Fall Holidays

Is Your Kitchen Ready for Baking Season?

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Fall and Holiday Baking

Fall and Holiday Baking

Here we are, poised at the starting gate, baking season is about to begin—  Is your kitchen ready?  Mine’s not.  In fact  this week I discovered we have the dreaded pantry moths!  I’ve spent so much time cleaning and clearing out all my cabinets,  I now basically have to start all over from scratch.  But the one benefit is that I can begin the baking season with a well prepared kitchen.  And even though there will be mess, there will be spills, there might even be a few burnt edges here and there, I’ll have what I need, organized and at my fingertips, so the coming days in the kitchen will be a joy and not a nightmare.  Here’s my personal list of must haves, from ALLSPICE to ZIP LOCK FREEZER BAGS…

#1 Canisters

I remember the lineup of canisters on my grandmother’s linoleum counter.  She had the right idea.  Canisters are your best friend when you are doing a lot of baking.  The more the better, and the bigger the better.  If you don’t have the counter space, try to store them in the lowest shelf of the cabinet right above where you work.  SQUARE is best because they will set up right next to each other without wasted space.   I recommend THIS ONE, from OXO because it’s big enough for large bags of flour and sugar, and it comes in other sizes for other ingredients, so everything can look coordinated.  There are so many benefits to using canisters.  You can measure and scoop directly from them.  They protect the contents from bugs.  And when they are within easy reach they streamline the baking process.  I like to have a big canister for white flour, whole wheat flour, bread flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and confectioner’s sugar.  I put the brown sugar in, bag and all, to help it stay soft..

#2  Spices

Spices are key for fall and holiday baking.  Don’t skimp on them.  You don’t want to get up to your elbows in cookie dough only to realize that tin of ginger is all but empty.  I like to buy spices in fairly small containers whenever possible, and replenish them often so they don’t sit there for years.  Start the season with a good variety.  The basics for cookies are GINGER, CINNAMON, NUTMEG, ALLSPICE, GROUND CLOVES, and CARDAMOM.  I like to keep WHITE PEPPER around for authentic gingerbread and speculoos doughs, and STAR ANISE (for Chai themed recipes.)  For holiday recipes I often need POPPY SEEDS, SESAME SEEDS, and I splurge on WHOLE VANILLA BEANS.  But my favorite favorite thing that I cannot be without is WHOLE NUTMEG.  You can buy it right in the spice aisle, and the jar holds several of the nuts.  When you grate them fresh they have the most intoxicating aroma and flavor.   I put it in everything!  You can use a MICROPLANE GRATER or get a special tool like THIS ONE that I’ve used for years.  It stores the nutmeg right inside.

#3 Special Pantry Ingredients

Under this category I include ingredients you might not normally have around the kitchen, but become essential for recreating  classic fall and holiday treats.  There’s nothing worse than finding a tempting recipe on a blog and not having the ingredients to make it on the spot.  Here are my fall pantry must haves, in no particular order: MOLASSES, CORN SYRUP, ALMOND PASTE, DRIED EGG WHITES (for meringues and royal icing) GEL FOOD COLORING, (so much more vivid than the liquid) SPRINKLES OF ALL KINDS, GELATIN POWDER, PECTIN, EVAPORATED MILK, SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK, CANNED PUMPKIN, SHREDDED COCONUT, POWDERED ESPRESSO, and HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK COCOA POWDER.  In addition to my normal supply of chocolate I like to have some WHITE CHOCOLATE around, both baking squares and chips, and some BUTTERSCOTCH CHIPS.  And NUTELLA, CORNSTARCH, and CRISCO SHORTENING,  if you don’t normally stock them.  I love to keep a selection of AIRLINE SIZED LIQUOR BOTTLES around for flavoring.  Especially Amaretto, Frangelico, Irish Cream…whatever your favorites are.   And don’t forget FLAVOR EXTRACTS, I like to keep almond, vanilla, peppermint, lemon, and maple handy, but THE MORE THE MERRIER, I say.

#4 Supplies

There are a few key supplies that really make a difference when you’re baking.  Like PARCHMENT PAPER, and lots of it.  You will use it for a thousand things.  I especially like the ready to use SHEETS that are cut to the size of the baking pan. And SILICONE MATS are worth their weight in gold.  Don’t forget TOOTHPICKS for testing, and an EXTRA SET of MEASURING SPOONS & MEASURING CUPS, so you can move on to a second project without stopping to wash up.   A basic set of round COOKIE or BISCUIT  CUTTERS is important to have, and BAKING SPRAY.   Even thought I don’t usually do fancy cake decorating, I like to have a basic set of PASTRY BAGS AND TIPS around in case I get a sudden urge to make a gingerbread village.  (It could happen!)  And plenty of heavy duty ZIP LOCK FREEZER BAGS in various sizes for freezing cookies and storing all those sprinkles.

#5 Equipment

Besides your rolling pin, there are a few tools that are super useful at this time of year.  And I’m not talking about a KitchenAid mixer, don’t worry.  But a small KITCHEN SCALE is so important to have for bread baking, and accessing European recipes written with weight based measurements. You need SEVERAL SIZES OF COOKIE SCOOPS for muffins, cupcakes, and cookies, and COOLING RACKS.  Multiple BAKING SHEETS so you don’t have to wait for your one pan to cool down before starting the next batch of cookies.  And an inexpensive OVEN THERMOMETER to check the accuracy of your oven temperature is probably one of the most important tools you can have.


