so you'll want to have a couple of different-sized whisks for when you want to mix things by hand. A 12-inch and a 9- or 10-inch balloon whisk are ideal for making batters, whipping egg whites and making whipped cream. Other utensils you'll need include spatulas, wooden spoons, measuring cups and spoons, cookie scoops, dough cutter/pastry blender and pastry knife.
Other essentials you'll need or should consider having include rimmed baking sheets, cookie sheets, cooling racks, silicone baking mats, cake pans (including round, square and springform cake pans), loaf pans, muffin pans, pie pans, Bundt cake pan, oven-safe ramekins, oven thermometer, food scale, flour sifter, rolling pin and several mixing bowls. A pastry bag with different pastry decorating tips is a nice addition for anyone who wants to decorate cakes and cookies.
A Flour and Sugar Primer
After securing the hardware, you'll want to get everything you need to have on hand in your pantry. Flour is the main component, but there are many different ones to consider. As the name implies, all-purpose flour (sometimes called AP flour) is an all-around useful flour for most baked goods. Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour that comes with baking powder and salt already mixed in and is a timesaver for home bakers. Cake flour is essential for making cakes and light pastries because it creates the delicate crumb that most cakes are known for. Bread flour is the basis for many different types of bread and denser pastries. Oat flour is a good flour to use for people who want gluten-free baked goods. Along this same line, there are also nut flours, such as almond flour.
Sugar is another staple with many variations. Like all-purpose flour, granulated sugar is the multi-purpose sugar used in most baked goods. It is sometimes referred to as white sugar or refined sugar. Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses mixed in and comes in two varieties: light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. The other most popular sugar to consider is powdered (or confectioner's) sugar, which is granulated sugar reduced to a fine powder and then blended with corn starch. It is ideal as the base for frostings and icings. For diabetics and those following a low-sugar diet, there are sugar substitutes like stevia and sucralose that work like sugar in baked goods. Honey and corn syrup are other sweet additions often used in baked goods.
An Abundance of Staple Items
While flour and sugar are the principal pantry items for baking, they are not the only ones. Other key ingredients include salt (table salt and kosher salt), baking powder, baking soda, corn starch (or other powdered starch), cocoa powder, cornmeal and spices. Good baking spices to have on hand include cinnamon (both ground and in stick form), ground nutmeg, ground and whole cloves, ground ginger, ground allspice and ground anise. Cream of tartar, also called potassium bitartrate, is useful when whipping egg whites for meringues. Extracts like vanilla extract and almond extract are useful flavoring agents, and having a few vanilla beans on hand is a good idea, too.
Other items that make your pantry complete include graham crackers, peanut butter, vegetable oil and nonstick vegetable oil spray, vegetable shortening, maple syrup, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, dried fruit (raisins and dates are good choices), nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts are the most common), rolled oats, shredded coconut and food coloring. In the refrigerator, eggs (or egg substitute), butter, milk, half and half, heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream and fresh fruit and vegetables (think zucchini bread) round out the staples that complete the ideal baker's shopping list.