If you're a novice baker and are stuck in a rut of baking from a "box" and want start baking from scratch but you're not sure what ingredients you will need to start. I hope to help out a bit today with a basic run down of the Essential Ingredients for baking from scratch. First I would like to say though there is nothing wrong with using packet mixes when baking; they're a great time saver for the busy baker. However baking from scratch is better for your family in the long run. You have control over what ingredients go into what you're making and have the knowledge of what you're actually eating. Plus there is nothing more satisfying then pulling a beautiful cake from the oven knowing you made it all by yourself!
Flour: Flour is generally the main ingredient to all baked goods and it is important to use the right type of flour for the right recipe. There are two types of flours you will need in your cupboard.
Self Raising Flour- This flour already contains a leavening agent, baking powder and salt added to it before packaging. These ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour, which gives a nice lift (rising action) to baked goods. It is mainly used for cakes, muffins and scones.
Plain Flour (All purpose flour) - This flour contains no raising agent added to it and can be used for many purposes such as pikelets, biscuits and slices. A raising agent is sometimes added with the plain flour to create the rise needed in some recipes.
Raising Agent: Baking powder and Baking soda are used separately or in combination with each to help the batter of any baked good rise. It is important if you are adding any type of raising agent to baked goods to sift it with other dry ingredients to ensure even distribution.
Sugar: It is probably the next most important ingredient after flour. It adds the sweetness and sometimes colour to baked good. There are different types of sugar that can be used in baking such as raw sugar (left) castor sugar (middle) and brown sugar (right). The main type used is castor sugar as it is a finer grain which dissolves easier when baking.
Icing Sugar (Confectioner's sugar): This is also a type of sugar, which has been finely ground to a fine powder. It is mainly used to create smooth decorative icings, cream fillings, marshmallows and fondant.
Cocoa Powder: Unsweetened cocoa powders has a bitter flavour but is generally used to give a deep chocolate flavour and colour to baked goods. Think rich dark chocolate brownies, double choc chip muffins and your favourite chocolate cake all contain some cocoa powder. It can also be used in conjunction with icing sugar to create chocolate icing and fondants.
Coconut: You can buy two types of coconut to be used in baking, desiccated & shredded but each can be used in the same way for baking. Desiccated coconut is finely ground coconut with most of its moisture removed. Shredded coconut retains a little bit more moisture than desiccated but the main difference is the shape, it comes in this strands or strips. They are generally used in cake, biscuits, muffins, slices etc to give texture and a nice coconut flavour or as a garnish on top of iced goods.
Essence: There are many types of essences that you can get in the baking aisle of your local supermarket. They are mainly used to add flavour to your baked goods. The main type of essence used in recipes is Vanilla Essence (middle) which can be used in cakes, biscuits, slices and muffins. Don't be afraid to experiment with other flavour when you feel more confident with your baking skills.
Sprinkles & 100's & 1000's: No pantry is complete without an array of pretty coloured sprinkles and 100's & 1000's. They are a must to finish off any baking masterpiece and also do a great job in taking the attention away from the burnt edges or sunken middle of a cooking disaster!
Nuts & Dried Fruits: There are many uses for nuts and dried fruit in baking. They add great texture and flavour to cakes, biscuits, muffins and slices and used in combination with each other create many a delicious treat. Think carrot cake with walnuts, macadamia and choc chip cookies or a delicious christmas fruit cake.
Chocolate Chips, Melts & Cooking Chocolate: The uses for chocolate in baked goods are endless, however it is important to buy a good quality chocolate as your end product will have a better flavour. No pantry is complete without chocolate chips - how else would you make your favourite choc chip cookies. Cooking chocolate and melts can be used in things like brownies, truffles, icing, garnishes and drizzled over icecream.
Food Colouring: How else will you colour your butter cream icing to the perfect shade of pink for your cupcake creation? Food colouring is the answer. By using the primary colours provided you can create a rainbow of coloured icing and cakes. Be warned though, a steady hand is needed when measuring the colours out and do not add all the colours together - you will end up with a dreadful coloured icing that looks inedible!
Once you have stocked your pantry with these Essential Ingredients the possibilities are endless in what you can create. You have the basis for many wonderful cakes, biscuits, scone, muffins and slices so go on and find an easy recipe and whip up some amazing baked goods for your family.
Make this delicious Raison & Chocolate Slice using your essential ingredients. Recipe here.....