Tuesday, October 4, 2011

{31 days} Stocking Your Pantry: Baking Essentials

This is probably my favorite bunch of goodies in my pantry – all the key ingredients that come together so that I can make just about anything I want to from scratch. 

If you are preparing to make foods from scratch, you’ll need:

  • Baking Soda
    • Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which reacts with acids in your baking dishes. 
    • When the reaction occurs, CO2 gas is released into your batter, those bubbles get trapped, causing the batter to rise & expand, similar to what yeast does in bread recipes.  However, the reaction with baking soda is much faster (& often happens twice – once at room temp & once when heated) so it’s used in “quick” breads, muffins and pancakes. 
    • In order for baking soda to work, it needs an acidic substance – buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, etc., add the acid which sparks the chemical reaction leading to CO2 production.   
    • Baking soda also contributes to the nice “golden brown” color we often watch for in baked goods.  Want to know more, check out this link
  • Baking Powder
    • Baking powder is baking soda + a salt + a starch.
    • Functionally, baking powder acts similarly to baking soda, in that it releases CO2 gas bubbles into your dough which helps promote rising. 
    • The key difference?  Baking powder contains the necessary acid in a powdered form!  The starch is present (often corn starch) to prevent the reaction from happening in the box. 
  • Corn Starch
    • Is the starch from a corn grain. 
    • This is key if you are thickening foods – like gravy or pudding.  It gives you a more translucent thickener than using flour. 
    • For lump-free thickening, always mix corn starch with COLD water or milk!
  • Salt & Sea Salt
    • Sea Salt – coarser grains yield the need to use less salt, hence the excitement over using sea salt.  Gram for gram, however, sea salt contains the same amount of sodium as table salt.
    • Table Salt – we have some, and use it occasionally.  Good to have on hand. 
  • Powdered Milk
    • This one doesn’t get used too often, but I have a number of bread recipes that call for powdered milk. 
  • Applesauce
    • While we make our own applesauce to eat, I keep a few jars of all-natural (unsweetened) applesauce in our pantry at all times for use in baked goods.  It’s a simple way to reduce the oils/butters in recipes while increasing the moisture content and also getting another spoonful of fruit! 

We buy most of these baking essentials in bulk because we find we go through them quite quickly in our kitchen with all the baking and cooking we do.  Plus, they cost less in bigger portions, which is always a win for our pocket book. 


A few recipes focused on these pantry staples include:

{This amazing waffle recipe uses corn starch in place of some of the flour, and uses both baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk to yield a fluffy crunchy waffle with a nice golden brown color}. 

{This rich and amazing dark chocolate cake – note, that description comes from a vanilla-loving girl – is made with white whole wheat flour, applesauce as a oil replacer and uses both baking soda and powder coupled with the acidic cocoa powder.  The frosting recipe relies on powdered sugar – which uses corn starch as the starch!}

Do you have any other baking staples in your kitchens that I’ve missed?  We’ll be talking spices and oils later this week. 


  1. Hi! I keep cocoa as a staple. Also, yeast and cream of tartar. The chocolate cake looks incredible!

  2. OK, why am I just now seeing this Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake you speak of?!? I must have missed this when you posted it! I need that today with a big glass of milk. ;)

  3. I love your 31 Days Topic. I wasn't feeling "inspired", so I'm sitting it out this time. I think your posts are so helpful!

  4. Vanilla! I love adding a splash to pancake mix. And I also need a slice of your dark chocolate cake with a big glass of milk. :)

  5. I agree with adding vanilla (love me some vanilla!!) as well as oatmeal (steel cut, old fashioned, and quick) We use the steel cut oats for breakfast, the other 2 for different baking needs.

  6. Sugar, yeast, cocoa, vanilla, cornmeal . . . canned pumpkin and baby food prunes!
    Although I love apples I really loathe smelling apple when I'm eating chocolate cake . . . or any other baked good.
    Baby food prunes [you could make your own I guess - but they're an easy substitute and come in convenient sizes] are an excellent fat substitute in chocolate baking - and pumpkin works well when you sub it in as well - less aroma from these

  7. Very informative! I'm super impressed that you know this stuff. And I sometimes use applesause instead of oil, too. I think it's a healthier option and I can't really taste a difference but do llike the texture a bit better in brownies and things. Less greasy... which should translate to healthier - even though you really couldn't call brownies healthy. *lol*


Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you; especially how you're finding JOY in your kitchen.

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