If visions of holiday cookies and goodies are dancing through your mind, now's the time to check if the cupboards are bare. Stock your pantry with these cook-baking essentials and you'll be ready to roll, cut, bake and decorate at the drop of a hat.
Perfect for cookies, cakes and breads, which is why it's called all-purpose! Most chefs swear by unbleached all-purpose flour, as they think it gives tastier results. All-purpose whole wheat is the healthier choice and can be used in any recipe calling for refined, white all-purpose. Store whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer to prevent rancidity.
There are two main types to look for: pure, unsweetened chocolate (a.k.a. bitter or baking chocolate), and dark chocolate (a.k.a bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate) that has added sugar but isn't as sweet and mild as milk chocolate.
BAKING POWDER & BAKING SODA
Both of these powders are vital for making cakes, muffins, and cookies rise, but lose their potency after six months. Make sure your supply is fresh and label the container the day you open it. Teach your tike how to measure like a pro: dip in a dry, clean measuring spoon and level off the excess with the flat side of a table knife.
Brown sugar will produce a slightly moister baked good than granulated sugar. The darker the brown sugar, the more pronounced the molasses flavor. If your stored brown sugar has turned hard, toss in a cube of bread and it will magically soften up overnight.
Both your tree and your pantry need candy canes. These minty favorites always put a smile on a kid's face whether they eat them out of hand or sprinkle them on top of cupcakes and cookies. To crush, place a handful of canes in a heavy duty plastic bag then break them up with a rolling pin.
Everyone's favorite baking spice not only tastes divine, but is good for you, too! Just one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains more disease-fighting antioxidants than half a cup of blueberries. A few sticks at a time in a coffee grinder for the freshest flavor. Or, skewer some mini-marshmallows on a cinnamon stick and use it to stir up a special cup of hot chocolate.