The Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

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Baking Ingredients

Baking Ingredients

Get the story behind the staples you keep in your pantry and refrigerator, including storage instructions and substitution tips.

  • Agave Syrup

    Description

    • Agave syrup is made from the nectar of the agave or Century plant. It is a cactus-like or succulent plant that grows in the southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. It is considered a natural sweetener.
    • Agave syrup has a sweet mild flavor. It is available in light or amber nectars. It is often sold as an organic product and is sweeter than sugar.
    • Sweeten hot or cold beverages with agave syrup.  The syrup can also be used in baked goods. Lighter syrup is good used for lighter baked goods.  The amber or darker syrup lends a more caramel like flavor to baked goods.

    Buying

    • Look for agave syrup in the baking section in jars or in the organic food section.

    Storing

    • Keep the jar well sealed and store in a cool, dry place. Use by the expiration date.

    Tip

    • Light agave syrup can be substituted for granulated sugar in baking.  Use 2/3 cup for 1 cup of sugar and reduce the liquid 1/4 to 1/3 cup. The amber syrup can be substituted for brown sugar.  Use 2/3 cup for 1 cup of brown sugar and reduce liquid by 1/4 cup. Cookies made from agave syrup will not be as crisp; they will have a more cake-like texture.
  • Allspice

    Description

    • Allspice is an aromatic spice with an aroma of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. It has a distinct flavor and is deep brown in color.
    • It is available ground or as whole dried berries.
    • It is a popular spice to use in baking and the whole dried berries are often used in pickling.

    Storage

    • Store whole and ground spices in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Heat, light, and moisture cause spices to lose their flavor faster.
    • Do not store spices above the range or oven.

    Substitutions

    • Substitute for 1 teaspoon ground allspice: 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mixed together.
  • Almond Paste or Filling

    Description

    • Almond paste is a firm, but pliable mixture of sugar and blanched ground almonds sold in a can or tube. It is used to make some desserts and cookies. It is sweet, with a prominent almond flavor.
    • Almond cake and pastry filling is also sold.  This has evaporated milk and other ingredients added and is more fluid. It is used for fillings in pastries and cakes.

    Buying and storing

    • Almond paste is sold in tubes and cans in the baking aisle.
    •   Don’t substitute almond paste with the other two products.
    •  Use the product up by the expiration date. 
    • Almond paste may be frozen and thawed before using.

    Tip

    • If almond paste is too firm to blend, soften in the microwave for just a few seconds.
  • Almond

    Description

    • An almond is the kernel from the shell of the almond fruit tree. Almonds have a tan colored shell and an almond shape. They are sweet, crunchy and flavorful.
    • Almonds are sold unshelled seasonally, and also are sold blanched or unblanched. Unblanched means the skin is still on the nut. They are sold sliced, chopped, slivered, candied, and smoked.
    • Almonds are tasty as a snack and used in many desserts, in baked goods and in some Asian main dishes. One pound unshelled almonds equal about 1/3 pound shelled.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled nuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh and not be not be rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts may ruin a baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Anise/Aniseed

    Description

    • Anise or aniseed is an herb that has feathery, aromatic medium green leaves.
    • The tiny seeds are used whole or crushed in breads, cakes and cookies.
    • The leaf can be used in salads.
    • Anise has a licorice flavor.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use herbs within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store fresh herbs in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
    • Store dried herbs and seeds away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

    Tip

    • Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh herbs, start with one half the amount of fresh herbs, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried herb in place of 1 tablespoon fresh herb.
    • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2 inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
  • Apple

    Description

    • An apple is a fruit that has been grown for thousands of years. It is a very popular fruit that comes in many shapes, colors and sizes as well as flavor and textures.
    • Flavors can be sweet to tart, texture can be soft, almost mushy to very crisp.
    • Apples are a good source of vitamins and fiber.
    • Apples are popular for eating and are also used in salads, pies and other baked goods, in applesauce and in many other recipes.
    • Apple cider is made by pressing juice from the pulp of apples and is used as a juice or to make apple cider vinegar. Sweet apple juice will ferment, so it is most often filtered and pasteurized before selling.   
    • Some varieties are:
      • Baldwin is a soft, early fall apple good for baking and sauce. The color of the apple is yellow with a striped red blush.
      • Braeburn is a crisp, sweet/tart apple that holds its shape in baking. It is good for all uses. The color of the apple is yellow with a striped red blush.
      • Cortland is a sweet, tart apple with a somewhat soft texture and is good for pies and baking. It is deep red.
      •  Fireside is a large sweet apple that does not bake well.
      • Fuji is a sweet crisp apple, which is best for eating. It is a yellow green apple with red highlights to an almost all red apple.
      • Gala is very sweet and crisp and best for eating. Gala apples are a red striped to solid red apple.
      • Granny Smith is a tangy and crisp green apple that remains firm when baked. Good for pies and all purposes.
      • Golden Delicious is an apple with a sweet honey-like flavor, is juicy, and has a soft texture. It is golden to light yellow green in color.  It is an all-purpose apple. It retains its shape when baking, but is tender.
      • Haralson is a firm, tart apple that is good for eating and pies.
      • Honeycrisp is a relatively new apple, which has a honey flavor and a crisp texture. It is great for eating and for baking. The color is about 3/4 red over a yellow background.
      • Jonagold is a tangy and sweet apple and is best for eating. It has a red over yellow coloring.
      • Jonathan is tart and tangy apple and makes a good pie.
      • McIntosh is an old time apple which is slightly mealy and falls apart when cooked. The color is a deep red tinged with green.  It is good for applesauce.
      • Paula Red is a round red apple that has some yellow.  It is tangy and good for pies and eating.
      • Red Delicious is semi firm, sweet apple and is best for eating. The skin is a little tough. It has a traditional apple shape.
      • Regent is a sweet apple good for sauce.
      • Rome is slightly sweet apple, which has a crisp texture but cooks down for baking and pies.

    Buying

    • Look for apples with a smooth surface without bruises and blemishes. Some apple varieties are only available during certain times of the year. Fall is when a bumper crop of different varieties are at their best.

    Storing

    • Store apples in the refrigerator or a cool place.
    • Once apple cider is opened, refrigerate.  Fresh apple juice needs to be store in the refrigerator and used by the expiration date.

    Measuring

    • There are 3 to 4 apples in a pound, depending on the size; one pound equals about 3 cups sliced

    Tip

    • Some of the best pies and crisps used a variety of apples. Some hold their shape and others soften during baking.
  • Apple Butter

    Description

    • Apple butter is a thick mixture made by slowly cooking apples with sugar and spices and apple juice or cider.  It is most often used as a spread on bread or toast.

    Buying

    • Look for apple butter in the jams and jellies section of the store.

    Storing

    • After opening, store apple butter in the refrigerator and use by the expiration date.
  • Applesauce

    Description

    • Applesauce is a cooked puree of apples, sugar and sometimes spices.
    • It can vary in texture from smooth to chunky
    • Applesauce can be substituted for oil in some baked goods to reduce calories. Use the same amount of applesauce as you would oil.

    Buying and Storing

    • Applesauce can be found in the canned fruit section of the grocery store.
    • It is sold in jars and plastic snack-sized containers.
    • Store in the cupboard and refrigerate after opening

     

  • Apricot

    Description

    • An apricot is related to the peach family. It is small and can be pale yellow to dark orange with a rosy blush and has a balanced flavor.
    • An apricot contains one pit and it splits in half easily.
    • Apricots have a short season, mid to late summer.
    • They are eaten, skin and all. Many apricots are just eaten as a snack but they can be used as a dessert or in cobblers or crisps. Apricots can also be purchased canned or dried.

    Buying and Storing

    • A ripe apricot should be somewhat firm, have a rich color with no green. It should yield to slight pressure. When ripe an apricot is sweet, juicy and has a short shelf life.
    • Keep apricots on the counter a few days or store in the refrigerator to keep them from getting too soft.
  • Baking Powder

    Description

    • Baking powder is a chemical leavening agent that is a combination of baking soda, plus an acid such as cream of tartar, plus a moisture absorber such as cornstarch. 
    • In the presence of heat and moisture, the baking powder reacts to form carbon dioxide gas in a baked product to make it rise. 
    • The most common type of baking powder is double-acting baking powder. Double-acting baking powder produces gas twice.
      • During mixing when baking powder gets wet.
      • During baking when the heat completes the reaction.

    Storage

    • Store baking powder tightly covered in a dry place.
    • Baking powder stays fresh for about one year. Check the container for the expiration date. 

    Substitutions

    • Substitute for 1 teaspoon baking powder: Combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

    Measuring

    • Use a standard measuring spoon and be sure the spoon is dry when measuring. Fill a standard measuring spoon to the top and level with a spatula or knife.

    Testing for Freshness

    • Place 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup hot water. If the mixture foams, the baking powder is still good. If it does not foam, replace your box of baking powder.
  • Baking Soda

    Description

    • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is used as a leavening agent when a recipe contains acid ingredients.
    • Baking soda, an alkaline ingredient, plus an acid ingredient, such as buttermilk, vinegar, molasses or sour cream creates a chemical reaction to form carbon dioxide gas in a baked product making it rise and become light and porous. 
    • Heat is not necessary for the chemical reaction, so the reaction begins as soon as liquid ingredients are added. Therefore, products leavened with baking soda should be baked immediately after mixing or the gases will escape and the product will not rise. 

    Storage

    • Store baking soda tightly covered in a dry place. Baking soda loses strength with age, so fresh is best. It stays fresh for about one year. 

    Substitutions

    • There is no substitution for baking soda. 

    Measuring

    • Use a standard measuring spoon and be sure the spoon is dry when measuring. Fill a standard measuring spoon to the top and level with a spatula or knife.

    Testing for Freshness

    • Place 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon vinegar. If the mixture fizzes, the baking soda is still good. If the mixture does not fizz, throw out the old box and buy a new one.
  • Banana

    Description

    • A banana is a popular tropical fruit. They grow in bunches and develop flavor and color after they are picked. Bananas are available year round.
    • There are many varieties of bananas. Cavendish, the yellow supermarket banana, is the most popular in the United States, but there are bananas in many colors and many sizes. Some bananas are finger size, others are chunky and are sweeter.
    • Bananas are popular for eating, topping cereal, banana bread and banana pudding. Bananas are the base of banana splits!

    Buying

    • Look for bunches of bananas that are plump and even-colored. Avoid those that are soft, discolored or have bruises (unless they are on sale and you want to make banana bread!).

