Besides the benefit of having freshly baked foods on hand, baking at home on a regular basis is healthy, therapeutic, and a great way to spend interactive time with your family. The first step to becoming a super baker is to have the right goodies in your pantry.
Be sure to regularly top up on these essential dry ingredients, and you’ll be able to whip up just about any staple recipe on a whim.
Always keep a good amount of white cake flour on hand as this is the staple ingredient for household favourites like pancakes, waffles and cookies. Cake flour is finely milled to remove all husks and should always be sifted before use, even if the recipe does not instruct you to do so. The extra fluffiness you get in your final product totally justifies the effort.
A lot of recipes call for self-raising flour, which is merely white cake flour with a raising agent and salt already added.
In a pinch you can make your own self raising flour by blending 1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt per cup of regular cake flour, stirring thoroughly.
Some recipes call for speciality flours like whole wheat flour, almond flour or cornflour. Keep these in smaller quantities depending on how much you need on a regular basis.
white cake flour keeps best when stored in an airtight container away from direct heat or moisture. Speciality flours are more prone to spoiling and should preferably be kept in an airtight container in the fridge once opened.
Ready for some science? Raising agents cause a chemical reaction that fills batter and dough with tiny gas bubbles. This is what makes baked goods, like bread or cake, rise as shown in the video below. Just about every recipe out there calls for a raising agent, so you’ll always want to keep these standard types on hand.
Baking soda, or bicarbonate of soda, is an alkaline chemical raising agent that activates when you combine it with acid and heat. Acidic ingredients that activate baking soda include fermented dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream, and yoghurt. You can however also activate baking soda with molasses, brown sugar, citrus juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar.
Baking powder is a convenient mix of baking soda, a powdered acid and corn-starch. When baking powder is the only raising agent in your recipe, you don’t have to add an additional acidic ingredient.
Yeast is a biological raising agent, most often used in bread recipes, and works much slower than baking soda or baking powder. Because it takes time for yeast cells to naturally metabolize and create carbon dioxide, dough made with yeast needs time to rise on its own before baking. Dry yeast powders can be stored at room temperature for months, but bear in mind the organic cells do eventually spoil. Always check the sell by date of yeast before you start baking.
Sweeteners and sugars
Raw, or brown granulated sugar is made from the juice of sugarcane that has been stripped of its natural molasses and heat-dried to a tan coloured crystalline state. Brown sugar can be further refined with water through a centrifugal spinning method to form white sugar, which is the standard sugar a recipe refers to unless otherwise specified.
Castor sugar is granulated sugar ground into tiny crystals that dissolve very quickly, making it ideal for sweetening meringues and whipped cream. However, if you ever run out of castor sugar and you need a small amount in a hurry, simply pulse the required volume of regular white granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to achieve the fineness of castor sugar.
Confectioners’ sugar, more commonly known as icing sugar, is ground into ultra-fine particles and combined with starch so it doesn’t cake up in packaging. This type of sugar is essential for creating frostings, icings and glaze. A dusting of icing sugar can also be used as a decorative finish on sweet baked goods.
If you’re trying to minimize sugar intake, a non-sugar-based sweetener, like xylitol, is a great substitute.
It seems unlikely, but salt is essential in creating all delicious sweet treats due to its flavour enhancing superpowers. It is however important that any salt completely dissolves in your batter, so a finer grain is preferable for baking purposes.
Iodated salt has minute traces of the element iodine mixed in for the health benefits thereof. As the presence of iodine does not affect the taste or success of baked goods, which you choose to use is up to you.
Although an advanced recipe would most likely need a trip to the shop, keeping a decent supply of these basic dry ingredients, all available at CAB Foods, will put you well on your way to becoming a sensational Super Baker. Of course, with a wide selection of specially created, easy to use and affordable Premixes available from the CAB Foods range, you may want to skip measuring out individual dry ingredients all together… promise we won’t tell a soul.