Living Well: 4 Secrets To A Well Stocked Holiday Pantry

November 15, 2012

A guide to stocking a holiday pantry.

By Lindsey Johnson.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away? Hannukah and Christmas are right around the corner too!  I’m getting excited. Maybe even a little too excited for holiday baking. Confession: I am a Holiday Bake-a-Holic. Sure, I get excited for the gift shopping and the decorating, but my real love lies in stocking my kitchen with goodies for Holiday baking, cooking and entertaining.



holidays
chocolate for the pantry
holiday coffee break

Grocery stores run all sorts of specials on pantry items at this time of year, so this is when I love to stock up on essentials — and a few special items to make the Holidays extra festive and memorable.

butter

Let’s start with the very basic essentials. Secret #1: During the Holidays, almost all of these essentials go on sale.

Butter.
Butter keeps for a long time, particularly if you freeze it. I buy unsalted butter for baking and salted butter for slathering on rolls. European butter has a little higher fat content, so it’s particularly good for pastries.

Sugar.
Every baker’s pantry should have a few different kinds of sugar. Granulated and brown sugar are essential. I like dark brown sugar because of the extra molasses-y flavor it imparts to cookies. Also be sure to grab an extra bag or two of powdered sugar to use in glazes, frosting, and to dust baked goods for a pretty, finished look.

flour

Flour.
All-purpose flour is perfect for almost any baking need, so grab a few bags and you should be set. If you bake a lot of bread or rolls, consider stocking up on bread flour. It has a higher protein content and is best-suited for use in yeast breads. Secret #2: White whole wheat flour is another favorite of mine. It contributes all of the benefits of regular whole wheat flour with lighter, softer results. (And my kids can’t tell the difference!)

Leavening agents.
Baking soda should last almost indefinitely, but it is good to change it every few years anyway. Baking powder is still good if it bubbles when boiling water is added to it. Yeast can be kept for years in the fridge or freezer, but if it has expired, you can check to see if it is still active by adding a packet of yeast (2 1/4 tsp.) to a 1/4 cup of warm water with 1 tsp. sugar.

Heavy cream.
Whipped cream is the perfect one-size-fits-all dessert topping. Have a bowl ready to top Thanksgiving pies and other yummy desserts throughout the Holiday season. I also keep cream handy for ganache, homemade candy, custards, hot chocolate and eggnog.

jam

Jams, jellies and other preserves.
Jams, jellies and preserves are versatile for baking, cooking and enjoying on their own. Marmalades and stone-fruit jams are the perfect thing to pair with roasted meats (particularly pork) for a quick sauce. For a great appetizer, top your favorite cracker with a bit of jam and a creamy, fresh cheese.

Corn syrup and molasses.
Corn syrup (love it or hate it) is essential for many candy recipes. And you can’t have gingerbread cookies without molasses, so be sure to add that to your cupboard too. Secret #3:  you can substitute honey, maple or brown rice syrup in most recipes if you don’t want to use corn syrup.

Puff pastry and phyllo dough.
Keep some frozen dough in your freezer to pull out for quick and easy appetizers, tarts, and desserts. This helps save time, which is a precious commodity with all of those parties to attend.

Canned pumpkin.
I use canned pumpkin for so many things — pie, cake, muffins and breads, pancakes and waffles, soups and stews, and sauces. My pantry would not be complete without it.

Canned evaporated and sweetened condensed milk.
Canned milks come in handy for baking and cooking. Evaporated milk is a good stand-in for cream in soups.  Condensed milk makes homemade caramels extra creamy, and is the secret ingredient for our favorite hot fudge sauce.

nuts

Dried fruit and nuts.
‘Tis the season for cookies, breads and cakes studded with dried fruit and nuts. My Thanksgiving stuffing wouldn’t be complete without dried cranberries and pecans. Have a bowl or two of mixed nuts and dried fruit next to cheese and crackers for a healthier alternative to sugary treats, and to make a buffet table extra snazzy.

spices

Spices, herbs, extracts.
The essential herbs and spices for Holiday baking and cooking are: sage, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla. I also like orange peel and almond extract. These will cover most recipes.