    Storing

    • To ripen a banana: Keep the banana at room temperature or place in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process. Ripe bananas can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. The skin will darken but the interior will be creamy white.
    Tips
    • There are about three medium bananas to one pound and one pound equals about 1 1/2 cups mashed banana.
    • Too many ripe bananas all at once? They are great for baking. Freeze the bananas, peel and all. When ready to use, thaw on counter top for a few minutes or microwave on defrost setting for 10 seconds or until slightly soft. The banana will pop out of the skin with slight pressure and be soft and ready to measure for great banana bread, cakes and muffins.
    • To prevent bananas in a fresh fruit salad, brush cut surfaces lightly with lemon juice, or just add at the last minute.
  • Basil

    Description

    • Basil comes in many varieties. A common variety has large oval pointed leaves with a warm, slightly spicy flavor. Lemon basil has a lemony scent, Greek basil has tiny, compact leaves and dark opal basil has crinkled purple leaves.
    • Basil is a key ingredient in pesto. It is found in many tomato dishes as it complements that flavor. Basil is an important culinary herb. The flavor intensifies with cooking, but also discolors the leaf. Fresh basil is available in the produce section year round, grows well in container gardens and is also available dried.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use herbs within a few days to 1 week, depending on the herb. Parsley will last longer.
    • Store herbs in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
    • Store dried herbs away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

    Tip

    • Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh herbs, start with one half the amount of fresh herbs, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried basil instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
    • Most herbs do best when added at the end of cooking.
    • Herbs are easy to grow and as you snip what you need, the plant keeps growing. Many produce departments sell the most common herbs in a pot for year round growing in a sunny spot.
  • Berries

    Description

    • Berries are a popular soft fruit. Some are only available seasonally, although many of the berries they can be found year round. Berries are fragile.
    • Berries are eaten fresh and used in fruit salads, sauces, pies, desserts and jams.
    • Some common berries are:
      • Blackberries are the largest of the berries and are purple to black. They are sweet and juicy. The green cap comes away easily from the berry leaving a white core. They are usually eaten by themselves, on cereal, in fruit salad, desserts and jams.
      • Blueberries are round and deep blue with a slight silver frost on them. Cultivated blueberries are larger, sweeter and juicier than wild blueberries. Blueberries are popular for eating, in blueberry muffins, pancakes, cakes, pies and coffeecakes.
      • Raspberries are jewels of the berries. The raspberry is made up of many drupelets; each has its own seed. These drupelets are connected around the core or center of the berry. Raspberries are available in red, gold and black. They are fragile. The flavor and aroma is great and they are often eaten plain, with cream or baked in pies or desserts. They tend to be expensive, like blackberries. They are sold with the hulls off.
      • Strawberries are a very popular berry now available year round. Some are huge. They are purchased with the stems on. Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps. As with all berries, wash before using and use within a few days. Wash before removing the caps, otherwise they soak up the moisture. Sliced or whole, in a bowl or on cereal, for strawberry shortcake, desserts and smoothies, strawberries are an attractive and welcome fruit. Strawberries are good with chocolate. A strawberry, picked from the garden when ripe, has a great aroma and flavor. They are often smaller and solid. Commercial berries tend to have a hollow middle, especially the larger ones.

    Buying

    • Look for berries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Strawberries are sold with their green caps or hulls, raspberries without their caps.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days. Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Blueberries can be frozen right in the container.
  • Blackberries

    Description

    • A blackberry is sweet and juicy and is purple to black in color.
    • The green cap comes away easily from the berry leaving a white core.
    • Blackberries are usually eaten by themselves, on cereal, in fruit salad, desserts and jams.

    Buying

    • Look for blackberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Blackberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days.  Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Blackberry

    Description

    • A blackberry is sweet and juicy and is purple to black in color.
    • The green cap comes away easily from the berry leaving a white core.
    • Blackberries are usually eaten by themselves, on cereal, in fruit salad, desserts and jams.

    Buying

    • Look for blackberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Blackberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days.  Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Black Walnuts

    Description

    • Black walnuts are hard to shell, so are sold shelled and chopped. They are found inside a shaggy husk which holds the tough nut and needs to be cracked.
    • Black walnuts are more expensive than walnuts and are found in the baking area with the other nuts. They have a unique, dominant flavor and are used by those who love the flavor in cookies, cakes and candies.

    Storage

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Black walnuts are high in fat, so become rancid quickly.
    • Freeze black walnuts if you aren’t using them up quickly. They can be frozen for up to 1 year or in the refrigerator for 6 months.
    • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Blueberries

    Description

    • Blueberries are round and deep blue with a slight silver frost on them. Cultivated blueberries are larger, sweeter and juicier than wild blueberries. Blueberries are popular for eating, in blueberry muffins, pancakes, cakes, pies and coffeecakes.

    Buying

    • Look for blueberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Blueberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days. Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Blueberry

    Description

    • A blueberry is round and deep blue with a slight silver frost on the surface.
    • Cultivated blueberries are larger, sweeter and juicier than wild blueberries.
    • Blueberries are popular for eating, in blueberry muffins, pancakes, cakes, pies and coffeecakes.

    Buying

    • Look for blueberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Blueberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile. Buy what you can use in a few days. Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. 
  • Brazil Nuts

    Description

    • Brazil nuts are from the rainforest of the Amazon.
    • The shell is dark brown and the nut has a brown skin with a white interior and the flavor is rich, sweet and milky.  Brazil nuts are big and are somewhat triangular in shape. 
    • Brazil nuts are high in protein, omega 3 fatty acid and calcium.
    • They turn rancid quickly, so freeze them if not using soon.
    • They are sold in the shell in the produce section, so you will need a nutcracker to snack on these nuts. They are often sold in bags in a mixed nut variety. Some are used in fruitcakes. 

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster.
    • Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled nuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Brown Sugar

    Description

    • Brown sugar is white sugar combined with molasses which results in a soft textured sugar that is moist and sticky.
    • Light and dark brown sugar both have molasses but in varying amounts. Light brown sugar is more delicate in taste. Dark brown sugar retains more of the molasses flavor.
    • Muscovado brown sugar is the darkest brown sugar and is moist with a lot of flavor.
    • Demerara sugar is a dry, light brown raw sugar that has some molasses remaining and has golden large crunchy crystals. It is most often used in hot beverages.

    • Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam cleaned. It contains about 15% molasses, so the sugar has a slight molasses flavor. The color is dependent on how much molasses remains.  It is light tan to golden brown in color and the large crystals make a crunchy and an attractive topping on quick breads, muffins or cookies

    Buying and Storing

    • Brown sugar and raw sugar are usually sold in 1-pound bags or boxes and can be found in the baking aisle of the supermarket.

    Tips and Substitutions

    • To measure brown sugar, pack it firmly into a dry measuring cup. Brown sugar should retain the shape of the cup when turned out.
    • Substitute 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar for 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar. (Slight flavor differences will occur.)
    • Substitute 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons molasses for 1 cup light brown sugar.
    • Substitute 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar for 1 cup granulated sugar. (Flavor will be affected somewhat.)
  • Buckwheat

    Description

    • Buckwheat is technically an herb and not a whole grain.
    • It has an earthy and nutty flavor.
    • Buckwheat does not contain gluten.
    • Soba noodles are made from buckwheat.

    Buying and Storing

    • Buckwheat flour is found with the other flours. Freezing the flour will extend the shelf life.
  • Butter

    Description

    • Butter tenderizes a baked product.
    • It also adds color and flavor that is impossible to replicate.
    • Butter is available salted (salt acts as a preservative) or unsalted. Unsalted butter offers a delicate, cultured flavor.

    Storage

    • Store butter in its original container in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door, for up to one week beyond the date printed on the package.
    • Fresh butter should have a delicate cream flavor and pale yellow color. Butter quickly picks up off-flavors during storage and when exposed to oxygen; once the carton is opened place it in a resealable plastic food bag or airtight container.
    • Store butter away from foods with strong odors, such as onions or garlic.
    • Keep butter refrigerated between serving times.
    • Butter may be frozen for up to four months. Place the butter in a resealable plastic freezer bag.

    Substitutions

    • Unsalted butter may be substituted for salted butter or vice versa. It is not necessary to alter the amount of salt in the recipe.
    • Whipped butter may be used as a substitution based on weight, not volume. For example, if a cake recipe calls for 1cup (2 sticks) butter, you may use 8 ounces of whipped butter.
    • Stick margarine made from vegetable oil may be substituted for butter in most baking applications except pastry recipes and candy, made from boiled syrup. Using margarine will produce a softer dough than one made with butter.

    Measuring

    • Land O Lakes® Butter comes in stick form with markings on the paper indicating tablespoon and cup measurements. Use a sharp knife to cut off the amount needed for a recipe.
    • Butter Measurements:

                2 cups = 4 sticks = 1 pound

                1 cup = 2 sticks = 1/2 pound

                1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 pound

                1/4 cup = 1/2 stick = 4 tablespoons

    • If using Land O Lakes® Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil, in the tub, spoon into dry measuring cup and pack down firmly with spatula, spoon or knife.
    • If using Land O Lakes® Whipped Butter, measure by weight, not volume.

    Handling Butter: Browning

    • Browning butter enhances butter’s rich flavor. To brown butter melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter just begins to turn a delicate golden brown color. (Butter will bubble and foam. WATCH CLOSELY.) Immediately remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool.

    Handling Butter: Clarifying

    • Melt butter over low heat in a small skillet or heavy saucepan. Remove white froth with a spoon as it forms on top. As fat rises, milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan. Pour off clear yellow clarified butter; discard milk solids. Store in refrigerator.

    Handling Butter: Creaming

    • Beat butter or butter and sugar until soft, smooth and creamy. Use an electric mixer or food processor for easy mixing.

    Handling Butter: Cutting-In Butter

    • Mix in cold butter by gently pressing pastry blender into the butter and flour mixture. Butter is cut-in when the mixture is crumbly and looks like coarse meal. This may take a little bit of work. You may have to use a knife to clean off the pastry blender once in awhile.
    • Cutting the butter in coats the proteins in the flour and helps prevent the gluten-forming proteins from joining together with water and with each other.
    • Use two knives to cut-in the butter if you do not have a pastry blender. With knife blades close together, move the knives back and forth in opposite directions as in a cutting action. This will take more time, but it does work just as well as a pastry blender.

    Handling Butter: Softening

    • Soften butter slightly for easier mixing by removing from refrigerator and letting stand 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature.
    • To soften butter quickly, cut into chunks and allow to soften at room temperature about 15 minutes. If time is limited, place a stick of cold butter between sheets of waxed paper and hit it with a rolling pin on each side to smash butter.
    • The Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens recommend that you do not soften butter in the microwave for use in baking. The butter can quickly melt even when watched carefully.
  • Caraway Seeds

    Description

    • Caraway seeds are from a plant with feathery green leaves.
    • The small dark brown caraway seeds are aromatic.
    • Caraway seeds are used in rye bread, some cabbage, sauerkraut or meat dishes. It is also delicious in cream sauces.

    Buying

    • Caraway seeds are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store caraway seeds away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.
  • Cardamom

    Description

    • Cardamom is a seed related to the ginger family that is used in Indian cooking, such as curries.
    • It is the main ingredient in garam masala, an Indian spice mixture.
    • It has a floral smell and a lemony flavor.
    • It is also used in the ground form in cakes and breads or for flavoring sugar.

    Buying

    • Cardamom pods or seeds and ground cardamom are located with the spices in the baking section of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • Store dried herbs away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.
  • Carrot

    Description

    • A carrot is a familiar vegetable that is bright orange in color and has a smooth skin.
    • Carrots are high in Vitamins A and C.
    • Carrots are used as a vegetable, grated in salads, in soups, stews and main dishes.
    • Sometimes carrots are sold with the greens attached.  Also, baby or mini carrots are 2 bites or so and are very popular as a snack.
    • Use carrots raw in slaws, as a cooked vegetable, roasted, and in baked goods like carrot cakes.
    • Canned and frozen carrots are also available.

    Buying and Storing

    • >Look for carrots with bright orange color and smooth, unblemished skin.
    • Carrots store well when refrigerated.
  • Cashew Nuts

    Description

    • Cashew nuts are a rich nut with a sweet, buttery flavor. They are tan and kidney bean shaped. The shell is poisonous, so they are sold shelled and roasted in cans.
    • They can be used as a snack and in some bars and cookies. Cashew nuts are also popular for salad garnishes and in stir fry.
    • They have a high fat content so can become rancid quickly.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months.
    • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Cheese

    Description

    • There are over 2000 different types of cheeses in an amazing variety of flavors - from mild to extra sharp, tangy to spicy. And the textures range from creamy and soft to granular and firm.

