I often get asked what I keep in my pantry.  My answer is usually explained in 3 parts just as  my pantry items are – Freezer, Cooking and Baking pantries.  When I visit family and friends, I’ll often take over – I mean, ask if they need help in the kitchen, and if I’m lucky enough that they say yes, I’m right there (you know my love of cooking so I really don’t consider this work at all).  I could spend days in the kitchen and not realize how much time I’ve spent there.  But spending time in someone else’s kitchen is when you realize why this question comes up so often.  So I’m going to write this in a series of separate blogs that address each of these items.

My love of cooking is not new. It’s taken me lots of time to discover what items allow me the freedom to look at a recipe and know I can make it without having to run to the store. Same with my selection of tools and equipment. I made some mistakes by buying items of lesser quality (read cheap, on sale, didn’t know any better etc.) that ended up in the garbage because they started rusting, the non-stick surface was coming off or they bent from the heat of the oven. I actually have some quality items that are older than I am (some belonged to my mother and came from far off lands). Some I started collecting when I got married and I have had them for over 30 years. Read one, two or all these blog articles – it’s up to you. Send this link to a friend who is getting married or starting a life on their own or just someone who loves to cook and bake but doesn’t know where to start.

Let’s start with my baking pantry. I bake a lot, cakes, cookies, pies and tarts – daily and weekly. More than you probably do as this is what I do for a living, but probably an average amount for a Chef. There are always different types of flour – you don’t need all, and in varying quantities. The things I think every kitchen should stock in their baking pantry are starred “*”. With these items, you will be able to look at most recipes on a cold snowy day and bake cookies, cakes and other wonderful treats that will help you forget the weather outside. Here’s my list of what I keep in my baking pantry:

*All Purpose Flour – 10 kg I use this for almost everything – a good brand Robin Hood, Five Roses etc.
Bread Flour – 2 kg
*Cake and Pastry Flour – 5 kg
Whole Wheat Flour – 2 kg
Atta Flour – 2 kg
Rice Flour (gluten free baking) – 500 g
*Vanilla extractDo you travel? My wife and I love to, but I also have family and friends that travel.  They always bring me back “quality” vanilla extract from wherever they go (price is sometimes – but not always, a good indicator of quality)
Vanilla sugarbought or made – I put used dried vanilla beans into my large white sugar container, it perfumes the sugar wonderfully well and while it isn’t true vanilla sugar, it doesn’t hurt to have that little extra boost of vanilla flavor when I use it in baking or coffee
Vanilla beanagain, tap your travelling friends for this product – pay them for it
Extracts (essences) – lemon, orange, almond – don’t buy products labelled “imitation”, why bother
*Sugar – white and brown (trying to break away from using too much white – oh the experiments)
*Baking powderbuy small quantities unless you bake a lot, there is an expiry date
*Baking sodause a Sharpie to mark the date you opened the box, watch the expiry date, keep it in a plastic baggie for storage and use only this for baking – there is an expiry date so watch for that as well. Do not use the baking soda from the fridge – you put it there for an entirely different purpose!
Molassesregular not black strap, I find it too powerful
Corn Syrup
Lindt Couverture – dark chocolate, milk chocolate, bittersweet chocolate
*Chocolate chips
*Ghirardelli cocoa powder
Unflavored gelatin

This list is by no means complete. I have quite a bit more in my pantry than mentioned above, but I’m in the business where I need to have more than a home baker. It is however, pretty thorough in terms of I can pick most any recipe from a book, magazine, blog etc. and make it with what I have mentioned above. Remember, the items marked with an “*”, are your need-to-have’s in the kitchen. You also don’t need to have large quantities of anything, it’s only a bargain if you are going to use it, otherwise it’s not a deal. What do you have in your baking pantry that I have not mentioned here? What do you use it for? Please share your ideas. The next blog/article will address baking tools and equipment.