Let's STOCK this pantry!
October 28, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

What baking staples should I have on hand?

My wife and I were given a Kitchenaid stand mixer for our wedding, and I'm totally stoked to have it and start doing real weekly baking. I hate running out to the store to get ingredients every time I find that I need them, so I need to know what kinds of things I should buy in bulk. If I want to make, say, molasses cookies at the drop of the hat I don't want to suit up and run to the store.

Things I intend on making include, but are definitely not limited to: Cookies, cupcakes, real cakes, breads (SO MANY BREADS,) muffins, et al. You know, the basics.

I'm okay with having to run out to get blueberries and bananas for blueberry banana nut bread. I'm okay with having to pick up things that will go bad, like blueberries and bananas. I just need to know what to grab in bulk that will keep.

Thanks in advance, if I could I would make every one of you guys delicious bread.

(Favorite baking recipes are acceptable answers, too!)
posted by InsanePenguin to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Baking powder (is not baking soda.)

Making your own powdered sugar is a considerably bigger pain in the ass than buying powdered sugar.
posted by griphus at 8:53 AM on October 28, 2011

Funny-- the amazing J. Kenji Lopez-Alt just had an article about pantry-stocking on Serious Eats today. His list is much MUCH wider-ranging than what you'll probably be looking for, but the "baking" section is a start.
posted by supercres at 8:54 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Several types of flour, including cake flour, all purpose, and wheat.

Probably my two favorite things to bake are popovers and gougeres.
posted by mattbucher at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2011

These feel really obvious to me, but I like to have flour, sugar (white and brown), baking powder, baking soda, cornmeal, cocoa, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.), yeast, cocoa, chocolate chips, extracts (vanilla is mandatory; I also like almond and mint) and nuts (I like to buy them in bulk and store them in the freezer). If you want to do lots of bread, I like the recipes and resources at King Arthur.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:56 AM on October 28, 2011

flour, sugar (granulated, brown, confectioner's), butter (for some reason i ALWAYS have to get butter!!), eggs, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, chocolate chips/other cookie things (nuts can go rancid, but not SUPER quickly so you can have pecans/walnuts on hand for a while if you think you'll use them), baker's chocolate, cupcake liners (i only use them if i'm going to hand out muffins/cupcakes, but i NEVER seem to have them, very annoying) ...
posted by oh really at 8:57 AM on October 28, 2011

Several kinds of flour - all purpose, bread, flour, whole wheat.

Sugars - white, brown, honey, molasses.

Leavening - Baking soda, baking powder, yeast.

Fat - unsalted butter, shortening

Also chocolate, nuts, dried fruits, sesame and poppy seeds, spices.
posted by jon1270 at 8:57 AM on October 28, 2011

Keep flour, sugars and/or syrups, baking powder/baking soda, basic spices, raisins, almonds, and dry yeast in reserve. If making bread, add various wholemeal kinds of flour to this (or grains if you have a mill).
Store them dry, and in well-closing containers, if there's a risk for bugs (during my time in Ithaca, stuff would begin to crawl pretty soon; here in Sweden not so). Buy everything else when you need it. Evaluate what you've done after four months or so, and adjust.

(And try to find a source for fresh yeast...)
posted by Namlit at 8:58 AM on October 28, 2011

I'm a casual baker but always have on hand:

Flour (white, wheat, and bread)
Sugar (white and brown)
Vanilla (buy extra!)
Cocoa powder
Choco chips, nuts, other mix-ins
Baking powder
Baking soda
Wheat germ
Vinegar (you can also mix this with milk to make buttermilk)

With those ingredients you have the basis for pretty much anything!
posted by tetralix at 8:58 AM on October 28, 2011

Do you have a costco membership? Costco is AWESOME for baking staples.

- A big bag of AP flour and an airtight container to keep it in that you can actually scoop and level over without making a mess.

- Unsalted butter. Buy it when it's on sale or in bulk (Costco sells 4 lb boxes) and keep it in the freezer. Defrost a pound at a time in the fridge.

- Yeast. It's crazy cheap at Costco in a big bag; keep it in the freezer, too, in an airtight container.

- At least a liter of neutral vegetable oil.

- Shortening

- Dried fruit

- Nuts can be kept in the freezer indefinitely; toast a handful at a time as needed.

- Buttermilk, which you can also freeze in 1-cup quantities if you don't use it often.

- Molasses, white and brown sugar, powdered sugar. Keep the sugars in airtight containers on the shelf.

- A good collection of baking spices.

- Baking chocolate, of the type you like.

- Vanilla, other extracts as you like.

- And keep eggs around!

