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Know Your Baking Basics

You know what they say: “Nothing says lovin’ like something hot from the oven!” And since I love baking, by the time the holidays roll around, festive baking is already in full swing  in my house. I like to stock up on baking ingredients early in the season so I’m fully prepared — you know, like when I need to whip up an army of gingerbread men or want to bestow my friends with gifts of my favorite chocolate chip cookies (they love it when I do that). Here’s a rundown on some basic baking essentials so you can choose the best supplies to stock your fridge and pantry for your holiday baking needs. (And don’t forget that we offer loads of baking ingredients like sugar, flour, sweeteners, flavor extracts, chocolate, nuts and more in our 365 Everyday Value® line!) SWEET DEFINITIONS Get just the right touch of sweetness by using the sugar for your specific purpose:
  • Granulated: cooking and table use; all-purpose
  • Superfine (a.k.a. castor sugar): meringues, cold drinks, baked goods
  • Confectioners’ (a.k.a. powdered sugar): icing, glazes, sprinkled as decoration for baked goods
  • Brown (light or dark): baked goods, on yogurt or oatmeal, adds caramel flavor to ham, sweet potatoes, baked beans
  • Unrefined/Raw: coffee, tea, desserts, baked goods — types include demerara, dark muscovado, turbinado
THE RIGHT CREAM FROM THE CROP Cream comes in different consistencies so it’s best to use the right kind at the right time for the “dairy best” results!
  • Half & half: sauces, soups, coffee and cocktails, cannot be whipped
  • Whipping cream: cream-based sauces or whipped for desserts
  • Heavy whipping cream: whip for filling and decorating pastries and cakes (more stable and sturdier than whipping cream)
  • Crème fraîche: appetizers, dips and rich cooked sauces; to top soups and desserts
CHOOSE THE BEST BUTTER FOR THE JOB! Different kinds of butters achieve peak performance in specific applications — here’s when to use certain types:
  • Unsalted: baking and any type of cooking where you need to control the exact amount of salt
  • Salted: cooking and spreading on our freshly baked breads and rolls
  • European-style: to produce flaky, crisp baked goods (due to higher butterfat); in recipes and as a spread
  • Whipped: spreading on pancakes, waffles, muffins and bread since it is soft and spreadable when cold
  • Cultured: delicious as a spread due to its intense, almost cheese-like flavor
  • Clarified butter/Ghee: high-temperature cooking, has a high smoke point because milk solids have been removed
EGGS EXPLAINED Eggs can come decorated in many different kinds of labels — here’s what they mean:
  • Cage-free: eggs from cage-free hens (we don’t sell any eggs from hens raised in cages)
  • Free-range: hens have access to the outdoors
  • Pasture-raised: hens live outdoors with access to housing
  • Organic: eggs come from hens that have access to the outdoors and are raised on organic feed
  • Omega-3 or DHA: eggs come from hens fed a diet supplemented with omega-3 EFAs
  • Fertile: eggs come from hens that live with roosters and can engage in natural mating behaviors
PICK THE RIGHT FLOUR POWER It’s a good idea to keep all the major types of flour on hand so you’re sure to use the exact type of flour called for in a recipe. (Not all types are interchangeable because they have different flavor, texture and weight, and they interact differently with other ingredients.) Here’s when to use some common types of flour:
  • All-purpose: most general cooking and baking needs
  • Whole wheat: blended with all-purpose flour to make pancakes, breads and pizza or pie crusts
  • Cake/Pastry: delicate cake and pastry recipes that require its finer texture
  • Whole-wheat pastry: cookies, pancakes, muffins, cakes and no-yeast breads
Going gluten free? Gluten-free flours include amaranth, teff, rice, garbanzo, fava bean, soy, millet and almond flour. These may be suitable for some people with gluten sensitivity and can sometimes boost nutrition content too. Make sure to keep an eye out for gluten-free certification if you need to pay attention to gluten sensitivity or allergies. Ready to put these baking basics to use? Hop on over to our holiday hub for some of our favorite dessert and baked goods recipes. What do you plan on baking this holiday season? Do you have any tried and true favorites or will you try something new this year? Share your best baking ideas with us by leaving a comment below!

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says …

@Kathy Since you've taken such great measures to create a really cool and unique ingredient, I recommend you use this vanilla in items where the flavor will truly be highlighted. For example, recipes with very few ingredients will put a great emphasis on your vanilla. If you make smoothies, or pancakes with great vanilla, it will really show through. Also, there are a few adult beverages that call for vanilla. The best way to figure out the coolest recipe for you is trial and error. Have fun!

says …

@Ti Since each of our stores sources their products a little differently, the best way to get the most accurate information regarding the types of cocoa we offer is to reach out to your community's Whole Foods Market directly. The link below will help you identify the contact information for your store and a Team Member there will be happy to discuss the options with you. Happy hunting! www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores

Ti says …

What cocoas do you carry. I can no longer obtain reasonably priced Callabault cocoa, the best there is but so pricey. Do you have a high quality, more reasonably priced alternative?

lilian says …

It’s a good idea to keep all the major types of flour on hand so you’re sure to use the exact type of flour called for in a recipe.

Kathy says …

I made organic vanilla extract this year, and am searching for some really different ideas to use it in recipes for gifts. Figuring out gifts on a non-existant budget has been tricky, but rewarding this year!

kara rane says …

hi Jennifer~ i also love to bake & am so happy you included ghee and wheat free options as choices..also fun to surprise people with vegan items ..like chocolate chip cookies yum*!

Kathie says …

do you have any recipes that are wheat, dairy and soy free?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KATHIE - You can conduct an advanced search on our recipe site to find these recipes, however, the only one you can not search for is soy free. I have conducted the recipe search below for gluten free and dairy free options. The link to the results are at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/search/%20?f[0]=field_special_diet%3A138&f[1]=field_special_diet%3A139.

sheila says …

I'm looking for almond flour for some Christmas candy making. Do you stock almond flour? Size & price? Thank you!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHEILA - We should have this at your local store! Our products can vary between locations so check with your local store to find out for sure. We often will have it available in packages and sometimes in bulk too!

Rick Helweg says …

What is "baking flour"? I recently bought some of your 365 Baking Flour after asking a store associate if it was akin to bread flour and she assured me that it was. It is NOT. I've been baking bread for manynyeRs and have always used King Arthur Bread Flour. When I saw that your 365 Baking Flour was half the price I had to inquire about it as I've never come across anything labeled "baking flour" before. The bread came out much the same as bread baked using AP four. So, what IS baking flour?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RICK - My apologies for the mix-up. You can let the store know so they can hopefully swap out the flour for you. I would suggest trying to use All Purpose Flour for the baking needs for breads, which you can often cut with whole wheat flour.

Gloria Slater says …

Thanks for this great advice on baking! I'm looking forward to a gluten free Happy Holiday enjoying all my favs without gaining weight!

Victoria says …

I'm interested in a more precise answer to Rick Helweg's question. What is 365 Baking Flour? What is the protein content? Is it low like a cake or pastry flour? Medium like AP? Medium high like King Arthur AP? High like bread? The term Baking Flour has a lot of people confused and absolutely no one I've asked has any idea what this flour is or which baking application it is targeted at. Please help!

Olivia says …

I want to know the answer to Victoria's question. No one at any of the Whole Foods stores that I've called knows the answer.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@VICTORIA & @OLIVIA - I checked with our Private Label team and we currently do not have a 365 product that is labeled as "Baking Flour". Can you send me the UPC/Barcode from the back of the package so we can look in to this product? Thanks!