Whether it’s for a special occasion like a holiday party or just a little something to stash in the jar on the counter, cookies, cupcakes and quick breads are so fun to make. And a lot of baking projects can be really simple and easy when you’ve got your pantry prepped.

Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Baking Basics

Step one is to stock up on essentials, and if you’re not a regular baker, chances are any old staples you have in the back of the cabinet have lost their oomph. Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab fresh containers of baking soda and baking powder to make sure your goodies rise properly and get extra flours, too. If yours has been sitting around for too long, your whole-wheat flour may have gone rancid, or white flour could have gotten stale or worse,  became a foster home for little critters.

2. Sugar and Spice

White sugar is used in most baking recipes so be sure to keep plenty on hand, and periodically check your dark and light versions as they tend to harden after a while. Pick up some fresh packages whenever they do. If you wanna play around a bit, keep a few additional sugars on hand for dusting and topping desserts—turbinado sugar lends a great crunch while confectioners sugar gives a pretty, snow-dusted look. While you’re in that section of the pantry, check on your basic baking spices and extracts—just give them a sniff to make sure they haven’t lost their potency. Vanilla and almond extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves are most commonly called for.

Pro tip: Simplify spices by picking up a bottle of pumpkin pie spice to use in a variety of recipes. It’s a one-stop-shop of deliciousness.

3. Accessory ingredients

So many baking recipes call for candy, dried fruit, nuts, and chips to mix into the batter. If holiday baking season is coming up or you’re baking lots of goodies for a brunch or coffee and cake party, stock up on chocolate chips, mini chips, candy canes, and other candies to chop and stir in to give your treats a personal flair. It’s good to have a variety of nuts and dried fruit such as pecans, almonds, raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, and dates, too. You can use them interchangeably in most recipes so you can customize treats on the fly.

4. For the Fridge and Freezer

Hit the dairy aisle so you can tuck some extra pounds of unsalted butter in the fridge (many cookie recipes use a half-pound each). You also want to keep additional eggs on hand. Frozen puff pastry sheets, filo cups, and pre-made pie crust are all good staples to keep in the freezer beause they’re really handy for making on-the-fly desserts and tarts with minimal prep.

5. Pretty Little Extras

One of the best parts of baking is decorating your treats for gifting and sharing! Head to a baking supply store to get a variety of cookie cutters for adorably shaped treats. Don’t forget small tubes of holiday colored frosting, colored and decorative sprinkles, and sanding sugars to get ready for topping them off. To get a professional look, pick up piping bags and tips to create more elaborate looks with frosting.

6. Nice-to-Have Supplies

If you’re going to be baking a lot, you might want to think about getting a stand mixer. They’re invaluable for making batches and batches of batter in a snap. (Plus, there are all kinds of attachments for everything from making your own lasagna noodles to grinding your own sausage, so it’s a really great investment.) Parchment paper and silicone baking sheets are other invaluable tools for baking, and they don’t require a conversation with your partner before purchasing. If you ever questioned whether you should buy one of those “as seen on TV” cookie press things, the answer is yes. They’re great for churning out loads of shaped cookies, and they’re super fun to use for the kids … if you ever let them take a turn.

When you’re planning to share your baked goodies as gifts or potluck treats, themed cupcake liners up the cute quotient on cupcakes and muffins. And grab some decorative storage containers for a great “pack-and-present” option that will give your gift that extra special touch.

 

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