I thought it would be cool to show you guys what use for what I like to call the Pantry Staples. Things like Sugar, Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Sea Salt and all the small stuff that you should have on hand in your pantry at all times. You may be wondering where you can get better versions of these besides the market. Well, today I'm giving you some links so you can go shopping! I am also going to give you links to a ton of kitchen scales, because I feel these are the most undervalued kitchen tool you can have. Everyone should have a scale, not only because all of my recipes require one, but because you can use it for so many other things besides baking! Think - making exactly 4 oz. hamburgers, perfectly proportioned meatballs so they all look the same (and cook the same), measuring your yogurt into your smoothie so you get the perfect serving size, dividing dough if you're making pizzas or breads at home... and the list goes on.
How many of you have a kitchen scale at home? Points to you if you already do! If you don't, you should really invest... the only $10 or so that it costs to get one! They are so affordable and they will make baking so much easier for you. I always say, and I stand by it, that the most common mistake home bakers make is not measuring their ingredients properly. And, while I could explain to you how you are supposed to measure flour a bunch of different ways - if you are at home and you don't "get it" even if you think you do understand, then your desserts will suffer. And if you have no one there to properly show you, then you could be measuring wrong for everything! So, to avoid this common error it is so simple - just weigh your ingredients. All of my recipes are written with weights, it's how we bake here at Dessert'D and it's how I recommend everyone to bake at home. Once you do it, you will realize it is so much easier than measuring! Also, it makes for less dishes because you don't have a bunch of measuring cups out - just one bowl on top of your scale.
So, here are some picks for kitchen scales. I am giving you different options depending on your needs, ranging from the lowest priced ($10) to a higher priced ($36) version that we use in the bake shop. I promise you, measuring by weight is so easy and fun!
My Weigh Kitchen Scale - $36 (these are the scales we use at the bake shop and I use at home)
Aluminum Free Baking Powder & Baking Soda
Frontier Co-Op is where we buy so many of our small but crucial ingredients. Baking Powder is just one of them and you can buy Aluminum Free Baking Powder here. If you are a baker, then you know you need both Baking Powder and Baking Soda. You can also find an Aluminum Free Baking Powder from Frontier Co-Op right here. Baking Powder and Baking Soda are not interchangeable, so make sure you have both on hand and follow recipes to make sure you are using the correct one. If you're unsure which one to use or if you're creating your own recipe, check out this post on Bob's Red Mill that explains the differences really well and the science behind it. But, if you want a little cheat sheet, then here's some quick and easy guidelines we follow at the Bake Shop.
If you're baking cakes or cupcakes, use Baking Powder.
If you're baking anything with Dutch Cocoa (this trumps Brown Sugar), use Baking Powder.
If you're baking cookies with Brown Sugar or Honey use Baking Soda.
If you're baking cookies with only cane sugar or powered sugar, use baking Powder.
A lot of people think salt is bad. That is not the case. If you are baking or cooking, you should be using a Sea Salt. You can get different types of sea salt, coarse or fine, depending on what you are baking or cooking. Sea Salt is way better than Iodized Salt because Iodized Salt can make food taste salty, and it doesn't actually bring out flavor. Salt is meant to bring out flavor, so stick to sea salt so the salt can do it's it's job. I prefer to use Table Grind Sea Salt for baking (for inside everything). This is a fine sea salt. You could also get a coarse version of this as well if you like to top your baked goods with larger salt crystals. But, if you're just going to buy one then the Table Grind Sea Salt is the one you can use for everything. You can find my favorite from Frontier Co-Op here.
All of our spices at the bake shop come from either Simply Organic or from Frontier Co-Op. And, Simply Organic is actually owned by Frontier Co-Op. The best thing about Frontier is that it is a co-op so anyone can join to get discounts. You can find these products at most health food stores, but if you can't then you can just shop online on their website. Things like Organic Cinnamon, Organic Ginger, Organic Cloves and the list goes on... I even buy Organic Black Pepper here, and as I mentioned above our Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Sea Salt also all come from them as well. So, it's really a one stop shop for all your spice needs. You can sign up for the co-op here.