    Storage

    • Keep cheese refrigerated at temperatures of 35° to 40°F.
    • Strong, aromatic cheese, such as Blue Cheese, should be kept in a covered container.
    • Wrap all cheese tightly in the original wrapper, plastic food wrap or aluminum foil to retain moisture and prevent mold.
    • Firm cheeses, such as Swiss and Cheddar, will keep longer than softer cheeses.
    • Process cheeses have a long shelf life because they are pasteurized. Once they are opened, or sliced in the deli, keep them tightly wrapped and refrigerated to avoid drying out.
    • Freezing cheese is not recommended. However, if you do, freeze cheese in small amounts of less than one-half pound, no thicker than one-inch. Wrap well.
    • To use frozen cheese, thaw slowly in the refrigerator. Thawed cheese may be mottled in color, which should even out after thawing. Frozen cheese is usually crumbly and more suitable for cooking than for serving to guests or using for snacks.
    • What about mold? Most molds are harmless, but to be safe, discard at least one-half inch of cheese on all sides of the visible mold. Tips:
      • Make sure the knife blade is thoroughly cleaned when cutting each surface to avoid spreading mold to the freshly cut surface.
      • Use new plastic wrap or foil when re-wrapping, to avoid spreading mold spores to the fresh areas.

    Substitutions

    • Our Cheese Selection Chart describes many popular cheeses from around the world, with serving and substitution suggestions for each.

    Cutting Cheese

    • Cheese is easiest to cut when it’s cold.
    • Use a clean sharp knife to cut the cheese.
    • Cut cheese wheels into wedges.
    • Cut rectangular, square, and cylindrical cheese into slices.
    • Cut wedges or triangular cheese into thin wedges.
    • Cheese can also be cut into cubes.
    • Use a serrated cutter to make attractive crinkle cut shapes.
    • Soft goat cheese is usually cut into rounds or served as a spread.
  • Cherry

    Description

    • A cherry is a small round fruit that can be bright or dark red or yellow and has a pit.
    • Cherries are available beginning in early summer till early September.
    • There are sweet and sour cherries. Sweet cherries, which are eaten fresh, are large and plump and eaten as is or used in desserts. Two common sweet cherries are Bing cherries which are large, sweet and juicy and have a deep garnet color, and Queen Ann. The Rainier Cherry is a sweet golden cherry with a pink blush that is available July through September.
    • Sour cherries are sour. They are often cooked with sugar for desserts, canned for pie fillings or used for juice or jam. They can be purchased year round in cans and are sometimes frozen.
    • Maraschino cherries can be found with the ice cream toppings or in the baking area. They are sold in a flavored sugar syrup and can be purchased with or without stems.

     Storing

    • The Rainier cherry is quite perishable, as are most types of cherries. Buy what you can use in a few days. Wash just before using.
    • Look for colorful, plump cherries with stems attached. Refrigerate ripe cherries in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
    • Maraschino cherries should be kept in the refrigerator after opening.

    Measuring

    • 1 1/4 pound equals 3 cups whole or 2 1/2 cups halved.
  • Chives

    Description

    • Chives are related to the onion family and have hollow stems. The flavor is very mild and onion-like.
    • Use freshly sliced in salads, sandwich spreads, omelets, cottage cheese, potato salad or as a garnish. They add nice flavor to savory biscuits and muffins.
    • Add at the end of cooking to retain flavor and color.
    • Dried chives are available, but are low in flavor.
    • Chives are available year round in the produce section.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often chives are sold are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use fresh chives within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store chives in the container they were purchased in or in a plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the chives are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
    • Store dried chives away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

    Tip

    • Dried chives are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh chives, start with one half the amount of fresh chives. Eg.1 1/2 teaspoons of dried chives instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp chives, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash chives just before using and pat dry.
  • Chocolate

    Description

    • Chocolate used for baking comes in many forms: bars, morsels, chips, chunks, unsweetened cocoa powder and melted chocolate.
    • There are several types of chocolate used in baking:
      • Unsweetened baking chocolate contains chocolate liqueur and between 50% and 58% cocoa butter.
      • Bittersweet chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liqueur, sugar and vanilla.
      • Semisweet and sweet chocolate contain between 15 and 35% chocolate liqueur, sugar and vanilla.
      • Milk chocolate contains 10% chocolate liqueur, sugar, vanilla and at least 12% milk solids.
      • Melted chocolate, which is unsweetened chocolate packed in 1-ounce packages, is found in the baking section of the grocery store. It is made with vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter. It does not have the same intense chocolate flavor as other unsweetened chocolate.
      • Unsweetened cocoa is cocoa liqueur that has been dried and ground into powder.
      • Dutch-processed cocoa has been treated with an alkali to help neutralize chocolate’s natural acidity, creating a richer, darker product than regular unsweetened cocoa.
      • White chocolate is not “true chocolate” because it contains no chocolate liqueur, though it is a mixture of sugar, cocoa butter, milk solids and vanilla.
    • Chocolate chips are available in milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark chocolate, mint flavored and many more. These small pieces of chocolate (mini candy kiss shape) are used most often in cookies, cakes or coffeecakes or melted to make frosting. Make sure to buy real chocolate chips or chunks, not artificial or chocolate flavored as they will not taste the same or melt the same as the real chocolate chips. Chocolate chips come in 6 and 24-ounce bags in the baking section. Store tightly sealed in a cool place and use by the expiration date.

    Storage

    • Store chocolate tightly wrapped in a resealable plastic food bag in a cool (60° to 70° F) dry place.
    • Unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet chocolate stay fresh for years when stored properly.
    • Unsweetened dry cocoa powder will keep indefinitely.
    • Milk chocolate and white chocolate should be stored for no longer than nine months because they contain milk solids.
    • If stored at warm temperatures, chocolate will develop gray surface streaks and blotches called “bloom”. The gray blotches are cocoa butter that has risen to the surface. If stored in damp conditions, chocolate may form small gray sugar crystals on the surface. In either case, the chocolate is still safe to use and will not affect the quality of the final baked product.

    Substitutions

    • Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate may be used interchangeably in recipes, but there may be slight differences in flavor and texture.
    • Unsweetened cocoa and Dutch-processed cocoa may be used interchangeably in any recipe although the Dutch-processed cocoa will produce a milder-flavored, richer, darker product.
    • Substitute for 1 ounce semisweet chocolate: use 3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate pieces or 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar.
    • Substitute for 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate: use 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted.
    • Substitute for 1 ounce sweet baking chocolate: use 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 4 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons butter.
    • Do not substitute chocolate syrup for melted chocolate in any recipe.
    • Do not substitute instant cocoa mix for unsweetened cocoa. Instant cocoa mix contains milk powder and sugar and could alter the flavor and texture of the finished baked product.

    Melting Chocolate

    • Melt chocolate in the microwave, over direct heat, or over hot water.
      • To microwave: Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, set power to Medium (50%) and heat, stirring occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes until melted.
      • To melt over direct heat: Place chocolate in pan over very low heat. Chocolate scorches easily. Do not cover the pan.
      • To melt over hot water: Melt chocolate slowly in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Be sure not to get even one drop of water into the chocolate because the chocolate will clump or harden (seize). If this happens, try stirring in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for each 6 ounces of chocolate. Stir until smooth. (You may have to discard the chocolate and start over.)
    • Chocolate may be melted with liquid from the recipes (at least 1/4 cup of liquid).
  • Cilantro

    Description

    • Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley and is an herb that has bright green leaves and stems. It is often mistaken for flat leaf parsley.
    • It is from the coriander plant. It has a very fragrant aroma and a unique flavor that is often an acquired taste.
    • It is used in Mexican and Caribbean cooking. Add this herb at the end of cooking as it is sensitive to heat.
    • It is best in cold dishes. Guacamole and salsa often use this herb. Some baked goods call for cilantro, especially paired with lime.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking cilantro with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section.

    Storing

    • Cilantro will keep in a plastic bag for a week or longer. It helps if the leaves are not wet from the spray in the produce department. Cilantro is sold in a bunch in the produce section year round. Wash and snip before using. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. 

    Tips

    • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash cilantro just before using and pat dry.
  • Cinnamon

    Description

    • Cinnamon comes from the quill or inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. These quills are cut into 3 to 4-inches pieces for cinnamon sticks or ground into powder.
    • Cinnamon is a popular spice with a fragrant warm aroma and sweet, spicy flavor.
    • Cinnamon sticks are used in hot cider and other hot drinks, applesauce and rice pudding.  The sticks are removed and not eaten.
    • Ground cinnamon is a very popular spice used in baking cookies, cakes, apple pie and many more foods. Cinnamon goes well with many fruits and sometimes is included in sweet dips. Cinnamon/sugar sprinkled on toast is popular. Cinnamon butter is good on toast, waffles and pancakes.
    • Cincinnati chili uses cinnamon in the sauce. Other cooking applications include using cinnamon in Mexican mole sauce, in spice rubs for meat and more.

    Buying

    • Cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon are located with the spices in the baking section or in plastic bags in the produce section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in tightly covered containers.
  • Citron

    Description

    • Citron is a citrus fruit related to the lemon that has a thick rind and can weigh up to 20 pounds. It is grown for the thick, spongy rind which, along with the pulp, can be candied, diced and sold as pale yellow candied citron for use in baked goods and fruitcake. It is moist and sticky. Citron is also used to make marmalade.

    Buying and Storing

    • Candied citron is sold during the holiday season in small plastic tubs. It can be frozen.
  • Clotted Cream

    Description

    • Rich raw milk is heated and a semi-solid layer of cream forms at the top. This is removed and bottled. It is used as a spread on scones or for topping fruit desserts.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for this in the refrigerated section in small bottles. It is highly perishable, so keep refrigerated and use by the expiration date.
  • Cloves

    Description

    • Cloves are the aromatic unopened dried buds of a tall tropical evergreen. They are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, dark brown and somewhat nail-shaped.
    • Cloves have a pungent aroma and flavor.
    • Whole cloves can be used inserted in the surface of ham to flavor the meat and are used in some hot beverages.
    • Ground cloves are used in spicy cookies and desserts like gingerbread.

    Buying

    • Whole cloves and ground cloves are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.
  • Coconut

    Description

    • Coconut is the large oval brown husk-covered fruit of the coconut palm tree.
    • Fresh coconuts are available year-round with the peak season being October through December. Once the outer shell is broken the white coconut meat is exposed.
    • Coconut is sold as fresh, whole coconut or as processed coconut, sold in cans or bags, or in bulk. It is sold sweetened or unsweetened, shredded, flaked and grated and dried moist or frozen.
    • Other coconut products are also sold:
      • Coconut Water — It is the liquid drawn from the center of the fresh coconut. 
      • Coconut Milk — It is made from water and coconut meat, and is not sweetened. Light coconut milk is available in cans. It is 60% reduced in fat and calories.
      • Coconut Cream — It is a thick syrupy sweetened mixture sometimes known as cream of coconut.
    • One medium-sized fresh coconut will yield 3 to 4 cups grated or flaked coconut and 1 cup of liquid. Do not pack tightly when measuring grated or flaked coconut.

    Storage

    • Store fresh whole coconuts at room temperature for up to 1 month. Once a coconut is opened, store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The high oil content of coconut makes it turn rancid rather quickly if not stored properly.
    • If unopened, canned coconut can be stored at room temperature for up to 18 months and in plastic bags up to 6 months. Refrigerate both after opening up to 3 - 4 weeks in the refrigerator.
    • If shredded, coconut becomes dry, soak it in milk for 30 minutes, then drain off the milk and pat dry with paper towels. You can use the drained milk in recipes or blended drinks within 5 days.

    Opening A Fresh Coconut

    • First, drain any liquid inside the coconut by piercing the coconut 2 to 3 times with an ice pick. Crack the shell with a hammer and break the white meat away. Use a knife to peel away the dark inner skin.

    Tinting Coconut

    • Create colorful coconut to decorate baked goods by combining 1 cup coconut with 3 to 5 drops of food color in a bowl; toss until evenly coated.

