Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

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!