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Pantry 101-Baking and Spices 1-5

Today I’m going to start discussing what staples to always have on hand.  We’ll start with Baking and Spices.  Even if you don’t “cook” or “bake”, you will need these things, trust me for just a little longer.  There are a lot of items here so I won’t talk about them all at once.  But you need to know why you use things to be able to properly apply them when you don’t have a recipe and are just winging it.  That is when you know you are a cook.

Here goes: Baking & Spice Staples

1. baking soda  –
2. baking powder
3. Cornstarch
4. yeast
5. flour
6. salt
7. pepper
8. peppercorns
9. sugar
10. confectioner’s sugar
11. brown sugar
12 light corn syrup
13. vanilla extract
14. ground cinnamon
15. whole nutmeg
16. ground cloves
17. powdered ginger
18. dried basil
19. dried oregano
20. chili powder
21. dry mustard
22. paprika
23. thyme
24. tarragon
25. dried dill
26. bay leaves
27. poultry seasoning
28. beef, chicken and vegetable bouillon
29. cream of tartar
30. unseasoned bread crumbs
31. unsweetened cocoa powder
32. unsweetened baking chocolate
33. chocolate chips

Most of these “dry” staples will last a long time if unopened, but if you open them use them or throw them a way every couple of years.  I removed pancake mix from this list because of a potential toxic mold that can grow in it.  Besides, pancake mix is easy to make and better than store bought.

Let’s start at the top:

Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents, which means they are added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to ‘rise’. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions.
1) Baking Soda

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey, lemon), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat!

2) Baking Powder

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch). Baking powder is available as single-acting baking powder and as double-acting baking powder. Single-acting powders are activated by moisture, so you must bake recipes which include this product immediately after mixing. Double-acting powders react in two phases and can stand for a while before baking. With double-acting powder, some gas is released at room temperature when the powder is added to dough, but the majority of the gas is released after the temperature of the dough increases in the oven.

 

How Are Recipes Determined?

Some recipes call for baking soda, while others call for baking powder. Which ingredient is used depends on the other ingredients in the recipe. The ultimate goal is to produce a tasty product with a pleasing texture. Baking soda is basic and will yield a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk. You’ll find baking soda in cookie recipes. Baking powder contains both an acid and a base and has an overall neutral effect in terms of taste. Recipes that call for baking powder often call for other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk. Baking powder is a common ingredient in cakes and biscuits.

Substituting in Recipes

You can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (you’ll need more baking powder and it may affect the taste), but you can’t use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder. Baking soda by itself lacks the acidity to make a cake rise. However, you can make your own baking powder if you have baking soda and cream of tartar. Simply mix two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.
This article was copied from the following website –  http://chemistry.about.com/cs/foodchemistry/f/blbaking.htm

There should be a date on the box of each.  If your soda or powder is more than 2 years old throw it out and buy more, it’s pretty cheap.

3) Cornstarch

Cornstarch is just what it sounds like: starch derived from corn. It is ground from the white endosperm at the heart of a kernel of corn.  It is so fine that if you pinch a little your fingers will squeak.   Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent in cooking, a health-conscious alternative to talc, and the main ingredient in a biodegradable plastic. It is also mixed with sugar to make powdered sugar.

In the kitchen, cornstarch can be used as a binder for puddings or similar foods, or as a thickener for sauces, stews, and similar dishes. A simple pudding can be made with milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Cornstarch can form unappetizing clumps in hot water, so if you need to thicken something that is already cooking on the stove, mixing a bit of cornstarch in a glass with cold water before adding it to the pot is advised.

copied from  http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-cornstarch.htm

I also use cornstarch to coat fish fillets before pan searing as a lighter substitute for flour.  It allows you to get a nice brown crust with out being heavy.

4) yeast
I think most everyone knows that bakers yeast is a dried active fungi culture that is used in making breads, beer and wine.  But, did you know that there are thousands of different yeast cultures in the air?  As a mater of fact the sour taste of Sourdough bread comes from yeast that is picked up from the air into the “starter” batter.  That’s why the sourdough in San Francisco for example is usually better than other places.

Yeast physiology can be either obligately aerobic or facultatively fermentative. There is no known obligately anaerobic yeast. In the absence of oxygen, fermentative yeasts produce their energy by converting sugars into carbon dioxide and ethanol (alcohol). In brewing, the ethanol is used, while in baking the carbon dioxide raises the bread and the ethanol evaporates.”

That means when you soften dried yeast in 105 deg F water and add sugar as a food source, the culture becomes active and starts to reproduce.  The by-products of the reproduction are carbon dioxide and alcohol.  In baking the carbon dioxide trapped in the gluten web of the dough makes the bread rise and the alcohol evaporates.  In beer or wine making the alcohol is dissolved in the liquid and the carbon dioxide gas dissipates into the air.
5) Flour

Flour is a very important pantry staple.  You will use it in everything from, cookies to fried food to gravy.  Try to buy whole grain flours but you’ll probably need some white flour too.  There are white whole grain flours that are good.  You will want bread flour for making things that you want to rise, like bread, rolls, etc.  Bread flour has more gluten in it which forms long strings that stick together and trap the carbon dioxide in it making it rise.  Plain flour, either whole grain or white, can be used for anything else.  For example you’d want to use a low gluten flour like plain or cake flour to make a nice flaky biscuit or pie crust.   Everyone has their favorite brand, and some brands work better in different parts of the country.  I use White Lily brand because Darlene swears by it.  After we all stock our pantries we will share our biscuit making techniques and we’ll all become biscuits experts.   Trust me guys, nothing will impress a date more that when you knock out a batch of biscuits for breakfast or dinner.

I also recommend getting some rice flour and some rye flour too.  The rice flour is great for making tempura batter and the rye flour make and interesting savory pancake.  We’ll discuss recipes later.

I’m going to stop here for the day because I want to elaborate on the next few ingredients.

Later
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