If you are going to make a lot of bread:

- Seek out a source for large (50lb) bags of good bread flour. A friendly bakery might be able to hook you up. The costco bread flour kind of sucks; at the grocery store, King Arthur's Sir Lancelot is always a good choice. Airtight container, too.

Other things: Get yourself a kitchen scale (digital, not spring) that will weigh individual grams and 1/8ths of an ounce. Baking by volume is SO MUCH BETTER.

If you anticipate making a lot of batter breads and cookies, it's worth finding a bowl-scraping beater blade for your mixer (the plastic kind with the rubber squeegees on each edge). Makes mixing, especially in big batches, MUCH easier. And a second bowl, too, will make your life better.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:00 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bread Flour (Also might want to consider pastry flour as well. Don't substitute regular all purpose if a recipie calls for bread or pastry flour)

Baking Soda that hasn't been sitting in the fridge or freezer (or in my case the spice cabinet). I eventually took to storing it in a big ziplock bag.

You might also consider some useful supplies that aren't food:

Measuring cups
Plunger style measuring device
digital kitchen scale
Bowls to mix in
Tiny mason jars to put measured ingredients in.
Rolling pin
Dough Scraper
posted by royalsong at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2011

Oops, I forgot leaveners. You will need baking powder, baking soda, and possibly cream of tartar around.

Other flours as you like: Whole wheat, light and dark ryes, cornmeal, etc.

And don't forget salt!
posted by peachfuzz at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2011

I keep:

Flour: All-purpose and "better for bread"
Sugar: White, (light) brown, and powdered. (I don't like dark brown) Also honey and molasses.
Leaveners: Baking powder, baking soda, yeast
Dairy: Butter (I always have a back-up pound in the freezer in addition to butter in the fridge), Eggs, Milk. I have kids so I always have 2% in the fridge, which you can fudge most recipes with. I buy cream as needed because I don't go through it fast enough.
Oil: Canola and Olive; Pam and "Pam for baking" (flours & oils the pan at once)
Spices/Flavors: Vanilla extract, Almond extract, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Salt, etc.
Additives: M&Ms, semi-sweet chocolate chips, baking chocolate, walnuts, almonds (I store the nuts in the fridge, they seem to last longer), food coloring, sprinkles (whatever I had leftover from some other project -- right now I have multicolor jimmies, red hots, peppermint crumbles, and some chocolate sprinkle in there)

Also jelly comes up a lot in baking so I usually make sure I have a good baking-flavor jelly or jam (strawberry or raspberry for me) in my pantry, and I generally have enough peanut butter to manage peanut butter cookies. (My husband loves PB&J ... I just have to make sure he doesn't go through all the jelly or leave me with weird flavors.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 AM on October 28, 2011

Dried fruit of some sort - raisins, cranberries, etc. - can be a lifesaver.

A couple of weeks ago I started the pastry for a raspberry crumble and got my hand-picked "fresh" berries out of the fridge only to find out that they had MAJOR issues. Dried cranberries and leftover walnuts to the rescue... the result was a bit dry since the recipe called for fresh fruit, but still tasty.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:07 AM on October 28, 2011

Best answer: There have been kind of a ridiculously hilarious number of times in the past when I've needed to make an emergency baked good, and always having the following things on hand has made it possible without a trip to the store. I'm big baker, though, so this might be overkill for you.

-Whole wheat flour
-Brown sugar
-Unsalted butter (keep it in the freezer)
-Vanilla extract
-Trader Joe's pound plus 72% chocolate
-Nestle chocolate chips
-Cocoa powder
-Baking soda
-Baking powder
-Oatmeal (rolled)
-Crisco (unflavored)
-Corn syrup
-Powdered sugar
-Assorted spices (salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, chinese five spice, etc)

I also have a variety of decorating materials (food coloring, sprinkles) and marshmallows (for marshmallow fondant) for fancy cakes.

I also usually have yogurt and bananas, but those I have around for everyday eating anyway.

(To friends: this is how, when you call out of the blue and say, "I'll be there in a half hour," there are always piping hot brownies ready to come out of the oven when you walk in the door. ALWAYS PREPARED.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

(I'm glancing through the linked list)

I do usually have wheat flour -- but keep in mind whole-grain flours spoil faster than white flours -- and I do usually have Dutch-process cocoa in the winter. I bake a lot of chocolate goodies in the winter.

Cream of tartar if a must if you do much with eggs. I don't keep Crisco on hand because I mostly use butter in my favorite recipes; I consider Crisco a "buy it for special."

I always have "ReaLemon" lemon juice (and lime juice) in the fridge for flavoring (orange juice also comes up a lot); If you have white vinegar or lemon juice and milk, you can make a fake buttermilk.

