It’s lovely to see you here on my blog today. I hope you enjoyed the first part of my ESB Baking Essentials all about my must-have equipment. Although it was a challenge to decide which equipment I really needed, it was also exciting to think of how many recipes I could make. It also debunked the myth that you need special kit to get in the kitchen and start baking.
To accompany this two part series, I have covered The Bare Necessities from Disney’s The Jungle Book with my trusty yellow ukulele and you can hear it here or on Soundcloud.
I have also put together a short video of the ESB Baking Essentials, with the help of my brilliant editor, Robert Blackmore, and you can see that here or visit English Singing Baker YouTube channel.
Now, without any further ado, here is part two; 13 of my essential ingredients that are a must for any baking kitchen.
Picking ingredients for baking is more important than you might think. It is a long established fact that if you use better quality ingredients, you get better bakes. However, it is a juggling act between choosing the ingredients that are worth investing in and those where it doesn’t make any difference.
In my mind, ingredients are split down the middle into two categories – fresh and store cupboard. Fresh are ingredients that need to be bought every time you bake, such as eggs, milk and butter. Store cupboard are ingredients that can be kept in the cupboard for months, like flour, baking powder and sugar.
This list is a like a skeleton, the bare bones of the majority of recipes I make, that I can flesh out and make into my favourite bakes, by just adding a couple of extra bits along the way. Having an essential toolkit of ingredients gives you the freedom to bake whenever you like.
In baking, fat is an important component. It adds flavour, lubrication and richness. My fat of choice is butter. In the past, baking with butter was a show of extravagance, however there are now many affordable ways of buying butter. Most major supermarkets stock their own brands which, in my opinion, are just as good for baking as their branded counterparts. I prefer salted to unsalted, as I use it everyday.
Sugar is an obvious baking staple for sweet baking recipes. However, flicking through my recipes, I was surprised to see how many different types of sugar I use. Whether brown sugar for fudge or icing sugar for dusting finished bakes, it is tough to single one out. My baking stalwart, however, is caster sugar which is the most versatile. In the same way as butter, sugar is an ingredient that is available as a supermarket own brand product. In my opinion, using it doesn’t affect the outcome of finished bakes and makes baking just a little bit more affordable.
3. Plain Flour
If butter is richness in baking, flour is the stability that holds everything together. Right now, we have a huge selection to choose from. My baking essential is plain wheat flour as it is a strong basis for many of my favourite recipes. This is another unbranded basic that works, without the need to invest in a higher priced speciality flour.
Top Tip – You can make your own self-raising flour by adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder per 6 oz of plain flour.
4. Strong White Bread Flour
Although plain flour is perfect for cakes and biscuits, strong white bread flour is required to make bread that will stand up to the perfect rise. It has higher levels of gluten than plain flour, which gives it the flexibility to be stretched and risen without collapsing and hold the air bubbles that you need for fluffy bread. In contrast to the other ingredients on this list so far, I have found, through trial and error that investing in branded bread flour is worth it to make the best bread. My favourite is Allisons which has made me beautiful bread time after time.
5. Baking Powder
Unless you want to make a flat pancake of a cake, raising agent is essential to give you the desired rise. My favourite is baking powder as it is simple to use and you just add it to mixtures as it is. Different brands haven’t affected the quality of my bakes but packaging can change how long it keeps fresh. Sachets are airtight so they keep fresher than a canister. Make sure you check the best before date before you bake as if it is beyond it, the baking powder won’t work!
6. Easy Bake Yeast
Yeast is the second bread-making essential in this list. Without it, bread won’t rise but it’s difficult to know which type to choose. My personal preference is Easy Bake Yeast by Allison, which is added directly to dry ingredients and has extra chemicals to make it get to work straight away. In my experience, it has become an ingredient worth investing in, as supermarket own brands don’t rise as much as their branded counterparts.
In simple baking terms, salt is flavour. Without salt, bakes taste bland. There are a variety of salts on the market, from table to flaked sea salt, but my preference is fine sea salt. Although a little more expensive than table salt, it is chemical free and a perfect addition to any bake.
Fresh eggs are a major part of a baking toolkit. Egg whites are perfect for meringues, eggs yolks for rich lemon curd and whole eggs for glazing or almost any sponge. Free range are the best as they come from happy hens and are widely available. Remember you can always weigh the eggs to know precisely how much liquid you are adding to your mixture.
Choosing the right milk for a recipe is a tricky task. Whole milk is often used in baking as it has the most flavour and richness. It is used for enriched doughs such as Hot Cross Buns or crème patisserie. But I always have semi-skimmed to hand and use it for loosening thick mixtures or glazing pastry.
Top tip – Buy small amounts of whole milk for baking each time you need it and so avoid waste.
Oil isn’t really an ingredient that comes to mind when you think of baking essentials, but it is a surprisingly useful ingredient to have to hand. From oiling baking tins and bowls, adding to moist cake mixes, or even deep frying doughnuts, it has multiple uses in a baking toolkit. Choosing oil for baking is quite simple as it is best to use a flavourless oil, such as sunflower or vegetable, as it doesn’t add or take away from the flavour of the finished bake.
To many people, chocolate is a baking essential. I have found that it is best to use chocolate with less than 70% cocoa solids to bake with (Bournville is my pick) and chocolate with 70% cocoa solids or higher for dipping or making homemade chocolates.
12. Golden Syrup
Golden Syrup is a traditional addition to a baking ingredients toolkit. From syrup sponges to flapjacks, it adds a distinctive sweet flavour and sticky texture. It’s an ingredient that sits happily in the cupboard till the baking bug strikes which is why, although I don’t use it as often as some of the other ingredients on this list, it makes my baking essentials. Although you can now buy unbranded syrup from supermarkets, I am dedicated to the packaging of the original and best, Tate and Lyle!
The last items on this list are a bit of a cheat. There are two that I think deserve a mention but not separately which is why I have put them under the heading of ‘Conserves’. They are both ingredients that I use day to day as well as being a welcome addition to my baking toolkit. Honey and Jam both have a place in my baking kitchen. Honey can be used to glaze tarts or buns. Fruit jam is a perfect filler for Victoria sponges as well as filling jammy dodgers or other biscuits.
Thank you for dropping by my blog and I hope you found my list of 13 baking essentials ingredients helpful if you are wanting to pull together your own baking toolkit. In the comments let me know what ingredient you think is a baking essential?
See you next time for another blog but in the meantime,
English Singing Baker x