I bake a lot as a stress reliever. There’s no better way to get out some built up rage than kneading bread dough, rolling out cookies, or mixing batter. And when you’re done, you get a yummy treat at the end. It’s seriously the greatest antidote for a bad mood. But bad moods don’t fit into meal planning. So I keep my kitchen stocked with all the basics in case of a baking emergency. I call it my Baking Survival Kit. Here’s everything you’ll need to stock your pantry, to always be able to whip up something quick, easy, and delicious.
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Fill Your Fridge
Eggs: I keep a dozen in stock, and buy a new dozen when I drop below six. It takes five egg yolks to make ice cream (I know, that’s not baking, but sometimes I have ice cream emergencies too) and that can quickly cut down a supply.
Butter: I only buy unsalted, and I always have a stockpile. I keep a box in the fridge, and one in the freezer, and a stick out on the counter. When I run out in the fridge, I move the freezer box there, and then immediately put it on the grocery list. Some recipes can use four sticks, so having them in stock is so important. Also, we can use it for cooking and spreading on toast as well. Unsalted butter means we can control how much salt goes into all our food, not just sweets.
Fruit in season: I don’t always bake with fruit, but it’s always a fun addition, and can be used in pies, crisps, cookie bars, and more. I like to have apples around in the fall, berries in the late spring, and stone fruit in the summer. If I don’t use it in a baking project, fresh fruit is always a good snack too!
Milk and Heavy Cream: We’d keep milk around anyway, since my husband drinks it for literally every meal, so heavy cream might be the strange one here. But it’s necessary for a quick peanut butter pie filling, custard, or chocolate ganache. It’s also versatile: I don’t keep buttermilk around, but I can whip up cream in it for a quick Irish soda bread!
Yeast: This one is optional for those who will want to make cookies, cakes, or brownies. But if breads and cinnamon rolls are your style, it’s definitely a necessity. Instant yeast is the easiest to work with and most versatile. You can use it in a bread machine and substitute it in most recipes that call for active.
Bulk Up on Basics
For all of these items, I keep a large reusable canister full, and an extra bag in the back of the pantry. Once I empty the canister, I refill it with the backup, and then immediately add more to the shopping list. This helps me to never run out, as long as we stick to the system! I use these airtight canisters from OXO, which keep everything fresh.
All purpose flour: This is pretty obvious, since it’s used in nearly all baking recipes. And I go through it way faster than I expect. Bread can use eight cups of flour. That’s insane! I never want to run into a situation where I have to run out and get more because my dough is too sticky to roll out. It’s also versatile. You can add cornstarch to make it cake flour, or vital wheat gluten to have it act as bread flour.
White Whole Wheat Flour: A bit unexpected, but sometimes I like the more well-rounded flavor and added health benefits that whole wheat can provide. Plus, it’s easy to swap into a simple cookie or brownies recipe by simply replacing all or some of the AP flour. I’d love to keep more wild flours on hand, like spelt and rye but they don’t have the same shelf life. I’ll buy those for an interesting recipe, but white whole wheat is a staple.
Granulated, Brown, and Confectioner’s Sugar: White sugar is pretty obvious, since it’s in almost every recipe. I don’t like using substitutes or artificial sweeteners; I just don’t think they taste as good, and I like to indulge. I tend to buy dark brown sugar because I can cut it with white if needed. Confectioner’s is necessary for frosting, a quick glaze, or dusting.
Prep Your Pantry
Baking soda and Cornstarch: Most recipes call for some combination of baking soda and baking powder. But did you know you can make your own baking powder with equal parts baking soda and cornstarch? Plus, cornstarch is a more versatile ingredient to have around, since you can also use it to thicken soups.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Cocoa Powder: These are all you really need to add chocolate to your baked goods. Chocolate chips can be mixed into batters and doughs, or melted down and mixed with heavy cream to make ganache. Cocoa powder can be used to add chocolate flavor throughout, such as in cakes.
Golden Raisins: I prefer fresh fruits to dried, but if I’m going to keep around one all year, it’s golden raisins. These are great to add to cookies, scones, and breads for a touch of sweetness. I like golden because the flavor is more fruity than their brown counterparts.
White or Apple Cider Vinegar: An acid like vinegar can be super important, because it can be used to add a brightness of flavor into your recipes and it reacts with baking soda to help your baked goods rise. Plus, you can use it to sour milk into a quick buttermilk, add it to frosting to make it glossy, and stabilize meringues. I prefer the flavor apple cider adds, but white is more versatile.
Vegetable Oil: There’s a twofold purpose to oil. First, you can use it in recipes, like waffles, muffins, or extra-moist cake. But also, oil is super useful for greasing pans. Vegetable oil has a neutral flavor, so it’s a good choice to always have on hand. As a bonus, you can use it for cooking on the stove-top as well, such as toasting nuts.
Quick Oats: My oats of choice when it comes to most baking are quick oats. These can be used easily in muffins and cookies and are perfect for sprinkling on top of breads for that multigrain feel. They work great in granola and baked oatmeal too!
Nuts of Your Choice: It’s always good to have a bunch of nuts on hand, but pick your favorites. I usually like pecans, almonds, and peanuts for some variety, but if I could only choose one it would be pecans. You can chops these finely and add to crusts, or roughly and add to muffins or on top of a sheet cake.
Vanilla Extract: There aren’t a ton of baking recipes out there that don’t include a teaspoon or so of vanilla. It really does make a difference in cakes, frosting, whipped cream, puddings, and more. The real thing tastes better, but imitation is more affordable.
Stock Your Spice Rack
Salt: You’ll be adding a pinch of salt to everything, so you’ll definitely want to have it around. Salt brings out the flavors around it, so sprinkling a bit on top of caramel or chocolate can accentuate those tastes. It’s a necessity in pie crusts and breads as well.
Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon goes in nearly everything I bake. It complements fruit bakes excellently, and adds a fun spiciness to muffins, sweet breads, and cookies. Plus, if you can’t make emergency cinnamon rolls, what’s the point of having a survival kit at all?
Allspice: To add more depth to fruit pies, cookies, and cakes, try allspice. It has a flavor that almost tastes like a combination of many other spices, hence the name. While it’s better to use things like cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, you can use allspice in a pinch for a similar flavor.
Cream of Tartar: Here’s another ingredient, that like cornstarch, you can add to baking soda to make your own baking powder. It’s also totally necessary for snickerdoodles, so you’ll definitely want to have it around.
There are a lot of other ingredients I have around in my own kitchen, but it’s more likely that they are leftover from a specific recipe, such as cream cheese, molasses, and various flavoring syrups and liqueurs. But those things aren’t necessities. With this set of ingredients, I can bake nearly anything without having to plan ahead or run to the store – perfect for those emergency sweet cravings!