I almost always have frozen cherries in the fridge (one of my favorite fast desserts requires frozen cherries) and I usually pick up some other frozen fruits when they're on sale so I usually have some if I need them. Also raisins and dried cranberries, for sure.

A lot of these things you can eat in other ways, too -- I put walnuts and dried cranberries on a salad, for instance, so I don't have to worry about finishing all my walnuts by baking lots of walnutty things.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2011

If you have various types of flour and sugar, plus regular ol' butter and eggs, you're good. Beyond that it depends what you like to bake.

Personally, I keep on hand unsweetened and dark chocolate (in bars, because chunks are usually better than chips); coconut; cornmeal; dried fruits including raisins and cherries; walnuts, pecans, and sliced almonds; and crystallized ginger. Also, for when it's hard to get out, powdered buttermilk and egg whites (Just Whites is a good brand).

When I got my stand mixer I plowed my way through the Flour Bakery cookbook.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:15 AM on October 28, 2011

I bake sweet stuff, and occasionally bread. Here's what's always in my baking drawer - apologies for the UK terminology.
  • Plain (all-purpose) flour, self-raising flour, strong (bread) flour.
  • Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda, I think), baking powder, instant yeast.
  • Caster sugar (white sugar), soft dark brown sugar, soft light brown sugar, icing sugar (powdered sugar).
  • Rolled oats.
  • Golden syrup, black treacle.
  • Plain chocolate chunks, milk chocolate chips, bars of high-cocoa-content plain chocolate, cocoa powder.
  • Vanilla extract. (Not vanilla essence.)
  • Sultanas, raisins, currants, glacé cherries, candied mixed peel, walnuts.
  • Ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground ginger, mixed spice.
  • Salt.
And the perishables I assume I have on hand:
  • Unsalted butter (though it's never been a problem to use salted butter instead, actually).
  • Milk.
  • Eggs.
Finally, for the actual baking stage (I assume you already have the tins, pans and trays you'll need):
  • Cupcake cases, muffin cases, loaf tin liners.
  • Greaseproof paper/baking parchment, for cakes of other shapes.
  • Some sort of spray or bottle of goop for greasing tins that can't be lined. (There would be no point in my naming a brand here.)

posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:17 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flours as above. Brown and white and icing sugars at the least -- I never use molasses. Ground almonds. A selection of nuts I like (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts). Cocoa. Good chocolate to melt. Chocolate chips. Baking powder and baking soda. Yeast. Corn starch. Oatmeal. Bran. Corn syrup. Cinnamon. Vanilla. Various extracts: lemon, orange, almond, maple maybe, mint if you like it. I usually have plain yogurt for things (also good as a sour cream replacement, a nice marinade), piles of unsalted butter, eggs, milk, buttermilk. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg. Pam to spray on occasionally (I usually use this or crisco instead of butter to grease). Cream I buy as needed, also fruit etc.

Other things:

You'll want 3 9" pans, which are the most common size. Flat pans to cook cookies on. A pizza stone. A pie plate. A set of brownie dishes, usually 8x8, 7x11, 9x13. Two bread pans. Cooling racks. If you have room, having two sets each of measuring cups and spoons is really convenient. A 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup measure for liquids.

Parchment paper, saran wrap, aluminum foil. It's good to have storage for a cake and for cookies. Muffins and cupcakes can usually share the cake storage, or you can buy something which holds the cupcakes individually.
posted by jeather at 9:23 AM on October 28, 2011

The only thing I keep that hasn't been mentioned are toothpicks. Great for testing doneness of quick-breads, and you can use them to keep cling-wrap off of cake frosting.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:29 AM on October 28, 2011

I just got a KitchenAid mixer for my wedding, too :)

Here's what's in my pantry, though it's a bit idiosyncratic:

Flours: whole wheat pastry flour, all purpose flour, cake flour, bread flour, yellow cornmeal, rolled oats (not really a flour, but it functions as one)

Sugar: Sucanat (use like brown sugar), organic light sugar (not exactly white, but close), molasses, honey, maple syrup, confectioner's sugar, golden syrup (use in place of corn syrup)

Baking stuff: baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, some kind of starch (tapioca, corn, arrowroot)

Flavorings: cloves (whole), nutmeg (whole), allspice, anise, cinnamon (ground and sticks), ginger (ground and fresh), cardamom (whole pods), mint extract, almond extract, some kind of citrus extract, vanilla extract, powdered cocoa, wheat germ, kosher salt, fleur de sel, very fine table salt, black pepper (yes, sometimes good in baked goods), many dried herbs