    Toasting Coconut

    • Toasting coconut enhances the flavor and lightly colors the coconut a very light golden brown color. Spread the coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Bake at 325°F., tossing occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  • Coffee

    Description

    • Coffee is big business. It is a popular beverage at home and in coffee shops. There are hundreds of types of coffee. Coffee beans grow in pairs inside the seeds or berries of the coffee tree. The bean is stripped from the pulp, parchment and skin. The bean is then cured before roasting.
    • Coffee is consumed hot, cold, in mocha combinations, in lattes and many other forms. Coffee, instant coffee or espresso powder are sometimes used in cooking as a flavoring to add a rich coffee flavor.
    • The flavor of the coffee bean depends on where it was grown and how it was harvested and roasted. Flavored coffee beans are very popular. Flavors include hazelnut or spices added.
    • Coffee comes in caffeinated and decaffeinated forms.
    • How the bean is roasted affects the flavor. Light roasted coffee beans are pale to medium brown and make a medium-flavored coffee. Dark roasted beans are dark and glossy and the coffee has a slight bitter flavor. American or regular roast makes a moderate brew, French roast is stronger. Espresso beans are glossy black and they have a definite roasted, bitter flavor.
    • Instant coffee is a fine powder made from coffee concentrate. Freeze-dried instant coffee granules are made using freshly brewed coffee which is freeze dried to produce the crystals. The flavor is thought to be superior to the powdered instant coffee.
    • Coffee beans can also be found coated in chocolate and eaten as a treat or used as a garnish.

    Buying

    • Coffee beans can be bought in bulk, in packages and in instant form in the beverage aisle.

    Storing

    • Coffee lovers believe that coffee should be freshly ground as needed and the whole beans should be used within 2 weeks. Coffee beans can be frozen to increase the shelf life.
  • Conserve

    Description

    • A conserve is made from fruit and often raisins or nuts are added to the mixture.
    • Conserve is often spread on biscuits, scones or crumpets.

    Storage

    • Conserve has a high sugar content and can be left in the cupboard. Once opened, conserve should be refrigerated. Use by the expiration date.
  • Cornmeal

    Description

    • Cornmeal is made from corn kernels which are dried and ground.
    • Cornmeal can be yellow, white or blue.
    • Cornmeal has a sweet flavor and a soft texture.
    • It can be ground into fine, medium and coarse grinds.
    • Stone ground or water ground cornmeal retains some of the hull and the germ of the corn, so doesn’t keep as well as commercially ground cornmeal that has the outer hull and the germ removed by steel rollers.
    • Self-rising cornmeal is popular in the South and is white or yellow cornmeal with salt and leavening added.
    • Cornmeal is used to make polenta or grits. Cornmeal is also used to make cornbread, corn muffins, used to bread fish, roll out pizza dough on and cornbread-type toppings on Mexican casseroles.
    • White or yellow cornmeal is often enriched with B vitamins and iron to replace that lost with the removal of the hull and germ.

    Buying

    • Look for cornmeal in the baking aisle or the section with cooked cereal products. It is packaged in cardboard boxes or bags.

    Storing

    • The stone ground variety can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 months or in the freezer for two years. The more common cornmeal can be refrigerated for up to 6 months or stored in the freezer. If the cornmeal is used within a few weeks it can be kept in the cupboard. Storing it a tightly sealed container will help extend the shelf life.
  • Cornstarch

    Description

    • Cornstarch is a fine white powder made from the endosperm or starch of a corn kernel.
    • It is used in cooking as a thickener in puddings, soups and sauces. When cornstarch is used with wheat flour it makes a fine-textured cake or pastry.
    • Cornstarch is usually mixed with cold liquid before adding to a hot mixture. This will prevent lumps from forming.
    • Cornstarch sauces are clear, rather than opaque. Cornstarch is often used in Oriental cooking. 
    • Cornstarch is an anti-caking ingredient in powdered sugar.

    Buying

    • Cornstarch is sold in a 1-pound box in the grocery store baking aisle or in a plastic container with a lid which helps in extending shelf life and makes it easier to measure.

    Storage

    • Keep in the box or in a sealed container and use-by date on package.

    Measuring

    • Use a standard dry measuring spoon or cup. With a dry spoon fill and then level off with a knife.

    Substitution

    • Use 2 tablespoons flour for 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
  • Corn Syrup

    Description

    • Corn syrup is a thick sweet syrup that doesn’t become grainy. It is used to make candy, frosting and is used in many pecan pie recipes. Cornstarch is processed with acids or enzymes to produce this syrupy liquid.
    • Corn syrup comes in light or dark varieties:  Light corn syrup is clear and has a delicate flavor. It has vanilla added to it. Use it in pecan pie or candies and frosting. Dark corn syrup is dark brown and has caramel coloring and flavoring added. It has a slight molasses flavor. It is good in barbecue sauces, gingerbread and pecan pie.
    • In most cases these syrups can be used interchangeably:  Pancake syrup is an inexpensive version of maple syrup made from corn syrup that may contain a low percentage, maybe 2%, of maple syrup or uses artificial maple flavoring. Some contain butter flavor. This syrup is used on pancakes, waffles, etc.

    Measuring

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eyes are level with the markings on the cup. If you first lightly spray the measuring cup with no-stick cooking spray, the corn syrup will not stick to the glass.

    Buying

    • Look for corn syrup in the baking aisle or in the pancake section of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • Keep corn syrup in a cool place and use by the expiration date.
  • Cranberry
    Description
    • A cranberry is a small, scarlet round berry popular in sauce or jelly, cranberry relish and in baked goods.
    • Cranberries are found in the produce section late fall until early winter. They are native to North America and grown in marshes and bogs.
    • Dried cranberries are cranberries that are split in half and injected with sugar. They are plump and dark red and used as a snack, in baking, cereals, granola bars, muffin mixes, etc.

    Buying

    • Cranberries are found in late fall to January in good crop years. They are most often sold in 12-ounce bags in the refrigerated section of the produce department.
    • The berries should be bright colored and not soft.
    • Dried cranberries are found in the dried fruit or baking section. They are usually sold in a resealable package. Sometimes they are sold in bulk in bins near the produce section.

    Storing

    • Cranberries can be stored in the produce bin in the refrigerator for a week or two. They can also be frozen right in the bag. 
    • Keep dried cranberries tightly sealed and use by expiration date. They have a long shelf life.

    Tip

    • When cooking cranberries, cook till they "pop". Don’t overcook.
  • Cream

    Description

    • Cream is a dairy product that is produced from the butterfat from milk.
    • Cream is sold with different percentages of fat content and that determines the best use of the cream. It is widely used in baking and cooking.
    • Half and half is a mixture of milk and cream and contains from 11 to 18% milk fat. It is most often used with coffee. Traditional Half & Half, Low Fat Half & Half and Fat free Half & Half are available in the dairy section of the supermarket.
    • Light cream, which is sometimes called coffee cream, has a fat content of approximately 20%. It cannot be whipped.
    • Heavy cream may also be called heavy whipping cream and has a milk fat content of 36 to 48%.  This cream is used for whipping.
    • Ultra pasteurized cream is cream that is briefly heated to 300⁰F to kill microorganisms that may sour the cream. It has a longer shelf life than fresh cream because of the heat treatment.  It also may take a little longer to whip.
    Buying
    • These dairy products are found in the refrigerated dairy case section of the store. They are sold in 1/2 pint, 1 pint and 1 quart containers.

    Storing

    • Store the product in the original container in the refrigerator at 35⁰F to 40⁰F.
    • Use by the expiration date on the carton.

    Measuring

    • Measure cream in a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eye is level with the markings on the cup. To measure in a measuring spoon, fill the spoon to the top. Do not pour the cream into a measuring spoon over other ingredients in case there is spillage.

    Tip

    • When whipping cream make sure the cream, beaters and bowl are very cold. Beat whipping cream in the chilled bowl at high speed, scraping bowl often, until soft peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding sugar, if desired, until still peaks form.
  • Cream Cheese

    Description

    • Cream cheese is a smooth, creamy, spreadable (at room temperature) cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. Salt and stabilizers are added.
    • It has a mild, sweet flavor that is slightly tangy.
    • It is sold in blocks in foil or plastic wrapped that sometimes are in a cardboard container. The most common sizes are 3 ounces and 8 ounces.
    • Cream cheese is used in baking, frosting, dips, cheese balls and desserts, like cheesecake.
    • Cream cheese is available in the following varieties:
      • Full fat Cream cheese
      • Neufchatel cream cheese (American variety) is slightly lower in fat (approximately 1/3 less fat) and calories so it contains more moisture.
      • Reduced fat cream cheese has an even lower fat content.
      • Non-fat cream cheese has no fat and has more starches added.
      • Whipped cream cheese is easy to spread because air is whipped into the cream cheese.  It is soft and fluffy and good for spreading.
      • Cream cheese spread comes plain or flavored in small tubs. This is most often used on bagels.

    Buying

    • Cream cheese can be purchased in an 8-ounce or 3-ounce foil-wrapped package in the refrigerated dairy  section. Whipped cream cheese is most often sold in round plastic containers or tubs.

    Storage

    • Keep the cream cheese in the foil package or containers and use by the date on the package.
  • Cream of Tartar

    Description

    • Cream of tartar, also referred to as tartaric acid, is a fine white powder that is used in candy and frosting for a creamy consistency and to prevent crystallization.
    • Cream of tartar is also used with egg whites to stabilize and add volume during beating (often for meringues).

    Buying

    • Purchase cream of tartar in small plastic containers in the spice section.

    Storage

    • It has a long shelf life when kept dry and in a cool, dark place.

    Measuring

    • se a standard measuring spoon. Fill the spoon and then level off with a knife.
  • Crema

    Description

    • Crema is the Hispanic version of sour cream. It comes in different varieties, some are the consistency of whipping cream, and some are thicker like sour cream.

    Buying

    • Look for crema in the dairy case with other Hispanic refrigerated items. It is sold in plastic bottles.

    Storage

    • Keep refrigerated and use by expiration date on container.
  • Creme Fraiche

     Description

    • Crème fraiche is slightly thick and richer than sour cream.
    • It has a velvety texture and is high in fat. It does not curdle when heated.
    • se crème fraiche in desserts and cream sauces or as a topping for fruit.

    Buying

    • Look for crème fraiche in the refrigerated dairy section of the supermarket.

    Storage

    • Keep refrigerated and use by expiration date on the container.

     Tip

    • To make your own crème fraiche: heat 1 cup whipping cream to 100 degrees. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sour cream, cultured buttermilk or yogurt. Allow to set at room temperature for 9 hours before refrigerating.
  • Dates

    Description

    • Dates are the sweet and fleshy fruit of the date palm.
    • The color ranges from tan to dark brown depending on the variety. They are sold fresh in season but the fruit is most commonly found dried.
    • Dates can be eaten as is, stuffed with nuts or cream cheese and used in baking fruitcake, date cookies, date bread and other baked goods.
    • Dates are sold whole, diced, pitted, unpitted and in other forms.

    Buying

    • Dates are often sold in plastic tubs or packages.
    •  
    • In late fall they are often in the produce section or year round in the dried fruit area or baking area.

    Storing

    • Since dates are sweet when dried they have a long shelf life. After opening packages they should be kept in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator. They also can be frozen.
    • Store fresh dates wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • Dill

    Description

    • Dill has tiny feathery green leaves. These lacy, aromatic leaves can finely chopped and used in dips with cream cheese, with fish, cucumber salads or used whole as a garnish.
    • The fresh leaves are sensitive to heat.
    • Spicy, pungent dill seeds can be used in pickles, potato salad or cabbage.
    • Fresh dill and dried dill leaves (dill weed)  are delicious in savory baked goods. The dill flower is added to dill pickles during canning.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking dill with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often dill is sold in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section.
    • Dried dill seeds and dill weed are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use fresh dill within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store dill in the container it was purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the dill is loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed into a sealed bag, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. 
    • Store dried dill away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

    Tip

    • Dried dill is more potent than fresh, so if substituting dried for fresh dill, start with one half the amount of fresh dill, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried dill instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp dill, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash dill just before using and pat dry.
  • Eggnog

    Description

    • Eggnog is a dairy-based beverage made from cream, eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.
    • Eggnog can have rum flavoring, be low fat or full fat.
    • Eggnog powder can sometimes be found in the grocery store.
    • Eggnog is used as a beverage and can also be used as an ingredient in desserts and baked goods.

