10 great baking ingredients
1. Vanilla Pods
You’ll be amazed at the difference when substituting vanilla essence with fresh vanilla seeds. If you’ve never tried it, now is the time. You can use the seeds from one vanilla pod instead of 1 teaspoon of essence. And, if you’re not able get your hands on fresh vanilla, you can always use a high quality vanilla paste.
2. Walnuts, pecans and almonds
Nuts are a great addition to many recipes – muffins, carrot cake, cookies (such as these granola cookies) and more – as they add both flavour and nutritional value. Chopped nuts can even be used to decorate a cake after it has been iced.
3. High quality dark chocolate
Many brownie and chocolate cake recipes call for dark chocolate to give them an authentic chocolaty taste. It’s important to use a good quality chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa for best results; milk chocolate contains more sugar and milk than cocoa, affecting the texture of your cakes and brownies.
4. Fresh eggs
Chef Joseph Amendola said about eggs: ‘Eggs are the pastry chef’s most versatile ingredient. No staple food excels in so many supporting roles: thickener, emulsifier, leavener, and structural foundation. The egg is ubiquitous.’ Enough said, right? Without eggs there would be almost no baking. Fresh, good quality eggs will ensure your baked goods are well risen and have the right texture.
5. Natural food colouring
When I was a child, it was perfectly normal to have a bright blue Smurf cake. But these days, thankfully, we all think twice before adding those artificial flavours and colours to our food. Try using natural colourants – like strawberry, beetroot or blueberry purée. You can also ask your local baking supply shop for natural instead of artificial food colouring.
6. Flavour extracts
As some of you already know, adding some almond extract or orange blossom water to baked produce can make all the difference, even if your recipe doesn’t call for it. Stock up on Nielsen Massey extracts for great natural food extracts.
7. Chocolate chips
If you’re a fan of choc chip cookies, then of course this is already on your list. But chocolate chips are also useful when making muffins, toffie bark and many other desserts and cookies. They keep for a long time and are a must when stocking up your pantry.
Many scone, muffin and cake recipes call for buttermilk, not surprisingly. Buttermilk is low in fat, but still rich and thick. It adds moisture and a rich buttery flavour to baked goods, making a notable difference in the texture of baked produce.
9. Ground almonds
These come in handy when making frangipane for tarts (such as this one). But their rich flavour also makes ground almonds a wonderful addition to certain cookies, muffins and bars. You can even experiment by using it as a substitute for a percentage of flour in your baked goods – in many instances it will work wonderfully.
This is not strictly speaking an ingredient, but what is a cake without some sprinkles on top? Keeping a stash of sprinkles is a great idea, you never know when you’ll be making a cake or some sugar cookies that just need some extra decoration.
Happy baking this winter.
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