This may sound silly to say – but I can’t stress the importance of preparation. As with most work – transfer your skills from what you know in your day to day to your baking and you may find some remarkable results.
People who just seem to knock up a cake or some scones at the last minute have one secret weapon that may not be immediately apparent. They are utterly confident in their understanding of what they are doing by:
- knowing how their ingredients will work together.
- understanding the process of each action, whether beating, folding etc.
- being aware of what they have in their store cupboard.
In other words…they are ‘prepared’. Their preparation may have come about through years of practise so it becomes second nature. Part of that “secret confidence” is likely to be the result of what they use and what they keep as the staple items in their cupboards.
I’m going to share with you what my Top 10 staple food items are that I keep on hand. If you bake regularly or want to – it’s going to become more and more important to keep good quality ingredients in your store cupboard and fridge.
Here’s a peek into my cupboard and fridge:
- Flour: Marriage’s organic plain and self raising flours and Sharpham Park organic wholemeal spelt flour. If you use supermarket ‘value’ flours you will be amazed at what a difference such a small switch can make. Whatever goes in will have an impact on what comes out. (Read my blog post on flour choices here.)
- Lemon Juice: a bottle of concentrated lemon juice to add as necessary.
- Very mature cheddar cheese: I find M & S is good on cheeses (always full fat cheese: I feel that anything that is half fat must have been ‘engineered’ in some way).
- A selection of nuts and seeds to throw into scones to make them more interesting. At the moment I am in a sunflower seed and walnut phase.
- Barts dried herbs and spices – throw out those that have been opened and sat on the shelf for years. The optimum time to use them is three weeks, yes weeks, after opening to get the fullest flavour.
- Good quality vanilla extract or paste – Little Pod is my favourite. I am too lazy to always scrape the seeds out of a vanilla pod so I use the paste that has the seeds in it.
- Instant espresso coffee powder (Nestlé or Carte Noir). A teaspoon of the dry powder is brilliant for flavouring macaron shells or I use it to create a concentrated paste for flavouring sponge cakes, buttercream icing and mocha ganache.
- Frozen chopped onions – not strictly for baking! I just find them useful as a base flavour for soups, especially if I have a lot of vegetables that are looking a bit sad and need to be transformed rather than thrown out. Then I might serve with wholemeal spelt flour and (dried) rosemary scones.
- Dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids – I always snap up anything that is on offer in the supermarket. Very good for the soul in whatever form and if I suddenly have a late evening desire to make some ganache to have with some fruit I even make it with hot water rather than cream.
- Oats – but I am already nudging towards 11 items because I need to include golden syrup as well – to make my ginger and oat biscuits to take hiking.
These are my must-have items and I am sure you must have some of your own? What are they? What do you always make sure never runs out in your fridge or cupboard and why? I would love to know so please do share with me in the comments below…