“This recipe calls for too many things.” “I don’t even have half the ingredients!” “It costs $24 to make a pan of homemade brownies and a boxed mix is only $2!”
These are all things I’ve heard from friends responding to why they don’t want to bake anything from scratch. However, building your baking pantry doesn’t take much effort, and although it may feel like you’re spending a lot up front, the ingredients last a long time!
The Essentials (All Purpose Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda)
You can find at least one of these three ingredients in almost all baking recipes. Grab a 5lb bag of all purpose flour; you’ll use it for other tasks in the kitchen and it lasts forever. One can of baking powder will be plenty, and you don’t want to keep an open can for too long as it loses its oomph after a while. Baking soda is dirt cheap and it doubles as a cleaning product if your kitchen is dirty!
Spices (Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Salt)
Spices usually are the most expensive items on a shopper’s list. Picking up a few bottles can run up your bill an additional $10, and that’s on the conservative side. But they don’t need to be the pain point of your pantry-building adventure. I strongly urge you to seek out a health food or food coop store. These stores allow you to buy most ingredients in bulk.
Buying in bulk allows you to go to the store and scoop out your own quantity into a bag. It allows you to purchase exactly how much you want. It is also far cheaper than buying prepackaged spice bottles. For instance, I bought five different spices in bulk and spent $4. At Whole Foods, or even Trader Joe’s, the cost would have been over $10, easily. Most bulk sections of stores also have organic products.
I bought small spice jars from The Container Store to store my spices in. They each hold approximately 2oz, which is plenty to get you through a handful of recipes.
The Fats (Nonstick Spray, Vegetable Oil, Shortening)
If your recipe doesn’t call for butter, it probably calls for some type of oil. A good neutral flavored vegetable oil will serve your baking needs, as well as any frying you might have to do. Shortening is also included on this list for recipes such as pie crust or biscuits.
Something A Little Sweet (Honey & Sugar)
What would a baked good be without a touch of sweetness? You’ll want to pick up three kinds of sugar: white, brown (light or dark), and confectioner’s. White sugar is used for most recipes. Brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses incorporated, for times when you want extra richness. Confectioner’s sugar – also known as powdered or icing sugar – is a beautiful garnish, and allows for making ultra smooth frosting. Lastly, honey is occasionally needed to bring a unique floral element to the flavor.
Special Ordinary Ingredients (Cocoa Powder, Corn Starch, Oats, Yeast)
Although Britta and I don’t usually like chocolate, we are sometimes pressured into making chocolate treats. For those times, (and for everyone else who loves chocolate) you’ll want cocoa powder. Corn starch is an ingredient I always have to go out and buy last minute so this will save you that hassle. Oats add amazing flavor and texture to recipes, there are countless things you can do with them, plus they’re really cheap and last a while. Yeast makes an appearance on this list because of treats like homemade cinnamon rolls, for which you definitely need yeast.
A Superstar (Vanilla)
Vanilla gets its own category because it’s that important. If I could, I would drink vanilla (I’ve tried as a child and would not recommend this since it does not taste as good as it smells). A good quality vanilla can be a bit more expensive than the other items on this list, but it’s definitely worth the investment. More often than not, the vanilla flavor is the driving force for your recipe. Make sure you purchase real vanilla! The last thing you want is funky tasting cookies because you didn’t want to spend an extra few dollars on real vanilla extract.
The Final List
- All purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
- Corn starch
- Nonstick spray
- Oil (vegetable)
- Shortening (vegetable)
- Sugar (confectioners)
- Sugar (granulated)
- Sugar (brown)
- Vanilla extract