Fats: canola oil, safflower oil, extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil spray, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening

Refrigerated items: bottled pure lemon and lime juice (they are stable for 6 months in the refrigerator after opening), eggs, soymilk (I don't use milk), yogurt, lemons and oranges for zest, yeast

Freezer items: heavy cream, butter (I use both rarely; thawed cream doesn't whip well), applesauce (home made)

Additions: dried fruits of various kinds, including raisins, chocolate chips, nuts, fresh fruit


Sheet pans/cookie sheets, silpat, wax paper, parchment paper, tin foil.
Tart pan, cake pans, pie pans, loaf pans.
Steel mixing bowls, glass mixing bowls.
Wooden spoons, silicone spoon, bowl scraper spatulas. Bench scraper.
Coarse grater, fine grater.
Spatulas. Tongs.
Reusable silicone muffin cups.
Ice-cream disher.
Instant-read thermometer.
Little tiny custard cups that you can either bake in or put prepped ingredients in.
Mortar and pestle.
Measuring cups, measuring spoons.
posted by Cygnet at 9:30 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

King Arthur flour is the bomb. It's amazing to me how much difference there is in the different brands of AP flour.

Can I suggest a redundant set of measuring spoons and cups? I often find that -o noes- my tablespoon is coated with shortening residue and I have to interrupt my process to wash it, or something like that. I've often found myself thinking "okay, I have a half teaspoon - so six of those makes a tablespoon ...!"
posted by zomg at 9:31 AM on October 28, 2011

Came in here to endorse previously mentioned items, but also emphasize having silpat, parchment paper, and redundant measuring cups and spoons on hand. I've found odd size measuring cups and spoons to be a valuable addition to my baking kitchen.
posted by southpaw at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2011

A really good ergonomic cookie press, nthing the piston measuring cup (invaluable!), and there are special spatulas for taking cookies of the sheet, plus a "first-out" pie server thing that doesn't mess up the first piece you cut.

Check your me-mail; I'm sending a list that flipped people out when I posted it on another board.
posted by jgirl at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2011

Although I am generally against shortcuts in the kitchen (and paying a premium for said shortcuts), I am happy to plunk down an extra dollar or two for Baker's Joy, especially when I'm baking a cake in a fancy bundt pan.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2011

Lots of good suggestions; for me the absolute bare necessities are flour, salt, sugar, butter, eggs, and cinnamon; yeast, baking powder, cornmeal, rolled oats, baking soda and yogurt or buttermilk are close behind; for me, everything else is "nice to have".

And nthing parchment paper and cooking spray. They make life easier. As does the extra set of measuring utensils.
posted by mskyle at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2011


Google "Mace cake" +Chesapeake
(you will thank me)

I've posted the "Watergate Cake" recipe here before

Here's this:

Jell-O Cookies (I prefer lime, but you pick)
4 C. Sifted all-purpose flour
1 t. Double-acting baking powder
1.5 C. Butter
1 C. Sugar
1 pkg. (3 oz.) gelatin
1 egg
1 t. Vanilla
Additional gelatin
Sift flour with baking powder. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar and gelatin, cream well
after each addition. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing
after each addition until smooth. Force dough through cookie press onto ungreased
baking sheets. Sprinkle with gelatin. Decorate as desired. Bake at 400 degrees about 13
or 14 minutes, or until golden brown at edges. Store in loosely covered container.
Makes about 5-dozen cookies.
posted by jgirl at 1:21 PM on October 28, 2011

Also, I have always thought it would be handy to have a spare food processor bowl.

Agree on redundant measuring cups/spoons!
posted by jgirl at 1:23 PM on October 28, 2011

Very nice list by Cygnet up there! I'll suggest:

Cayenne powder, ⅛ tsp gives breads and biscuits a nice gentle heat.

Flavorings for buttercream: rosewater, espresso powder, &c.

Hand mixer – yes, you have the stand mixer, but it comes in handy for quick blending.

Glass bowl for Kitchenaid mixer – really quite nice, and has lid for storage

Bowl-scraping beater blade – very clever, scrapes sides of bowl as it beats, there are three models on the market: the original SideSwipe, the Metro (which I'm pretty happy with), and now KitchenAid has their own.

Bamboo skewers – for testing doneness of cakes

Ove Glove – for pulling stuff out of the oven. I know, "As Seen On TV", but it's pretty great.

Lots of prep bowls – get them for $3 at a restaurant supply store.
posted by nicwolff at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2011

Oh, and consider a vacuum sealer, it's great for keeping brown sugar soft.
posted by nicwolff at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2011

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