#6 In the Fridge

This is a short but important list.  BUTTERMILK.  HEAVY CREAM, EXTRA BUTTER (keep in in the freezer)  SOUR CREAM or YOGURT.  Luckily these ingredients keep a relatively long time.  And I keep an assortment of NUTS and usually ALMOND MEAL  in the fridge or freezer too.


#7 Miscellaneous

Remember that fall and holiday baking is often about giving.  And that means one thing…packaging.  You’ll need CELLOPHANE BAGS, CARDBOARD BOXES, GIFT CARDS and TISSUE PAPER.  I send care packages to my kids in the fall, so I always keep a few FLAT RATE SHIPPING BOXES and some BUBBLE WRAP  around.  Add a SHARPIE to the list and, guess what?   You’re set!


Whew!  What have I forgotten??

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Maris (In Good Taste)
    September 3, 2014 at 12:30 am

    My kitchen will be! I need some new loaf pans and to dig out my cookie cutters. I tend to buy something I think I am out of, like flour, and have a ton of it, but run out of butter mid recipe. I need to start making lists and stocking up!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    September 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    You are so far ahead of me! I’m still trying to squeeze in a few more summer recipes I didn’t get to make … yet! It was nearly 100 degrees today so summer’s not gone – and I’m not ready for fall baking! I need a pantry intervention. Please come help me! You are so organized and ready – good for you!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 2, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I was shocked a month ago, when on a cool day I went to bake cookies and found that I was nearly out of sugar! it all went to hummingbirds!

    I agree with just about item you list, and have an embarrassing number of things like measuring cups and spoons and cookie scoops – Sur la Tab is like crack for me 🙂 I also 100% agree with the Oxo canisters – I converted my entire pantry to them a few years ago, and I LOVE them!

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    September 2, 2014 at 8:55 am

    yep I am ready! Le’ts get this baking party/season started! LOL!

    • Reply
      September 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Yay — I’m in!

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    September 1, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    O yes, I am so ready for the baking season. And without my kitchen scale, I can’t do anything.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    You make such a good point about stocking multiples so that you can run two projects at once – I always end up frustrated waiting for a free baking tray now I’ve written a reminder to pick up extras!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I use my scale all the time..

    I must admit those flavorings have caught my eye now because of you..
    So not ready for Christmas cookies..yet I have started my ornaments and gift buying..making.
    I think because my winter is so rigorous..I am sorry to see summer coming to an end..
    Have you tried leaving bay leaves loose in your cupboards..they everything away..
    I keep almond flour now too..fave cookies..macarons etc..
    Great list Sue…we have many many of the same things on hand.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Yes, I’ve got the bay leaves scattered all over the place!!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I am not even remotely ready for the fall baking or cooking (sigh). Love your ideas. I definitely a believer of canisters for bulk flour and sugar….In my kitchen we are prone to weevils if we are not careful.

    You shared some great ideas. Thanks. Happy baking!


    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Velva 🙂

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

    It’s so funny you should post this today … I am NOT READY to say goodbye to summer but just yesterday I had the urge to bake some oatmeal raisin cookies, even though it’s hot here in Northeast Ohio. So, yes, it seems baking season is approaching.

    Sue how do you manage to keep a jar of Nutella in your pantry? I can’t be trusted to have it in the house.

    Thanks for this great roundup. Baking season (and winter and snow, sob) approaches. I’m happy about the baking part.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Well, first of all, I am SO ready to say goodbye to summer, but I won’t get the chance until later in October, or even November here in Southern CA, which is just WRONG.
      And as for the Nutella, it helps to hide it behind some of those large canisters!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 10:54 am

    We had those moths, Sue. Took our exterminator a couple of times to fully get rid of them. He said it was from storing bird seed in our garage which is right off the kitchen. Great advice on tools to have handy! My new favorite is my Tovolo Pastry sheet for rolling pastries.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks Candace, and you know that pastry sheet is on my list of things to get. I am so bad at rolling out my pastry dough in anything that resembles a perfect circle!

  • Reply
    Teresa Davis
    September 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Great list! Have recently purchased a kitchen scale and an ice cream maker, thanks to you. How did I do without them for so many years (ok DECADES)? Now I have a recent discovery to share…cocoa nibs. They are fabulous. Sprinkled them on a homemade cherry ice cream with cherry sauce. Oooooohhh. Got mine from spicehouse.com but I understand Whole Foods (among other places) carries them. Am now thinking of dark chocolate cocoa brownies with nibs added….

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      I have never bought coco nibs, although I’ve tasted them and love them…ok, you’ve officially inspired me to add another item to the pantry list!

  • Reply
    Cathy at Wives with Knives
    September 1, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Great list, Sue. Having a well stocked kitchen saves so much time spent running to the store for an item or two. My list is similar to yours. Almond flour has become one of my most important and often used ingredients and a good kitchen scale is essential. Looking forward to getting into my baking routine again.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 9:59 am

      I’m looking forward to it, too. And amen to not having to run out to the store, what a drag!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Great post – I will definitely revisit this after I’ve moved in 2 weeks. Now I’m focused on finishing out pantry items!

    • Reply
      September 1, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Perfect timing for you, a move is such a great time to reinvent your kitchen, good luck with it!