What Are the 7 Basic Baking Ingredients?
Having the right tools and basic ingredients for baking can give you an advantage in delivering perfect baked goods. This is why it is important to know which one you should always have in your pantry just in case your cravings strike. I know that many of you are into baking, so here is a list of ingredients that are essential in your day-to-day baking life.
What are the 7 basic baking ingredients? The 7 key baking ingredients are flour, leavening agents, sugar, salt, dairy, fats, and extracts and flavorings.
Essential Ingredients Every Baker Needs
When it comes to the essential ingredients in baking, there is a vast list of them, and it can get pretty overwhelming. If you are new to baking and are setting up your new kitchen to accommodate all your baking needs, you’ll be glad to know that there are only 7 essentials to keep in your pantry. These 7 ingredients will help you create your baking must-haves, like cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, and pancakes.
Following is a list of the essential ingredients that every baker must have, broken down into categories. Each category is divided into basic needs, and some have next-level ingredients.
There are many flours available out there, and as a first-time baker, you will be overwhelmed with different variations. A good-quality all-purpose flour is all you need, and it is the preferred flour by most home bakers. The good thing about all-purpose flour is that it lives up to its name. It can be repurposed and made into different specialized flours. You can store them in an airtight, moisture-proof container on a dark and cool shelf.
If you have all-purpose flour at home, you can make a lot of cookies, pancakes, and muffins. They are made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat. It is also light and has a fluffy texture from being milled to remove all the wheat germ and bran.
The next ingredient on this list is your leavening agent. These are responsible for making your baked products rise. When exposed to heat, they release gases that aerate your batters and dough. You need to have both baking powder and baking soda because they work differently.
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda is an alkaline chemical leavener, commonly known as sodium bicarbonate. It works well when you combine it with acid and heat. Acidic ingredients can activate the baking soda. These acidic ingredients include buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, molasses, brown sugar, cocoa powder, citrus juices, and vinegar.
2. Baking Powder
Baking powder is actually baking soda mixed with a powdered acid and some cornstarch. Just be mindful of the label that says “double-acting”; this kind of baking powder can form carbon dioxide bubbles when it’s mixed into the batter or dough. If your only leavener is baking powder, you do not need to add an acidic ingredient.
Yeast is a biological leavening agent that works slowly compared to other chemical leaveners. This is because it takes time for the yeast cells to metabolize and create their own carbon dioxide naturally.
Sugar is the sweetener for all your sweets, and there are many variations available on the market. There are refined sugar, raw sugar, and brown sugar, to name a few, and the difference in their sweetness levels varies.
Fine white sugars are known to dissolve smoothly, and they are perfect for cakes. On the other hand, brown sugars consist of molasses, so they are perfect for darker and chewier cookies.
1. Granulated Sugar
Granulated sugar is made from the juice of sugarcane or beets. This kind of sugar is stripped of its natural molasses and can be further refined to look white. If you are looking for sugar’s real color, you should expect a tan color or a little brown on the side.
2. Confectioner’s Sugar
Confectioner’s sugar is most commonly known as powdered sugar. It is ground into ultra-fine particles and combined with starch. Many bakers use confectioner’s sugar in their frosting and icing recipes. It can also be used as a dusting that makes every sweet prettier and more delicious.
3. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is a type of sugar that is refined but with molasses added. How much molasses you put in the mix will affect the range of colors it has. The flavor can be light-medium or dark brown.
Because most brown sugars have molasses in them, they are prone to clumping and even forming crystal lumps. To prevent this, store it correctly. Press the sugar firmly into the measuring cup or spoon for measuring purposes until it is fully compacted and level in your cup.
Salt is the most common ingredient in baking. You might be shocked to learn this, as you don’t want to have a salty taste in most of your baked goods. But you should never take salt for granted, as it can bring out the different flavors in your treats. Remember the rule of thumb. You need to throw in a pinch or two in any of your baked goods. Salt helps you to balance all the layers of sweetness in your cookies and cakes.
If you’re looking for the perfect salt, simply find a granulated salt. Many actually avoid using iodized salt because it has a distinct smell. You can use table salt when you try to measure salt for any kind of recipe you want to bake.
If you plan to bake, most of your baked goods will call for sour cream or buttermilk, but the best ingredient to always have in your pantry is a good old plain milk. It is preferable to have whole milk at home, as it’s the milk needed in most recipes. If you have milk as a base, you can replace lots of dairy ingredients.
1. Unsalted Butter
Unsalted butter is the default butter when baking unless recipes require you to have salted butter. Make sure to have a stockpile of these in your fridge, as you need butter in batters, pastry dough, cookie dough, and sometimes frostings. This will create a rich texture and flavor.
Milk gives all your batters their moisture. Whole milk produces a richer flavor compared to low-fat milk. However, there is always a 1:1 substitution to suit your preference.
Fats: Oil and Shortening
If you are looking for fats in baking, you have different choices. You can try to swap as much as possible. The essentials are unsalted butter and some other oil alternatives such as vegetable or canola oil and also some shortening. You can do some substitution here, but trade butter for an equal amount of shortening, or you can use 3 tablespoons of olive oil in place of each ¾ cup of butter.
Oil won’t work in place of solid fat, but you can use shortening in place of many oils. All you have to do is melt it in the microwave and then measure it as you would the oil. These fats are known to be shelf-stable and can live in your pantry for quite some time.
Extracts and Flavorings
The most frequently used flavoring in baking is pure vanilla extract, whether you prefer to have Madagascar, Mexican, or Tahitian, or even make your own. You need to have it in your cupboard, although it does not go into every kind of baked good. For spices, though, the true essentials are the classics like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spice preferences vary depending on the person, but you can also include allspice, cloves, and cardamom.
Baking is not that hard. You just need to have the core knowledge behind it to make it easier. As long as you have the basic ingredients at home, you are good to go and will be ready for your baking journey. Just remember that baking is a learning process, and you should frequently practice to come up with something delicious that you and your family will enjoy.