Secret #4: Herbs and spices don’t last forever! Buy only as much as you think you’ll use in the next six months and store them in a dark, cool place. I buy whole spices too. Whole spices are great for homemade potpourri. And because they keep much longer than ground spices, I buy them in bulk and grind my own.

Chocolate.
You’ll want to be sure to include different kinds of chocolate in your pantry. I keep an assortment of unsweetened baking chocolate (for brownies and cakes), chocolate chips (milk, dark, white, other flavors), high-quality couverture chocolate (for dipping chocolates and other recipes), and cocoa powder.

tea & coffee

Hot chocolate, assorted teas and coffee, wine and spirits, soft drinks.
A good assortment of hot and cold beverages will help you feel extra festive while you’re decorating the tree, hosting a party, or just sitting down to watch a movie.

Store-bought crackers (and toppings), cookies.
Time is a precious commodity any time, but especially during the holidays. Packaged goodies are the perfect thing to pull out when you don’t have time to bake a batch of cookies for that last-minute party invitation, or need a quick appetizer for the church potluck.

cookies

I hope you have fun stocking your pantry with baking essentials and holiday goodies! I know I included a lot of different items on this list, but don’t be overwhelmed. Just pick the products you know you’ll use and think how much you’ll enjoy admiring your well-stocked cupboards.

P.S. — Need help perfecting your pie crust for next week?  Check out my tutorial for the perfect crust. Also, you can find all of the Secrets to Living Well posts here.

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{ 4 trackbacks }

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Grace@ Sense and Simplicity November 15, 2012 at 10:09 am

I love the photos you took of the pantry staples (I need to get myself a plain background like you have). I’m about to do my Christmas baking this weekend (I try and do it near the end of November every year) and am going to be stocking my pantry in preparation so this post was timely. I have my stand-by recipes and every year I try a few new cookies or bars so that things remain interesting. You can see my recipes from last year in this post: http://gracie-senseandsimplicity.blogspot.ca/2011/11/cookies-and-chocolate-and-other-news.html

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2 Gina November 15, 2012 at 10:59 am

Can I just say that Butcher’s Bunches is fabulous! I am so happy to see that you included them. I think I could make an entire holiday with their Monkey Bizzzness and toast. Yum. Lovely pictures, BTW.

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3 Summer November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

Oh man, I’m printing this out! Thank you so much!

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4 Jennifer November 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Lindsey, thank you for this timely post! I just added a few items to my shopping list… Your photos and styling are amazing! I enjoy this series so much.
Gabrielle, when do we get to “meet” Lindsey?

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5 Design Mom November 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Soon, I hope! We are mid-interview right now.

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6 Jimmy November 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Another helpful pantry item is Saco powdered buttermilk. I never have real buttermilk on hand, and I use it so few and far between that it feels frivolous to stock it, but this powdered stuff holds up well and lasts a long time in the fridge. I’m most likely to use it as a milk substitute when making pancakes or waffles, but it comes in handy all over the place.

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7 Christa the BabbyMama November 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Don’t forget that you can use molasses in white sugar in place of brown sugar – which isn’t typically anything but white sugar with molasses added back in anyway.

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8 amy November 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm

mmmmm… butchers bunches ‘dirty diana’. i need a trip to utah/food shopping with you stat.

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9 lizurd November 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Thanks so much for including us in your staples list! It rocks, btw…just bought and froze enough butter and brown sugar for a year (on sale!)

If you want to sell me that photo, email me; it is beautiful!

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10 Sharon @ Discovering Blog November 16, 2012 at 6:48 am

I love baking, and I could gaze at photos like this forever.
Lovely post!

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11 Jen :: Family Sponge November 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I love how you make baking and cooking such an art. It’s beautiful Lindsey.

Only thing I would add to the list of essentials is coconut oil. I use it all the time for baking and cooking (and the health benefits are awesome too!). It’s my go to oil— butter has taken a back seat lately. PS: I’m addicted to your photos.

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12 julie November 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Thank you for the Pantry ideas. I have been thinking about getting mine in gear again. It was easy when we had 5 growing kids, but now it’s just 2 of us again and I need help and ideas.

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13 A Day in May Design November 18, 2012 at 12:15 am

This is a great checklist for holiday planning, thanks so much for sharing!

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14 nancy September 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

this should help with the warm and fuzzy

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