    Buying and Storing

    • The refrigerated section is where to find eggnog during November through January. Store in the refrigerator and use by the expiration date.
  • Eggs

    Description

    • Eggs add flavor and color, tenderize the product, add lightness when beaten, contribute to the structure and provide liquid in a recipe.   
    • Brown-shelled eggs have the same flavor and nutritional value as white-shelled eggs.
    • Eggs are graded for quality (AA, A, B) by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The best grade, AA, has a firm yolk that stands up higher and a white that spreads less than a lower grade egg when broken. All three grades are suitable for baking.
    • Liquid pasteurized eggs and pasteurized eggs in the shell are available in some markets in the United States. These eggs may be substituted for unpasteurized eggs in recipes.

    Storage

    • Always store eggs in the refrigerator in their original carton. The carton protects them from absorbing odors in the refrigerator.
    • If eggs have been purchased before the expiration date and stored properly, they may be safely used for three to five weeks from date of purchase.
    • Liquid pasteurized eggs may be refrigerated unopened for up to 12 weeks from the pack date. 

    Substitutions

    • Substitute for 1 whole egg:
      • 2 egg whites. Flavor and texture of the baked product may be altered when using this substitution.
      • 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute. Egg substitutes contain egg whites, nonfat milk, vegetable oils and other ingredients to replace the yolk. If used in a cake recipe the flavor, color and texture may be altered. The baked product may be less tender, more pale and may not taste as rich.
    • Substitute for 1 egg white:
      • 1 tablespoon meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons water. This substitution may be made in meringues and royal icing.
      • Powdered egg whites may be substituted in most recipes requiring egg whites. It can be used in angel food cakes or chiffon pies. Follow directions on the container.

    Beating Eggs

    • When beating egg whites, make sure that no traces of broken yolk have gotten into the whites. Keep the bowl and beaters free of any fat. Fat, even from the yolk, can prevent egg whites from expanding to their full volume when beaten.
    • Bring egg whites to room temperature for 20 minutes after they have been separated from the yolks. At room temperature, the egg proteins can form elastic bubbles more easily, and egg whites will beat to their highest volume.

    Testing for Freshness

    • Fill a deep bowl with enough cold water to cover an egg. Place the egg in the water. If the egg lies on the side on the bottom, it is fresh. If the egg stands up and bobs on the bottom, it isn't quite as fresh. If the egg floats on the surface, it should be discarded.
  • Evaporated Milk

    Description

    • Evaporated milk is milk that has had 60% of the water is removed. It is sealed in cans and heat treated.
    • To reconstitute evaporated milk used equal amounts of evaporated milk and water. Many recipes call for using it undiluted. It is used in cream sauces, soups and baking.
    • Do not use evaporated milk for sweetened condensed milk.
    • Evaporated milk is available in regular, low fat (2%) and fat free varieties.

    Buying

    • Evaporated milk is found in the baking aisle of the store in 12-ounce cans that contain 1 1/2 cups of evaporated milk.

    Storing

    • Store unopened cans in the cupboard for up to 12 months or by the expiration date. Opened cans should be well covered and refrigerated and used within a few days. Do not freeze.

    Substitute

    • A substitute for 1 cup of refrigerated fresh milk is 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of water.

    Measuring

    • Measure evaporated milk in a glass or clear plastic measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eye is level with the markings on the cup. To measure in a measuring spoon, fill the spoon to the top. Do not pour the cream into a measuring spoon over other ingredients in case there is spillage
  • Extracts

    Description

    • Extracts are concentrated flavors in a liquid form used in small amount in baking and cooking to enhance flavors in desserts, whipped cream, candies and frosting. Most extracts are made using alcohol, but it is an insignificant amount.
    • Almond extract is made from almond oil and alcohol. It is used in frostings, desserts, cookies and bars. A little goes a long way as it is potent and fragrant.
    • Anise extract tastes like licorice and is most often used in cookies and cakes.
    • Lemon and orange extract have the essence of those fruits and can be used in cakes, frosting and other desserts.
    • Peppermint extract is used in making mints, candies and candy canes. It also is very flavorful and a small amount goes a long way.
    • Rum extract is used to give a rum flavor without using alcohol to drinks, custards, fruitcake, sauces, cakes and cookies.
    • Vanilla extract is used very widely in baking. See Vanilla for more information.
    • Other extracts seen on the shelf are butter, maple, mint, hazelnut, strawberry and coconut, but each store carries basics as well as some of these more specialized extracts.

    Buying

    • Look for extracts in the baking section of the store. They are most often sold in small, dark glass bottles.

    Storing

    • Store extracts in a cool, dark place with the bottle tightly covered to prevent evaporation and loss of flavor.
    • Extracts will stay fresh for up to 1 year after opening.

    Measuring

    • Fill the measuring spoon to the top. Be careful not to let it spill over. Don’t measure extracts or flavorings over the mixing bowl. Any spillage will go in the bowl and you will not know the amount of extract or flavoring that you have added.
  • Fennel Seeds

    Description

    • Fennel seeds are small, olive green flat oval seeds from the common fennel plant. They have a slight anise or licorice flavor. Fennel seeds are used in some sausages and to flavor some meat dishes. They are also used to flavor sweet foods and many liqueurs.

    Buying

    • Fennel seeds are available whole and ground with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in a tightly closed container no more than 6 months.
  • Fig

    Description

    • A fig is the fruit of the fig tree that looks like a tiny plump pear. Depending on the variety figs can range in skin color from a reddish brown to brown or black.
    • The flesh can also be white, yellow or green. They are sweet and the skin and the many tiny seeds are all edible.
    • Calimyrna and Mission are two common varieties.
    • Figs are sold fresh in the late summer season and dried figs are available year round.
    • Figs that are fresh are usually eaten as is; dried figs can be used in baked goods and commercially are used in fig-filled cookies.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for plump figs with no soft spots. They yield to gentle pressure if they are ripe.
    • They are highly perishable and should be eaten within a few days if they are soft and ripe.
  • Flour

    Description

    • Flour is finely ground and sifted meal of various edible grains.
    • Wheat is the most common source of flours used in baking. Wheat can be categorized in three types, hard wheat, soft wheat and durum wheat. Hard wheat is high in gluten and the wheat flour is good for bread baking. Soft wheat flour is lower in gluten and is better in baked goods like cakes and bars.
    • Wheat flour contains gluten, a protein that forms an elastic network. This network helps contain the gases that makes mixtures such as doughs and batters, rise as they bake. Different flours vary by level of protein, which determines the applications for which that flour is used.
    • All-purpose flour is made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat and contains 10-11% protein. It is used for a wide variety of recipes, from breads to cookies and cakes.
      • All-purpose flour comes in two basic forms: Bleached and unbleached,which can be used interchangeably.
    • Bread flour is an unbleached, specially formulated, high-gluten hard-wheat flour.
    • Whole wheat flour contains the wheat germ, meaning it is higher in fiber, nutritional and fat content.
    • Cake or pastry flour – fine-textured soft wheat flour with a high starch content. Makes very tender cakes and pastry.
    • Self-rising flour – an all-purpose flour to which baking powder and salt have been added
    • Semolina is ground from durum wheat and is used in the best pastas.

    Storage

    • Store all-purpose or bread flour at room temperature for up to 12 months. Temperatures higher than room temperature invite bugs and mold.
    • Store flour indefinitely in the freezer.
    • Flour may dry out with long storage and so at the maximum storage time may lose baking quality and the same results may not be realized as with fresher flour.
    • All flour should be stored in an airtight container. If flour is stored in the refrigerator, the flour should be brought to room temperature before using.
    • The amount of moisture in flour will affect the results of your baked product. Flour absorbs moisture during high humidity; it loses moisture in high altitude, cold weather or during long storage. Moisture in the flour can change quickly, so if the amount of flour to use is listed as a range, begin with the least amount and add additional flour as needed.
    • Store whole wheat flour in the freezer to prevent rancidity. When whole wheat flour is rancid it smells old or stale. Whole wheat flour may be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to one year, as compared to one to four months at room temperature.
    • Store cake flour in an airtight container to maintain freshness. To keep cake flour longer than 6 to 8 months, place cake flour into a resealable plastic freezer food bag and freeze for up to 12 months.

    Substitutions

    • Substitute self-rising flour for the all-purpose flour in yeast breads by omitting the salt, and in quick breads by omitting the salt and baking powder.
    • You may substitute 20% of all-purpose flour with another grain, such as rye or buckwheat, or soy flour in certain recipes such as quick breads, muffins, or pancakes without a dramatic change in the end product. These flours provide flavor, but little to no gluten.
    • Substitute for 1 cup all-purpose flour: use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour.
    • Substitute for 1 cup cake flour: use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
    • Substitute for 1 cup self-rising flour: use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

    Measuring Flour

    • Stir flour in the bag or canister with a large spoon to lighten it. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a spatula or knife.
    •  Be careful not to tap or shake the measuring cup when measuring.
    •  It is not necessary to sift the flour in baking unless the recipe specifically states to do so.

    Sifting Flour

    • Commercial, all-purpose flours today are “pre-sifted” and do not generally require additional sifting. However, if a recipe specifically calls for sifted flour we suggest sifting the flour by:
      • Using a flour sifter
      • Or, spoon flour into a fine mesh food strainer and shake or tap it over a bowl.
  • Gelatin

    Description

    • Unflavored gelatin is obtained by cooking animal bones to extract the protein, which is the gelatin. It is an odorless, tasteless and colorless powder that is used to gel or thicken liquid mixtures. Gelatin is sprinkled over cold water and allowed to stand for 5 minutes, and then it can be added to hot water. As the liquid mixture cools and is refrigerated, the liquid begins to gel or set up.
    • Packets of gelatin powder, which weigh 1/4 ounce, or leaf gelatin can be used to gel salads and desserts. Leaf gelatin is more common in the foodservice industry. Four sheets equal the 1/4 ounce package. It needs to be put in cold water first as well.
    • Gelatin is used in some desserts like refrigerated soufflés, mousses and aspic and other molded foods. Fruit- flavored gelatin powders are made with gelatin.

    Buying

    • Buy gelatin in the area near the fruit-flavored gelatin. There are a number of 1/4-ounce packets in each box.

    Measuring

    • To gel 2 cups liquid use 1/4-ounce package or 4 sheets of leaf gelatin.

    Tip

    • Fresh pineapple has an enzyme which keeps gelatin from setting.  Use canned pineapple in gelatin-based desserts or salads.
  • Ginger

    Description

    • Fresh ginger is a knobby-looking tan root found in the produce section. The flesh is pale yellow and slightly fibrous. You can buy the amount you want. It smells fresh and spicy when grated.
    • Fresh ginger is used in stir-fry cooking as well as other cooking, in baking gingerbread, cakes and cookies.
    • Minced ginger can be found in a jar in the produce section.
    • Ground ginger is widely used in baking.
    • Crystallized ginger is also called candied ginger. It is fresh gingerroot that has been cooked in sugar syrup and then rolled in coarse sugar. This preserves it. It is strong flavored, so use sparingly in gingerbread, cakes, cookies and muffins.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh ginger in the refrigerated produce section in large knobby roots. Snap off a piece the size you want.
    • Crystallized ginger is often found in different spots in the supermarket. Look in the ethnic section, in the baking section, or with the spices. It can be in discs or chopped, in boxes or jars.
    • Find ground ginger with spices in the baking aisle.
    • Pureed ginger can also be found in a tube in the refrigerated section of the produce department in some supermarkets.

