Must-Have Ingredients & Gear for Holiday Baking

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flourThe flour that’s most frequently called for in recipes.
  • Baking powderThis leavening agent causes batter to rise when baked.
  • Baking sodaBaking soda becomes a leavening agent in recipes containing acidic ingredients (buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, etc.).
  • ButterUnsalted butter is best for baking, as it has a sweeter flavor and allows you to control the amount of salt in a recipe. Chop butter before melting or mixing.
  • Brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, and granulated sugarConfectioners’ sugar is best for icings and whipped creams. But keep all three types on hand.
  • Pure vanilla extractPure extract is more expensive than imitation vanilla, but it’s much more potent.
  • Eggs
  • MilkTraditional recipes assume that the baker will use whole milk, so swapping in one percent or nonfat milks may result in a very different product.
  • Heavy creamThe base for whipped cream and many custards and icings.
  • ChocolateStock bars of both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate. Chips (or morsels) are also good to have around for cookies.
  • NutsKeep almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid.
  • SpicesMany holiday recipes call for nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Store in a cool, dry place.

Gear

    • Electric mixerStand mixers are great for beating batters, mixing dough, and whipping cream (and will also allow you to prep other ingredients), but a hand mixer is a fine alternative.
    • PansBasic pans include cake pans and Bundt cake pans, pie plates, tart pans, loaf pans, muffin tins, and cupcake tins. To avoid a mid-recipe pan-shopping panic, opt to make only baked goods that require a pan you already own.
    • Baking sheets (including rimmed sheets and cookie sheets)Because cookie sheets aren’t rimmed on all sides, it’s easier to remove cookies, and they brown more evenly. Use parchment paper to ensure they don’t stick. Darker, nonstick baking sheets tend to make cookies darken more quickly.
    • Cooling rackTransfer baked goods from the pan to a cooling rack (available in a variety of sizes) right out of the oven so they don’t become soggy from steaming in their own heat.
    • Measuring cups and spoonsLiquid and dry ingredients should not be measured with the same tools. Use measuring utensils for dry ingredients that can be leveled off, for exact measurements. Use glass or plastic tools with a pouring spout for liquid measurements.
    • Rubber spatulaShould be pliable enough that you can use it not only to stir and scrape batters into pans, but also to get every last bit of dough out of bowls.
    • Metal spatulasA thin- or narrow-bladed metal spatula creates clean edges while frosting a cake. A wide-bladed metal spatula works well to safely remove cookies from baking sheets.
    • Pastry brushChoose one with natural bristles for brushing egg or glazes on tarts and piecrusts.
    • Rolling pinLong rolling pins keep the pressure even on dough as you’re rolling it out.
    • Cookie cuttersYou might want to invest in a nice variety.
    • Parchment paperNo more need to grease your pans: Just line them with parchment paper for no-stick cookies and cakes.
    • Cupcake linersTo make easily removable and transportable cupcakes and muffins.
    • Mixing bowlsStainless steel is more versatile than plastic or glass.