Week One of Eight in a series:
When it comes to baking, I love to try new recipes from time to time as well as make family favorites that have been passed down through many generations. And in just a few months, holiday “Baking Season” will be in full force, and I’ll bet that’s true for many of you as well. Every year, I covet a few new fancy or intriguing recipes to try out for Christmas gift-giving. But one thing that happens to me year after year is suddenly, it’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and I’m wanting to get my baking groove on. Then, I look through my pantry and realize in order to make all the cookies, cakes, pastries and quick breads that I have been dreaming of making for the season, I’m going to have to make a small investment to be ready for every-and-anything-holiday-baking. Many times, this investment suddenly goes to the back burner and ultimately gets shelved because it’s now Christmas season and I also need to budget for non-food gift giving and maybe a few new holiday decorations and the like. So, I end up making simple creations from ingredients that I already have on hand and when the supply is out, it’s over and yet again, I’ve missed a year of new and creative baking exploration.
Well, this year is going to be different! I’m going to start now, and week by week I’ll make small purchases toward getting my pantry into holiday-baking shape. So, if you have this same dilemma (please tell me I’m not the only one), hopefully this step-by-step plan will benefit you as well. We’ll take it slow and by the time it isn’t even Thanksgiving here in the states, our pantries will be chock full of (almost) everything we’ll need to make any fantastic baking bouffant creation from European Blitz Torte to your favorite Christmas or Hanukkah cookie, depending on your whimsical mood.
These lists will not be exhaustive, but I hope you’ll find it comprehensive and that by the time we’re at the ninth week, you will have at least 90% of what you need when you come up with the perfect baking recipe.
And speaking of baking recipes, first and foremost, we need to do at least some planning before we get started. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be coming up with new recipes I want to try, so I’ll really be looking through the ingredient list on these recipes in case there is some specialty item I might not otherwise buy. But I know I’m going to make Molasses Cookies as I do every year, so I’ll make sure to have enough unsulfured molasses in the pantry. My mom always makes pound cake, so she plans ahead for ingredients specific to that recipe, one of my best friends makes the best Buckeye chocolates, so I know baking chocolate and peanut butter go on her list. As our week-by-week stock-up lists continue, there’ll be weeks where you can incorporate your special needs in that week’s shopping list (like I’ll include molasses in this week’s Sugar shopping list), but I also know I want to try some new recipes. For instance, as we speak I’m in love with Annie Bell’s Baking Bible and will be trying many recipes this season from her terrific cookbook.
And my last comment before I talk about different sugars needed in your recipes is this, and I’m going to paraphrase from the above mentioned Baking Bible: ‘Baking is a team effort among the ingredients that go into your recipes. However simple or complex, the better the component parts, the tastier your confection will be. Each ingredient has something to say’. In other words, buy the best-quality ingredients you can afford.
Week One – Let’s get our sweet on, or in other words, SUGAR.
Baking recipes call for all types of sugar: Granulated cane sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar (dark or golden). The aforementioned are the “usuals”, but don’t forget honey, molasses, corn syrup and maple syrup if you think you’ll use them. I’m saving Decorator Sugar for the week that I’m calling “Bling” during the eighth week. So print out the list of sugar essentials and add to it if you need to. Go out there and get your Sweet-on! Then next week, let’s shop for the different types of flour that may be called for in baking recipes.
Cook’s note: Some folks may argue that it’s better to wait until early November to buy these items because most grocers put baking staples on sale for the holidays. Even with the sometimes minimal price reductions during the holidays, if I don’t spread my investment over a period of time, I just won’t make the large all-at-once purchase.
One last word before we get started. Good Dinner Mom is dedicated to making recipes using little or no sugar and eating healthy most of the time. (See my About page if you care about what I think on that subject.) But, I also believe that eating healthy can be balanced with occasional sweet indulgences and there are plenty of these on my blog. And even with the occasional sweet treat, using good ingredients goes a long way and I don’t skimp here or try to micro-manage the recipe to make it “lighter”. Just my two cents about that.
- -Granulated Sugar
- -Brown Sugar (golden and/or dark)
- -Confectioners or Powdered Sugar
- -Baker's Sugar or Ultrafine sugar (not interchangeable with regular granulated sugar)
- -Corn Syrup
- -Maple Syrup
Note: The drool-worthy pantry ideas featured during this series can be found here.