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A Cheat’s Guide to a Baker’s Store Cupboard

We don’t really have time to bake these days. Not everyone has the luxury to waltz into the kitchen dreamily planning to bake some fruit scones for an afternoon snack.
Weekdays are taken over by the commute, days in the office, meetings, the school run, meal times, what on earth to make for dinner, then finally there might be an opportunity to get your feet up and zone out in front of the television. By that time, baking is far from our minds.
Weekends, if you aren’t still required to work, gives a bit more leeway. But, even if we do consider baking a dessert for Sunday lunch, we don’t always have those perfect ingredients in the cupboard. When I was a student, I found myself in this situation almost daily. Regularly craving cake, pudding or anything smothered in chocolate, I had to learn to adapt recipes and my ingredients to compensate not having the money or time to nip to Sainsbury’ for an essential tub of baking soda, cream or buttermilk. To this day, recipes including said awkward ingredients are still infuriating (is buttermilk really that important?!) and I determinedly make it without.
So I have thought up a useful list of essential ingredients to have in the cupboard at all times so, should the baking cravings hit unexpectedly, you’re well prepared!
kitchen tips

Both plain and self-raising flour – If you have self-raising flour but the recipe requires baking powder which you do not have, just ensure you aerate the flour a couple of times by sieving it generously.
Sugar – Caster sugar or granulated will do, granulated can be whizzed in a food processor if the recipe asks for a fine texture.
Eggs
Butter/margarine/oil – when baking at home I regularly use Flora (Paul Hollywood would not approve).
Milk
A handy supply of fruit, whether fresh, frozen, dried or tinned – for example, lemons and oranges can provide fresh flavour just with a small amount of zest, tinned pears are a juicy accompaniment in chocolate pudding, soaked sultanas (preferably soaked in rum…) are delicious in bread and butter puddings or muffins.

The following ingredients are useful additions, most have long shelf-lives and it’ worth stocking up on at least a couple of these items:

Cocoa powder
Cinnamon
Mixed spice
Vanilla extract
Ground nuts (particularly almonds)
Icing sugar
Peanut Butter/Nutella/Honey/Jam/Cream cheese – these spreads are so adaptable, within minutes you have a filling for a cake or a topping for biscuits.

And for those who love having a cheeky doughnut to hand:

Strong plain flour
Instant yeast

With these ingredients, baking on a whim is not only possible but you can create something delicious with little effort!
(On a side note, if you do ever need that rogue buttermilk just add a teaspoon of lemon juice or rice vinegar to a cup of milk and wait for it to curdle. Even tricky ingredients have loopholes!)