Whether you want to bake a cake before they all get home or you need to make a few boxes of cookies for that bake sale this weekend, there are a few things you’re always going to need for baking in your cupboard. Your best bet is to make a solid list, buy two of everything on it, then replenish as necessary. This is also the perfect list to build a wedding gift for a new bride! Throw in a few of your favorite recipes, and you’ll have something she can use over and over again.
- Flour: You simply can’t bake any traditional recipe without at least having all-purpose flour on hand. You may find you have a need for other flours as time goes by and the recipes get more complex, but a few bags of all-purpose flour can go a long way toward the perfect baked treat. It’s important to note that the self-rising flour sits right next to the all-purpose flour on the shelf, so watch what you actually pick up carefully. All-purpose flour is far handier than the self-rising version, as you may have to make adjustments to the recipe without the former. If you’re goal is to compete on a baking reality show, you may also want to include other kinds of flour in that including cake flour, bread flour, and pastry flour.
- Sugar: Like flour, almost everything you bake will have at least a little sugar in it, even things you wouldn’t traditionally consider like breads. There are almost as many kinds of sugar out there as there are types of flour, but for most baking recipes, you’ll find that granulated sugar is king. You may also want to keep powdered sugar on hand to make icing and other toppings, too.
- Salt: From the moment you start cooking, you’re going to find a little salt in almost everything you make. The sweetest and often inexpensive cookies recipe will often call for a teaspoon of salt. Wonder why? Salt actually brightens the flavor of almost everything, including baked goods. While you’ll often use kosher salt or sea salt in your main dishes, you only want to go with table salt for your cookies so you don’t have to make any recipe conversions.
- Baking Powder: This ingredient acts as a leavener in lots of different kinds of recipes, so you have to keep it on hand. You’ll find it in everything from biscuits to various kinds of cookies, and it’s tough to do without.
- Baking Soda: This, too, works to keep everything high, fluffy, and delicious, and you’ll often find recipes that call for some of this and the baking powder together to make a recipe just a bit better. The best part of this ingredient, though, is that it can always be used in other ways in your household too. It’s the perfect way to keep your refrigerator fresh, your stove scrubbed, and even your toilet bowl clean!
- Vanilla: If you’ve ever opened a bottle of vanilla extract, you’re likely to know why this is one of the most used ingredients in baking. The aroma alone is heavenly, and the spicy delicacy of the flavor is certain to please you wherever you use it. If you plan to bake lots of cookies for the holidays or any other reason, make sure you have plenty of vanilla on hand.
- Shortening: You may find this ingredient to be a bit controversial, but many baked goods call for a bit of fat. The debate is typically among shortening, butter, and lard. There’s no clear winner, but if you plan to do lots of baking, you can’t do it without a can of shortening.
There are actually a number of other ingredients you could add to this list. Peanut butter is used in lots of baking recipes, as is corn syrup. Many people also keep almond extract on hand and other products like yeast. Your best bet is to build a repertoire of recipes you love, then see what you need to add to your list of ongoing staples.