    Storing

    • Gingerroot can be stored in a plastic food bag for up to 1 month or longer. It can also be frozen.

    Substitute

    • Depending on the recipe, ground ginger or crystalized ginger can be substituted for fresh ginger. Many recipes feature all three forms of ginger in one recipe.

    Tip

    • Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to peel ginger. Then thinly slice across the fibers, to minimize the stringiness, into discs or flat slices. Stack them up and cut in matchsticks and then cut across these and mince.
  • Graham Cracker

    Description

    • A graham cracker is made with whole wheat flour and graham flour. It is light golden brown, crisp and sweet.
    • Graham crackers are used for eating and in graham cracker crusts for pies and in bars. The popular dessert, "s’mores," uses graham crackers to hold marshmallows and chocolate.
    • Graham cracker crumbs can be purchased in the baking area. This is a convenience product for making graham cracker crusts.
    • A stack of graham crackers are wrapped in a wax-coated paper to extend the shelf life in a box of graham crackers. Usually there are 3 of these packages in the box. A graham cracker is about 5 inches x 2 ½ inches and lightly scored.
    • Graham crackers may be flavored, such as cinnamon.

    Buying

    • Graham crackers are found in boxes in the area near the crackers. The cracker crumbs are found in the baking area.

    Storing

    • Store the graham crackers in a cool dry place and use by the expiration date.

    Measuring

    • Fifteen (2 ½-inch) graham crackers, crushed equals 1 cup graham cracker crumbs.
  • Grape

    Description

    • A grape is actually a berry. Grapes grow on vines in clusters and that is how they are sold.
    • Many grapes are grown in California.
    • They come in many colors, shapes and sizes and also can have seeds or be seedless Grapes are seasonal and, although red and green grapes can be found throughout the year, many are imported during the winter.
    • Black/purple grapes include Concord grape and the Riber grape.  The Concord grape has a skin that slips off, but has lots of seeds and a thick pulpy interior. It is most often used to make Concord grape juice and jelly, although they are good in a pie. They are only available in the Fall.
    • Red grapes that contain seeds and come in deep red clusters are large Red Globe and Emperor.
    • White grapes that contain seeds are Calmeria which are long with a mild tangy flavor. Black or white Muscat grapes are often used for raisins and white grape juice. They are plump and juicy.
    • Seedless grapes are very popular. The Thompson light green grape is well known and available all year. It is slightly oblong, sweet and juicy. The Flame is a cross and is red, round and crunchy sweet.
    • Champagne grapes are pea-sized grapes and are usually used as a novelty garnish, although they are edible.  Usually they are red.

    Buying

    • Grapes are purchased in bunches. Each one is attached by a stem to a cluster. Usually you can select the amount you want to buy. Look for plump grapes with no spoiled, crushed or moldy grapes.

    Storing

    • Store grapes in the refrigerator if not using in a day or two. They last up to one week or longer when they are refrigerated.
  • Grapefruit

    Description

    • A grapefruit is a cross between an orange and a pomelo. (A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit. It has a heavy peel or rind and spicy pulp).
    • Grapefruit actually grows in clusters like grapes. Depending on the variety they vary in size, color and sweetness. It is high in vitamin C.
    • Grapefruit are most often used for eating at breakfast or in fruit salads. Grapefruit segments can be found in the refrigerated section of the store, as well as grapefruit juice, which can be purchased refrigerated, in jars or canned.
    • The zest of a grapefruit is not used as it bitter.
    • White or golden grapefruit have a yellow skin and a pale yellow pulp.
    • Pink and ruby grapefruit have pinkish red interiors and are sweeter than the white grapefruit. They peak in January.

    Buying and Storing

    • Grapefruit should be heavy for their size as those will contain more juice.
    • They should be stored in a plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator.
  • Hazelnut Filbert

    Description

    • Hazelnuts are a round or oblong nut in a brown, slightly acorn-shaped shell. They are harvested during the Fall and found in the baking area with the nuts in whole, sliced or chopped form.
    • Hazelnuts are a crunchy nut with a slightly bitter flavor.
    • Hazelnuts are used in baking desserts and cookies and whole in some drinks. They go well with chocolate.
    • Filberts are cultivated hazelnuts.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place.
    • Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster.
    • Refrigerate shelled hazelnuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled nuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled hazelnuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Herbs

    Description

    • Herbs come from a plant that does not develop a wood stem above ground and dies after flowering. Often the stem, leaves, seeds and roots of some herbs are all used in cooking.
    • Herbs add flavor and aroma to many foods. For information on specific herbs, see individual herb entries such as dill and others.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use herbs within a few days to 1 week, depending on the herb.
    • Store herbs in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the herbs are loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag they will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
    • Store dried herbs away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.

    Tips

    • Dried herbs are more potent than fresh, so if substituting them for fresh herbs, start with one half the amount of fresh herbs, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried dill instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp herbs, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
  • Honey

    Description

    • Honey is all-natural sweetener and is a thick, sweet liquid made by bees from the nectar of flowers.
    • There are hundreds of different flavors, colors and even thicknesses, depending on the source of the nectar.  Clover, sage and orange blossom are just a few of the most common types of honey.
    • Honey helps keep baked goods moist, keeping them fresher longer.
    • Usually, the darker the honey, the stronger flavor.
    • Most honey is pasteurized, but raw unfiltered honey is available in some markets. Honey can also be purchased whipped or in the honey comb where the honey is still in the wax cells.  These products have a shorter shelf life than pasteurized honey. Clear honey is heat treated to prevent crystallization.
    • Honey is very sweet and recipes need to be adapted if honey is used in place of other sweeteners. Honey is used as a topping on pancakes and waffles, in baked goods, in ice cream, in beverages, in salad dressings, marinades and sauces.

    Measuring

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eyes are level with the markings on the cup. If you lightly spray the measuring cup with no-stick cooking spray, honey will not stick to the glass.

    Buying

    • Farmer’s markets and gourmet shops will have specialty honeys. The supermarket may have more common honey in jars and plastic bottles.

    Storing

    • Honey has a long shelf life if kept in a cool, dry place. If it crystallizes, gently heat in the microwave for a few seconds until it is free flowing.

    Substitute

    • For one cup of honey use 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup of whatever liquid is called for in the recipe.
  • Jam

    Description

    • A jam is made from fruit cut into fairly small pieces.
    • Seeded and seedless versions of some fruit jams are available, such as raspberry.
    • Jam is eaten on toast or in sandwiches, but are often used in baking bars or cookies or desserts.
    • Pectin is used to make most jams as it gels the product. Some fruits, like crabapples, contain natural pectin.

    Storage

    • Jam has a high sugar content and can be left in the cupboard. Once opened, the jam should be refrigerated. Use by the expiration date.
  • Jelly

    Description

    • ​Jelly is made from fruit juice, pectin and sugar.  It does not have pieces of fruit, so it is smooth.  Grape jelly is a favorite jelly.
    • It is most often eaten on toast or in sandwiches, but can also be used in baking bars or cookies or desserts. Pepper jellies are often used in appetizers.
    • Pectin is used to make most jellies, as it gels the product. Some fruits, like crabapples, contain natural pectin.

    Storage

    • Jelly has a high sugar content and can be left in the cupboard. Once opened, the jelly needs to be refrigerated. Use by the expiration date.
  • Kiwi

    Description

    • Kiwi is a tropical fruit originally grown in New Zealand, but now grown in California. This small fruit from a tree is popular to eat or to add to a fruit salad or fruit tart.
    • Most common are the gold kiwi and the green kiwi. The gold kiwi has yellow flesh with tiny edible seeds and the skin is bronze. The skin is edible. The brown kiwi has a fuzzy brown skin with a green flesh and tiny black seeds. Most people peel off the skin. They are juicy and have a mild apple or strawberry flavor.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for fruit that does not have soft spots. If they are ripe they will yield to gentle pressure. They do continue to ripen. Store on the counter till ripe and then refrigerate and use within a few days.
  • Ladyfinger

    Description

    • A ladyfinger is a soft spongecake shaped somewhat like a large, fat finger. Ladyfingers are served with desserts like ice cream and pudding and is sometimes a component within a dessert such as tiramisu or a trifle.
    • Homemade ladyfingers are made by piping batter onto baking sheets or spooned into a special ladyfinger pan.

    Buying and Storing

    • Ladyfingers can be purchased in bakeries and supermarkets. Use by expiration date.
  • Lard

    Description

    • Lard is hot pig fat that is rendered, clarified and deodorized. Most lard goes through a process called hydrogenation to give it a vegetable shortening texture.
    • Leaf lard is the most commonly sold lard. It is 100% fat so does make flaky biscuits and pie crusts. It is also used for frying because of its high smoke point.

    Buying

    • Lard is found in one-pound packages in the refrigerated section.  It is popular in Hispanic markets.

    Storing

    • Store in the refrigerator and use by expiration date.
  • Lemon

    Description

    • A lemon is a bright yellow oval-shaped fruit with a sour, tangy flavor. A lemon can have a thick or thin skin and a smooth or rough skin.
    • They are available year round in the produce section and are high in vitamin C.
    • Lemon juice enhances both sweet and savory foods. Lemons are used as an ingredient in salad dressings, in beverages, in lemon pie and pudding and in many other baked goods, like cakes and bars. Lemon zest is added as a flavor to many baked goods.
    • Meyer lemons are a cross between an orange and a lemon. They are sweeter, juicier and have less acid than the lemon. The Meyer lemon is rounder than a regular lemon and has a smooth skin. Use in salad dressings, in place of lemons and in lemon pie. The season is November through March.  Use as you would use a lemon.

    Buying and Storing

    • Lemons are found in the produce section and sometimes sold near the seafood department. Look for plump lemons that are not bruised or have soft spots. Lemon juice is sold in bottles in the condiment or juice section of the store or in small lemon-shaped plastic containers in the produce section.
    • Lemons should be stored in the produce bin of the refrigerator. They have a long shelf life. Both the juice and the zest can be frozen.

    Tip

    • If juicing a lemon, allow it to come to room temperature and then gently roll on the counter before juicing to obtain more juice. One medium lemon yields 2 to 3 tablespoons of juice. Five to 6 lemons yields 1 cup of juice.
  • Lemon Curd

    Description

    • Lemon curd is a thick yellow custard made from lemon juice, lemon rind, eggs, sugar and butter.
    • It is used with scones, in meringue shells and over fruit or cakes. Sometimes whipped cream is stirred into it. Many cooks make their own lemon curd.
    • Other flavors of curd can be made as well, including lime, tangerine and other citrus flavors.

