While standing in the baking section of our local grocery store I looked at all the versions of different basic cooking ingredients and couldn’t believe my eyes at all the “varieties” of everything.
Then I thought of my great aunt and grandmother’s kitchen from my childhood. In that kitchen there were basic ingredients salt, flour, sugar, molasses, cornstarch and similar baking/cooking ingredients. They didn’t have 3 types of sugar purchased from the grocery, or three or more types of flour they had the basics. With those simple basics they produced some of the finest foods you would ever want to eat.
I then thought about my own kitchen where I have been slowly going back to just the basics ma’am, just the basics.
My last post “The Spices of Life” listed many of the spice and herb blends I use instead of buying numerous expensive bottles of blends. Simple to make and handy to have on hand. It included links for all the recipes to make them over to my Patterson's Pantry Recipe blog, just as this will too.
It has turned out to be a popular post. So I thought I would also share some of the other things I make to use instead of having so many varieties of different things in my cupboards.
There are several reasons to cut down the number of items you purchase. Here are the top ones in my book in no certain order:
1. Cost. Anytime you start buying “specialty” items the price of that item goes up. After all the cost to the manufacturer to add the extra equipment, employees to run the equipment and different packaging adds up. When you produce these items at home you eliminate all that. You are simply turning one item you own into something else often quite quickly. Take coconut flour, one of the most expensive flours to purchase. You can make that yourself by using the coconut you already have in your pantry and you also get the bonus of producing coconut milk at the same time, which is expensive to purchase itself.
2. Freshness. When you have numerous varieties of an item they don’t get used as often as when you have only one. It is very easy to forget you have a bag of self rising flour in the back of your pantry and never getting around to using it before it goes stale or develops “renters” in it.
3. Control. Making your own gives you control over what goes in. When you have health concerns that is very important. Things like self rising flour can be made from organic unbleached flour in your own home. You won’t often find that in the grocery.
4. Waste. You can make as little or as much as you want and avoid waste of the product.
5. Smarter storage usage. Let’s face it if you purchase bags of say four varieties of flour that is four space hogs in your pantry or fridge. If you leave it in the original packaging you run the risk of losing it to pests and the product going stale. So you put it in canisters when you get home with it. That means then you have four bags/boxes to get rid of. Many cities and dumps charge you by volume.
6. Convenience and a larger variety to your meals. I know, because it is a 20 minute drive one way to a grocery for me I will not cook something if I don’t have the correct ingredients, or at least a viable substitute (a subject for another blog post). Since I started making many of my own basics our menu options have increased tremendously.
Let’s get started with flours in this post. I will do other posts on other themes. Since there is such a huge variety of flours this one will probably be the longest post of this series. Remember just click the hyperlinks for the actual recipes
FLOURS MADE WITH ALL PURPOSE FLOUR, BLEACHED OR UNBLEACHED:
We all generally have all-purpose (ap) flour on hand, and for most recipes, whether you prefer bleached or unbleached that is all you need. However, there are times you need “specialty” flours that can get quite expensive. I have used these homemade versions with wonderful results.
Bread: I bake a lot of bread and bread flour is expensive as any baker will tell you. That is also another canister or vacuum sealed bag to deal with. By purchasing a package of vital wheat gluten you can eliminate that extra large space hog for a much smaller box/jar (I vacuum seal just about everything in Mason jars any more and avoid loss to rodents or pantry-weevil moths. Don’t tempt those critters they won’t show up). Just in case you are thinking you don’t want to purchase vital wheat gluten just for this purpose. Know that it helps lighten the density of such grain breads as wheat and rye. So it is handy to have for those as well.
Cake: Generally cake flour is milled from soft wheat to a fine texture, but it is also expensive. After some discussion with professional bakers and a little research I learned that there was no need for me to take up valuable pantry space with a box of cake flour, that I could make as much as I needed simply and swiftly with basic ingredients. Click the link for the recipe.
Self Rising: I seldom use this flour so buying even a five pound bag of it meant I would need to vacuum seal it to keep it fresh and remind myself to use it up quickly. Not any more.
Wondra Instant: This one is often hard to find, and since I use it in my homemade gravy mixes I was truly happy to find a homemade version of it.
SPECIALTY FLOURS: These don’t use all purpose flour, but they are simple to make to avoid storing numerous expensive containers of various other “flours”. Most are gluten free,
Almond,Pistachio, Walnut, Pecan, Hazel Nut and Other Nut: I love trying new recipes. What I don’t love is having to rush out to purchase special ingredients to try them. Currently there are a lot of recipes hitting the web that use nut flours. You want to talk expensive? Just make your own for half the price.
Bean, Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa or Rice flour: As you spread your wings and try various ethnic recipes you sooner or later find recipes using various bean or rice flours. Unless you have a grocery that carries that type of cuisine you may not be able to find the flour, so make your own.
Cashew, Flax Meal, Linseed Meal, Oat, Sunflower Seed: These are super easy to make because they are soft and easy to grind. They are often used in addition to other flours.
Coconut: One of the most expensive specialty flours can not only be made at home in just a few steps, but you also get the by product of coconut milk to use in other recipes.
Fruit or Vegetable Powder/Flour: While you probably won’t find recipes that call for a specific fruit or vegetable powder or flour it is very handy to have to make breads, pie crusts and other baked goods extra flavorful. Use the vegetable powders to add nutrition to soups, casseroles, meat loaves, meat balls and other things.
Rye, Wheat and Other Grains: Making these flours yourself give you better quality flours than what regular groceries carry.
SoyGrits and Flour: More and more recipes are calling for this ingredient. If you have access to mature soy beans and water you can make your own.
UNIQUE FLOURS AND COATINGS:
While technically a flour once made these are more often used for coatings or pie crusts. Think outside the box to add texture and flavor to your meals.
Crackers, multigrain cereals, rice cereal, corn flakes graham crackers, cookies, pretzels, snack chips of all sorts, the list is endless. The how to for these is here.