For your best holiday baking, be sure your pantry is stocked with a fresh (or still-good) supply of these staple ingredients.

By Allrecipes Magazine

Holiday Baking Checklist

1. Salt

A pinch does wonders for flavor and texture in baked sweets and breads. Kept dry, salt stores indefinitely. Here's how to use different varieties of salt in your cooking and baking.

2. Flour

If you haven’t baked since last Christmas and don’t store your flour in the freezer, it’s probably time for a fresh bag. Flour doesn’t go bad, per se, but it can become stale. Find out if you're baking with the right flour.

3. Sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar

Some cookie recipes require all three. Sugars that are kept dry don’t go bad, although brown sugar can harden and clump. To soften brown sugar, put it in a microwave-safe container, cover with a moist paper towel and a lid or plate, and microwave for 20 seconds. Get tips for baking with sugar and sugar substitutes.

4. Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast

If they’ve been open for more than 9 to 12 months or are past their expiration date, you might need a new tin, box, or packet. If you’re not sure, you can test their potency: Stir a little baking powder into hot water, a little baking soda into vinegar, or a little yeast into warm water with sugar. If the liquid doesn’t fizz or foam right away, the ingredient is probably too old to give your baked goods the necessary lift. Get tips for baking with yeast.

5. Ground cinnamon

If it seems more dusty than fragrant, it’s time to get a new jar.

6. Cocoa powder

Stored tightly closed, most cocoa retains its quality and potency for two to three years at room temp. Not sure how long you’ve had yours? Give it a smell test: Fresh cocoa has a noticeable chocolate aroma.

7. Vanilla extract and food coloring

These keep indefinitely. Just be sure there’s enough left in those little vials for your next baking session.

8. Butter

It keeps a good while in the fridge, but if you’re unsure, cut off a slice. If the color around the perimeter is significantly lighter or darker than the interior, the butter may be old. Also check for a sour or “off” odor. Old or poorly wrapped butter may absorb flavors and aromas from other foods in your fridge. For baking, it’s best to use fresh butter or butter that you’ve wrapped well and stored in the freezer.

Allrecipes Magazine

Related

This article originally appeared in the December/January 2019 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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