One thing´s a fact. It is hard to keep the fridge and pantry both full of strange ingredients we are not sure we will even use someday, just waiting to feel like baking. It is not easy to keep up with expiration dates, and not everyone has the space to store so many things.
But what we CAN do is give you a list of the most used ingredients to make desserts to help you get started on this topic, and for you to know where to even begin. These ingredients are the basics, we recommend you have them always at hand so you can bake things like cookies, muffins, hot cakes, cakes, etc. In each ingredient we list the basic types and some other variations so you can, according to your diet and preferences, choose one of them to have at your disposal at all times. After these, there are many others ingredients, which are a lot more specific,, and we recommend you buy those specifically for each recipe and not necessarily have them all the time.
Flour is the base of almost any sweet, cakes, cupcakes, pies, cookies, the list is long. There are very few desserts (they do exist) that don´t call for flour like mostachon for example or some others like ice creams, creme brulee , etc. If you suffer from celiac disease these recipes will be useful, and of course, you can always use some other flour insetad of the usual wheat one.
- Wheat flour: This is the most common of them all. Wheat flour has a lot of variations depending on what we use it for: all purpouse flour, bread flour, bleached flour, selfrising flour, semolina, flour with extra gluten, and much more. There is also other types, based on how refined it is, theres 0 flour, which is the least refined, 00 and 000 flour, which are perfect for bread and 0000 flour, perfect for cakes and more delicate recipes. There is so much information that the topic probably desserves it´s own post. Wheat flour is the most used, in any of it´s presentations, in the whole world.
- Corn flour: It is obtained from grounding corn. Not to be confused with corn starch. We place it as a basic because it is widely used in america, not only in regular cooking but also in lots of sweet recipes like tamales, cupcakes, corn bread, etc.
Next level: Rye flour, oat flour, spelt flour, barley flour, and some other gluten free flours like almond flour or rice flour. (There are many others, but these are the most important to know).
In spite of all the hate regular sugar is getting lately there´s nothing that can succesfully substitute it. Nothing gives the same sweetness if you ask me. For the sake of this post we will only consider natural sugars, and not artificial substitutes or sweeteners, nor natural of any other kind.
- Refined sugar : is the usual refined sugar, with white and really fine grain.
- Standard or granulated sugar: This is the most used sugar, not as fine grain and not as white as the refined sugar.
- Brown sugar: There are several types of brown sugar, depending on the amount of molases it has. There´s light brown sugar, dark brown sugar and muscovado sugar (which is the one that most molases has). These sugars are also sometimes known as turbinado sugars, because is using this method that they “clean” them and take away the molases.
- Confectioners sugar: Also known as powdered sugar. It is completely white, frequently used in frostings, or delicate pastries recipes. It is the most refined sugar, because its grain is reduced to literal powder.
Other less common types: Date sugar, coarse sugar, vanilla sugar.
When talking about yeast there are really only two types, fresh yeast or dry yeast. Yeast is made of microorganisms and bacteria that make the dough proof, yeast is alive, this is why it needs a proper temperature to thrive, some time to rise and some sort of sugar to eat meanwhile. Yeast is perfect for making any type of bread or dough.
- Fresh yeast: This can be found in small cubes, or in sticks that must be kept in the fridge, and hava a short expiration date.
- Dry yeast: There are a few types of dry yeast. Active dry yeast, instant yeast and rapidrise instant yeast. The three are pretty alike, the only difference is that actuve dry yeast has a thicker grain than the instant ones and this is why they usually say it needs to be mixed with warm water and sugar and left some time to proof to make sure it is alive. Instant yeasts, in therory, can be added to the dough without having to proof them before. And as for the rapidrise instant yeast this only means that it is formulated to have a stronger effect in just one proof.
Salt, even if it doesn´t seem like it, is a really important ingredient for any recipe, whether a sweet or salty recipe, they all need at least a pinch of salt, every dessert too, always add salt, that´s a tip.
- Common salt: This is obtained in a lab, industrially, and usuallly some other elements are aded like iodine or fluorine.
- Sal marina: It is obtained from evaporating sea water. Its color is somewhat greyish because of the other elements in it, like calcium, potassium, fluorine, magnesium, or iodine. It is usually pretty coarse.
- Salt flower: Also widely known as the “gourmet salt”. This type of salt is formed on the surface of artificial small bodies of water that are later picked up manually. All this process makes it pretty special and scarce.
Also, salt is classified too by its texture in coarse salt and refined salt.
Other more special types: Himalayan pink salt, low sodium salt, smoked salt, baking salt, and all sorts of flavored salts.
It is no news that dairy is a huge part of the baking world, they provide a richness that nothing else can. Now, I know there are a lot of lactose intolerant people, or some other, that have decided for whatever reason not to consume dairy, usually milk, and there are lots of other options for them, but for now, we will only talk about dairy and not substitutes.
- Unsalted butter: ÉThis type of butter is the one usually used for desserts and or baking, unless the recipe specifically calls for salted butter, always use unsalted butter. This will basically be used in every recipe you can think of. Carefull with using margarine, which won´t give the same results in some cases.
- Whole milk: This type of milk still has all its fat. Now, we recommend having whole milk at all times in the fridge, to use in all sorts of recipes, but not so much for drinking. Its flavor is unique and it is noticeable when we use it.
- Cream cheese: This cheese is obatined from milk and cream. It is the main ingredient for frostings, cheesecakes, pies, etc.
Next level: Buttermilk, alternative milks (like light, lactose-free milk, etc.) sour cream, other types of milk (coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, etc.)
These work by liberating carbon dioxide in form of bubbles, making the mixture rise when baked. These are perfect for cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. but not for breads. You have to be careful with these, because they tend to make the result bitter when used in excess, mainly the cream of tartar.
- Baking powder: This is the most known. To me, I find that baking powder makes the result have a fluffier and more cake-like consistency than baking soda.
- Baking soda: Works just like baking powder, but we find that baking soda makes the result denser, which makes it perfect for bund cajes for example.
More specialized: Cream of tartar