    Buying and storing

    • Lemon curd is sold in jars. After opening a jar, store it in the refrigerator and use by expiration date.
  • Lime, Key Lime

    Description

    • A lime is a bright green citrus fruit from the lime tree.
    • Limes are smaller than lemons, but have a similar shape. The pulp is green and is tart and sour. The Persian lime is the most available, is seedless, and has more aroma than some limes. It is high in vitamin C.
    • Limes are often used in beverages, for their zest and for a garnish. Lime juice is also added to guacamole to add flavor and keep the avocado mixture from discoloring.
    • Key limes are a smaller and rounder lime that is more yellow than green. It was originally grown in Florida. The juice is tangy and sour. The peak season is during the winter months. It is a key ingredient in Key Lime Pie.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for unblemished fruit. But, sometimes a brown discoloration is on the skin and is harmless. Lime and Key Lime juice can be purchased in bottles. Lime juice is sold in small plastic lime-shaped containers in the produce section.
    • Limes should be stored in the produce bin of the refrigerator. They have a long shelf life.
    • The juice and zest can be frozen for later use.
    • Keep the juice bottles or containers refrigerated and use by expiration date.
  • Macadamia Nut

    Description

    • A macadamia nut is a rich, creamy white, crisp nut that is found in a golf ball-sized brown husk. This shell is very hard.
    • Macadamia nuts have a buttery texture and a sweet flavor. They are almost always sold shelled, roasted and in jars or cans.
    • They are often combined with chocolate. In Hawaii they are often dipped into chocolate or made into chocolate-based candy. Use macadamias as a snack or in some desserts.
    • If you can’t find them with the baking nuts, look for them with the snack nuts in the snack section.
    • One (3.25 ounce) jar equals 2/3 cups nuts.
    • Macadamia nuts originated in Australia, but are now grown in Hawaii and California.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Since a macadamia nut is high in fat it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Mace

    Description

    • Mace is a pungent and fragrant spice that is made from the outer membrane of the nutmeg. It is rich yellow-orange in color and has a nutmeg-like flavor.

    Buying

    • Mace is sold ground and can be found with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in a tightly closed container.
  • Maple Syrup

    Description

    • Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Maple sap is collected in early spring and cooked to yield sweet maple syrup.
    • It is a natural sweetener. Depending on the sugar content of the sap, it takes from 28 to 80 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of syrup.
    • Maple syrup is used on pancakes, waffles, French toast and in candies, baked goods and sweet potato dishes. It is used in barbecue sauces because it gives a nice glaze to meat as the sugars caramelize. It can be drizzled on ice cream or hot cereal.

    Buying

    • Maple syrup is located with other syrups in the grocery store and sold in jars or jugs.
    • Read labels to make sure it is 100% maple syrup.
    • Maple syrup is graded for quality. Grade A is the most common grade for consumers. It also comes in a range of colors and darker maple syrup has more flavor. Vermont is a big maple syrup producing state.

    Storing

    • After opening maple syrup, keep it in the refrigerator. Warm maple syrup before serving on pancakes and waffles.

    Tip

    • Want to substitute maple syrup for sugar?  For 3/4 cup sugar use 1 1/2 cups maple syrup and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 2-4 tablespoons.

    Measuring

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eyes are level with the markings on the cup. If you lightly spray the measuring cup with vegetable cooking spray the syrup will not stick to the glass.
  • Margarine

    Description

    • ​Margarine is made from vegetable oil, water and, in some brands, dairy products.
    • Margarine is partially hydrogenated to become solid.
    • Margarine contains 80% fat so it can be substituted for butter in most baking applications except pastry recipes and candy made from boiled syrup. Using margarine will produce a softer dough than one made with butter.
    • Margarine is soft right from the refrigerator, so there is no need to bring to room temperature before using a recipe.

    Buying

    • Margarine for baking and as a table spread is sold in the refrigerated section of the supermarket in 1-pound packages containing 4 (4-ounce) sticks. Margarine for spreading is sold in 8-ounce  or larger tubs.

    Storing

    • Keep margarine in the original container in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not on the refrigerator door. Once the package is open store sticks in an airtight container to preserve color, freshness and flavor and keep refrigerated between uses.
    • Use by the expiration date. Stick margarine may be frozen for up to 6 months, if frozen before the expiration date.

    Measuring

    • Most margarine in stick form has markings on the wrapper indicating tablespoon and cup measurements.  Use a sharp knife to cut the amount needed for a recipe.
    • 1 stick equals 1/2 cup.
  • Marmalade

    Description

    • Marmalade is made from fruit and most often it is bitter oranges. The rind is boiled with juice, sugar and corn syrup.
    • Marmalade is good on toast and is quite thick.  It can also be used in marinades or in desserts. Lemons, grapefruit and limes can be used to make marmalade.

    Storage

    • Marmalade has have a high sugar content and can be left in the cupboard. But, once opened, it should be refrigerated. Use by the expiration date.
  • Marshmallow

    Description

    • A marshmallows is a confection made from sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup and gelatin.
    • It is spongy and usually white or pastel tinted.
    • Mini marshmallows, flavored marshmallows and marshmallows in fun shapes are now available.
    • Marshmallows often are baked atop sweet potatoes and used in a puffed cereal bars, candy, desserts, eaten plain or toasted or used in s’mores

    Buying

    • Look for marshmallows in the baking aisle.

    Storing

    • Keep well sealed in the bag and use by the expiration date. Marshmallows can become dried out and stale and also don’t melt well if they become old and hard.

    Measurement

    • 10 large marshmallows equals 1 cup mini marshmallows.
  • Marzipan

    Description

    • Marzipan is a mixture of almond paste, sugar and sometimes unbeaten egg whites. The main difference between and almond paste is that it contains cornstarch. It is sweeter and smoother than almond paste. It is often tinted with food coloring and used to make molded fruits or vegetables to be used as a decoration on cakes or as a garnish. It can also be rolled into thin sheets and cut into ribbons.

    Buying and storing

    • Marzipan is sold in cans or tubes and found in the baking aisle. Don’t substitute almond paste for marzipan. Use the product up by the expiration date.

    Description

    • Marzipan is sold in cans and the main difference is that it contains cornstarch. It is sweeter and smoother than almond paste. It is often used to make molded fruits or vegetables to be used as a decoration on cakes or as a garnish.

    Buying and storing

    • Marzipan is sold in cans, as is the cake and pastry filling in the baking aisle.
    • Don’t substitute almond paste with the other two products.
    • Use the product up by the expiration date.
  • Mascarpone

    Description

    • Mascarpone is a fresh, unripened Italian cheese made from pasteurized sweet cream and milk.
    • It is ivory colored and creamy and looks like very thick sour cream.
    • Mascarpone has a buttery and mild, sweet flavor with a slight tang.
    • It is often spooned over fresh fruit and is used in some desserts like tiramisu.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for mascarpone in 8-ounce tubs in the specialty cheese section.

    Storing

    • Mascarpone is perishable. Store in the refrigerator and use by expiration date. Do not freeze.
  • Milk

    Description

    • Cow’s milk, the most commonly used milk in recipes, provides moisture, flavor, texture and color to baked products.
    • There are many kinds of milk:
      • Whole milk has had no fat removed and contains 3-1/2% milk fat.
      • Reduced Fat has had some of the fat removed and contains 2% milk fat
      • Low Fat milk has had some fat removed and contains 1% milk fat.
      • Fat free or Non-fat (skim) milk contains not more than 1/2% milk fat.
      • Buttermilk traditionally is the liquid remaining after butter is churned. Today it is made by adding a culture to low-fat or non-fat milk, which gives it a thick texture and tangy flavor.
      • Dry milk has had almost all the moisture removed. Buttermilk, whole milk, and non-fat milk all come in dried form.
      • Lactose-free milk is good for people who are lactose intolerant. It is available in whole, 2% and fat free varieties.
      • Evaporated milk is milk that has had 60% of its water removed.
      • Sweetened condensed milk has 50% of the water removed. The remaining mixture is 40% sugar and very sticky and sweet.

    Storage

    • Dairy milk should be stored in the original container, refrigerated at 35° to 40° F. and consumed by the "Use by" date on the carton.
    • Fresh milk should have a delicate, sweet milk flavor. Do not use milk that smells sour or has an unnatural color.
    • Unopened cans of evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk may be stored at room temperature for up to 12 months. After opening, store unused milk in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within five days.
    • Unopened packages of non-fat dry milk powder and buttermilk powder may be stored at room temperature in a cool dry place for up to six months.
    • Do not freeze milk, buttermilk, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk. Freezing changes the texture and may cause separation of milk fat.

    Substitutions

    • You may use whole milk, reduced fat and fat free milk interchangeably in most recipes.
    • Substitute for 1 cup buttermilk:
      • Place 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup. Add enough milk to equal 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes before using.
    • Substitute for 1 cup refrigerated fresh milk:
      • Use 1/2 cup evaporated milk plus 1/2 cup water.
    • Substitute dry milk powder for fresh milk:
      • Mix the milk powder with water according to package directions.

    Measuring Milk

    • To measure milk use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eye is level with the marking on the cup.
    • To measure milk in a measuring spoon, fill the spoon to the top, but don’t let it spill over. Do not pour the milk into a measuring spoon over other ingredients, in case there is spillage.
    • To measure dry milk, pour from package or spoon lightly into a dry measuring cup. Level with spatula or knife. Do not shake the cup to level or the dry milk will pack down and give an inaccurate measure.

    Heating Milk

    • Milk scorches easily. Heat over low to medium heat until bubbles form around the edges.
  • Mint

    Description

    • Mint is a strong-flavored herb. Mint is aromatic and has a menthol flavor.
    • There are many varieties of mint:
      • Spearmint, which has pointed oval, fuzzy light green, serrated leaves and lots of aroma is preferred for cooking. Spearmint is used in mint sauces.
      • Peppermint has smoother and darker leaves and is the most common. Peppermint is used most often in candy canes and mint fillings in chocolate candy.
    • Mint is used in iced tea, desserts and salads and with lamb. Mint is most often used fresh and is found year round in the produce section. Dried mint can be used to infuse tea.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking mint with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Both peppermint and spearmint extracts can be purchased in the spice section.

    Storing

    • Use fresh mint within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store mint in the container it was purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the mint is loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed into a sealed bag it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

    Tip

    • To revive limp mint, trim off about 1/2 inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash mint just before using and pat dry.
  • Molasses

    Description

    • Molasses is made from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets. It is boiled until a syrupy mixture remains that is a deep tan color. The length of time the syrup is cooked determines the color of the molasses.
    • Molasses add moisture, color and sweetness to foods.
    • Most molasses is sold unsulfured. Sulfured molasses has sulfur dioxide added as a preservative.
    • Light molasses is lighter in color and flavor and comes from the first boiling of the syrup. It has the highest sugar content and ranges from light to golden brown. It is mild and sweet flavored and thick. Use light molasses if a recipe does not specify the type of molasses to use.
    • Dark molasses is darker in color and stronger in flavor and is the result of the second boiling of the syrup.
    • Blackstrap molasses comes the final and third boiling and is strong and bitter. It is a dark brown syrup that is rich in minerals. It is sometimes used in chili. This is often found in health stores and some larger supermarkets.
    • Sorghum molasses is made from sorghum cane juice and is used instead of molasses by some cooks in gingerbread, baked beans and barbecue sauces.

    Storing

    • Molasses can be stored in the cupboard. If it crystallizes the molasses can be gently heated to dissolve the crystals.

    Measuring

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eyes are level with the markings on the cup. If you lightly spray the measuring cup with vegetable cooking spray, the molasses will not stick to the glass.

    Substitutions

    • Light and dark molasses may be used interchangeably in recipes.
    • For 1 cup molasses use 1 cup honey, although the flavor and color will be lighter.
  • Nectarine

    Description

    • A nectarine is a smooth-skinned, pitted fruit that is golden yellow with a red blush or predominately red color with some gold.
    • The season is early summer until fall. They are harvested when slightly firm, so they may need to ripen on the counter a few days.
    • A ripe nectarine is a good fruit to snack on. It can also be used in salads and desserts.

    Buying

    • A ripe nectarine should yield to gentle pressure. It will ripen in a brown paper bag or on the counter.

    Storing

    • Nectarines that are ripe can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray

    Description

    • Cooking sprays are convenient and are sold in aerosol cans.
    • There are many types available: original (often soybean oil), olive oil and butter-flavored sprays.
    • Baking spray has flour added to it.
    • There is even a grill spray.
    • Use sprays to grease (and flour) pans.

    Buying

    • Look for these sprays with other cooking oils in the baking section of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • Store in a cool dry place and use by the expiration date.