We get the majority of our chocolate from a small company in San Luis Obispo called Mama Ganache Chocolates. The best part is they sell retail too! So, you can order their chocolates on their website here. All of their chocolate is certified organic and fair trade. Their Dark Chocolate is soy free, which is an added bonus! And, they even make their Milk Chocolate in house.
We buy our Organic Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips from Sunspire, they are also certified organic and fair trade as well. You can find Sunspire at most markets or health food stores as well as online at places like Amazon.
Organic All Purpose Flour
For most all of our cookies we use an organic all purpose flour. Most of these will be very comparable. The company we use only sells in bulk, but King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill both make an organic all purpose flour that work well. You could also buy the O Organics All Purpose Flour if you shop at Vons or Albertson's. Sometimes that's the one I buy for my house and it's great!
Natural Cake Flour
So no one makes an organic cake flour except one company called Grain Brain. I bought a sample of their white cake flour, but I didn't like it because it had a very sour taste to me. So, until someone else comes out with an organic cake flour and it's actually good, we will be using the best natural cake flour we can find. Right now, I have two that work. We usually use Bob's Red Mill Super Fine Unbleached Cake Flour and this one is my favorite because it's super fine and has a very silky texture and a very neutral flavor. But, King Arthur's Unbleached Cake Flour is also good - but it is also more expensive.
This is one the products that I am not super particular with brand as most that I have tried are all very similar and work great. Even if you buy your local grocery store's brand of organic sugar, I'm sure it will be fine. The brand we purchase is not available for retail. But, I do love Wholesome Sweeteners as a brand and their sugar is awesome. I also love the Costco Kirkland brand Organic Sugar, theirs is usually very fine which I love. But, if you end up with the O Organics Sugar as well, I've also used that in a pinch and it's great too.
For organic dark brown sugar, Wholesome Sweeteners is the brand to use. Make sure you are also using dark brown and not light brown sugar, as the flavor is very different.
For Organic Molasses the only kind we use is Wholesome Sweeteners. You can find this at most health food stores or even online on Amazon, click here. It is actually blackstrap molasses, if you are going to purchase a different brand, though Wholesome doesn't label it that way - it is.
Anyone that knows me, knows I am obsessed with Coconut. So, in my pantry there is always coconut of some kind. We use two kinds at the bake shop - both fine shredded and wide flake. It's kind of a personal preference which one you like best, so I always have both on hand because there's certain things I like one for better than the other. Sun Organic Farm is where I buy both kinds of coconut. You can find Organic Unsweetened Fine Shredded Coconut here. And you can find Organic Unsweetened Wide Flake Coconut here. If you think you need sweetened coconut, you are completely wrong. Most people say they don't like coconut, but it's really the sweetened versions they don't like. I can't even count anymore how many people's minds I have changed about coconut, simply by having them taste the unsweetened versions. With this type of coconut, you don't get that fake coconut flavor. It's pure and it's delicious and coconut has amazing health benefits for you such as amino acids and protein, it's a source of iron, it has potassium and more. So, give this organic unsweetened coconut a try if you've never loved coconut and I bet it will change your mind!
Organic Raw Honey
It's always best to buy raw honey locally whenever you can. Picking some up from your local Farmer's Market or even your health food store is the best way to go. There's brands out there that are good that you can pick up at your market, but if you suffer from any allergies raw local honey can help you with those! Bees end up covered in pollen spores, which are then transferred to their honey. So eating local honey can build up immunity through gradual exposure to your local allergens. The reason you want to buy Raw Honey is because the Raw Honey hasn't been pasteurized (which basically means heated), so it contains so many more vitamins, enzymes and powerful antioxidants.