    Tip

    • If using on nonstick pans or surfaces, be sure to clean pans thoroughly after use to avoid residue build-up.
    • Vegetable shortening (with flour added when used in a baking pan), butter or oil can be substituted.
  • Nutmeg

    Description

    • Nutmeg is a spice made from the seed or kernel of the fruit of the nutmeg tree. This same plant yields mace, another spice, made from the membrane surrounding the nutmeg seed.
    • Nutmeg has a pleasant aroma and a spicy sweet taste. It is used in baked goods, cream sauces or custards and eggnog and on fruits and vegetables.

    Buying

    • Nutmeg is sold whole or ground and can be found with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in a tightly closed container.
  • Nuts

    Description

    • Nuts add flavor and a crunchy texture to baked products.
    • Nuts are dried fruits consisting of a kernel inside a hard shell. 
    • Favorite nuts to use in baking include almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts (filberts).
    • Nuts may be used whole or chopped in recipes. 
    • 1 cup chopped nuts equals 4 ounces.

    Storage

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled nuts will keep twice as long.

    Substitutions

    • Substitute the same amount of a different nut than called for in the recipe.

    Measuring Nuts

    • Spoon nuts into a dry measuring cup to the top.
    • 4 ounces nuts equals 1 cup chopped nuts.

    Toasting Nuts

    • Toasting nuts before adding to a recipe intensifies their flavor and may allow you to use less. Toast nuts in an ungreased skillet over medium heat (3 to 4 minutes), stirring often, until golden brown. To oven-toast, place into a baking pan. Bake at 350°F

    Mixing In Nuts

    • Before adding nuts to a batter, toss with some of the flour called for in the recipe. This helps to keep the nuts from sinking to the bottom.

    Testing for Freshness

    • Shelled nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Oatmeal Oats

    Description

    • ​Oatmeal is made from ground or rolled oats after the husks are removed. It is then crushed into flakes. 
    • Oatmeal is a popular hot breakfast cereal. It is well known as an ingredient in many cookie and bar recipes as well as in toppings for fruit crisps.
    • Oats do not contain gluten so are not used as the primary ingredient in bread baking. They can be added to yeast batters and quick breads to add texture and nutrition.
    • Oatmeal is a 100 % whole grain product.
    • Old-fashioned oatmeal is made using the entire cut oat kernel and it is rolled into flakes.
    • Quick-cooking oatmeal is made by cutting the oat kernel into pieces before rolling into thinner flakes. It cooks faster.
    • Instant oatmeal is made by cutting the oats very fine and processing so cooking is not necessary. Just add hot water. Instant oatmeal often has sugar, spices and even dried bits of fruit added. This type of oatmeal comes in individual serving packets.
    • Steel cut oats or Scotch oats are oats that are cut into 2 or 3 pieces and are not rolled. Steel cut oats take longer to cook and are chewier.

    Buying

    • Oatmeal is located in the hot cereal aisle in round cardboard boxes. Instant oatmeal is sold as individual packets inside a cardboard box.

    Storing

    • Store oatmeal in a cool dry place for up to 6 months or freeze in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 year. Oats tend to get stale, rather than rancid, however, If not kept frozen, use by the expiration date.

    Substitutions

    • Old-fashioned and quick-cooking oats may be used interchangeably in recipes. However, do not substitute instant oatmeal.

    Measuring

    • To measure spoon dry oatmeal into a dry measuring cup and level with a spatula or knife.
  • Orange, Orange Juice

    Description

    • ​An orange is a juicy round fruit from the citrus family that is available year round.
    • Oranges are used as a fruit for snacking and for juice, as well as in salads.
    • Oranges are graded US Fancy and US #1.
    • Oranges are high in vitamin C and fiber.
    • Orange juice is available fresh, canned, frozen and refrigerated juice. Juice can be sold pulp free or with a range of pulp left in the juice. 
    • Navel orange is a sweet orange with a slight tang and is good for snacking and fruit salads. Navel oranges are seedless. They get their name from the navel at the bottom. The peak season is November through May and most are grown in California.
    • Valencia orange is a sweet and juicy round orange with bright orange skin and is good for snacking and juice. It is the most popular variety for juicing. It does have seeds.
    • Seville orange is commonly used for marmalade.
    • Blood orange has a bright red colored pulp and a very sweet flavor.  They have a thin skin and are juicy. They are the result of an orange tree crossed with a pomegranate tree!
    • Mandarins are a small, sweet orange with a loose skin that is good for snacking and fruit salads. Mandarin oranges are also sold canned in a water-sugar liquid.
    • Clementines are a cross between an orange and a tangerine. They have a loose skin which make them easy to peel and popular for eating. Clementines are smaller than an orange and have a dark orange, smooth skin, sweet flavor and good aroma. They are seedless. The season is late fall to early spring.
    • Tangerines are also a member of the mandarin orange family. They are sweet and juicy, have seeds and a somewhat loose skin. They are larger than a Clementine.

    Buying and Storing

    • ​Look for firm, unblemished peels with bright color.
    • Orange juice concentrate is available in the freezer and, fresh 100% orange juice or orange juice concentrate can be purchased in the refrigerated section.
    • Oranges are fine at room temperature for a few days but will last for weeks in the refrigerator.
    • Orange juice should be used by the expiration date on the container.

    Tip

    • One orange equals about 1/3 to 1/2 cup or juice and 4 teaspoons grated peel or zest.
  • Peach

    Description

    • A peach is a creamy yellow, juicy fruit when ripe. It has a fuzzy skin that can have a rosy blush or be deeper yellow in color. The flesh can be white to golden yellow. There are many varieties.
    • The peak season is late summer to fall.
    • A peach has a single pit. The peach flesh around the pit changes to red or pink as the peach ripens.  The Clingstone peach varieties ripen first and the pit clings to the flesh. This type of peach holds its shape in baking.  A Freestone peach, such as the Elberta, has a pit that freely pulls away from the flesh. It is picked unripe and ripens during shipping.
    • A ripe peach is a treat to eat out of hand or sliced and topped with cream.  Peaches are used in desserts like peach pie, cobbler and crisps, sometimes complemented with raspberries or blueberries in desserts.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh peaches with good golden color. Even a small amount of green means it won’t ripen.
    • Look for peaches without bruises or soft spots.
    • Peaches are available  fresh, canned, in jars, or frozen.

    Storing

    • Use fresh ripe peaches quickly. Peaches that need to ripen more can be put into a paper bag on the countertop. In the bag, the gases released will aid in ripening the peach. Use peaches within a few days once they are ripe.

    Measuring

    • 3 or 4 medium peaches equal about 1 pound or 3 cups sliced.

    Tip

    • To quickly remove the thin, slightly downy peel, plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds, then into ice water. The skin will slip off.
  • Peanut

    Description

    • ​A peanut is technically a legume as it grows underground.
    • Peanuts are high in protein.
    • The most common types are Virginia and Spanish peanuts. The Virginia peanut is larger and more oval; the Spanish is smaller and round. 
    • They are sold in bulk, in packages, in the tan shell, salted or unsalted. Inside the shell, the nuts will have a paper thin husk on them. They are also available shelled and roasted in vacuum sealed jars, or cans in a variety of different sizes and styles, from honey roasted to chili seasoned.
    • Peanuts are used in candies, cookies, desserts and for eating as a snack.
    • Of course, a lot of peanuts are used to make peanut butter. 
    • One pound of peanuts in the shell equals 3/4 cup shelled.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled peanuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled peanuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled peanuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Pear

    Description

    • A pear is a popular, juicy fresh fruit that is related to the apple and is available fresh in season and canned year round. It is picked unripe and so often needs to be ripened on the counter.
    • A pear is juicy when ripe and used as a snack, in tarts, other desserts and salads.
    • Anjou -- a green or red,  firm pear with a sweet flavor available most of the year. It is a good pear for eating and cooking.
    • Bartlett -- a sweet, juicy pear that is bright green and becomes yellow as it ripens. The red Bartlett turns red as it ripens. Bartlett pears are available July through February and are good for eating, canning and in salads.
    • Bosc -- a firm pear with a crunchy texture. It has a good pear aroma and a little more tartness than some other pears. It is dull green and a bit more elongated than other varieties. The Bosc pear is available from fall to late spring. It holds its shape when cooked making it a good choice for baking, poaching or grilling. 
    • Comice -- a tender, sweet and juicy pear with a good aroma. This green pear has a red blush. It is good for eating and goes well with cheese. Comice pears are available from late fall until March.
    • Seckel -- a red pear and the smallest variety. It is juicy and sweet and good to eat as as a snack or in salads. This pear is available from August through early winter.

    Buying

    • Buy pears in the produce section. They will continue to ripen after purchase. To check for ripeness press gently with thumb on the neck of the pear -- if it is soft, it is ripe.

    Storing

    • Depending on how ripe the pear is, it can be left at room temperature for a few days to a week. Bartlett pears do not hold up well after they are ripe.
  • Pecan

    Description 

    • ​Pecans are a North American nut grown in the South. There are many different types grown, but most often have a thin tan, brown or reddish brown smooth, elongated shell. They actually grow in clusters of 4. The nutmeat itself has a tan exterior and beige interior. They have a high fat content. 
    • As with most nuts, toasting brings out their flavor.
    • They are used in baking, candies and as a garnish. Spiced pecans make a great snack.
    • They are available seasonally sold in the shell, and year round in bags of halves, chopped and pieces in the baking aisle with the nuts.
    • One pound nuts in the shell equals 2 cups shelled.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled pecans in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make pecans go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled pecans for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled pecans will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled pecans should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. Pecans should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid pecans will ruin the baked product. Always taste pecans before using.
  • Persimmon

    Description

    • A persimmon is an autumn fruit that is sour when it is green and becomes very sweet when ripe.
    • The most common persimmon is large, round and has a slightly elongated base.
    • October is the month that persimmons turn bright orange and are slightly wrinkled in appearance. The flesh is reddish orange.
    • A persimmon can be eaten as is or used in puddings and baked items.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for persimmons that are brightly colored from October through February. They should be plump and soft. They can ripen on the counter for a few days if not quite ripe. Refrigerate ripe persimmons and use within a few days.
  • Phyllo

    Description

    • Phyllo (also spelled filo) is  a very thin sheet of pastry dough that is used to make baklava and other Greek pastries, top pot pies or in appetizers. 
    • When working with phyllo, keep the sheets that aren’t being used covered with a damp dish towel. Remove just the number of sheets required for each step of a recipe. The sheets are very thin and tear easily, so handle gently. 

    Buying

    • Phyllo is sold in the freezer section of the supermarket. Some supermarkets may carry fresh phyllo.
    • Phyllo can be stored unopened in the refrigerator for 1 month; once it is opened it should be used within 2-3 days. It can be frozen for 1 year. Defrost in the refrigerator.& Remove from the refrigerator about 2 hours before using so it will be easier to handle.
    • Do not refreeze as the pastry will become brittle.
  • Pineapple

    Description

    • ​This tropical fruit is familiar for its diamond-patterned skin, bright green fronds and pale yellow or golden yellow, juicy, sweet interior.  Fresh pineapple is available in different varieties and sizes and sold year round. 
    • Pineapples are popular for just eating, in fruit salads and in desserts.
    • Pineapple is available in rings and large and small chunks in the canned fruit section of the store.
    • An enzyme in fresh pineapple prevents gelatin from setting. Use canned pineapple in gelatin desserts.

    Buying

    • Look for a fresh pineapple that is more golden than green on the exterior and is firm with no soft spots. The stiff fronds should be green and not withered. Most pineapples sold today are already at the peak of ripeness.

    Storing

    • A ripe pineapple should be cut, refrigerated and used within a week. A pineapple will continue to ripen as it stands on the counter, but it will not get sweeter.
  • Pine Nuts

    Description

    • Pine nuts are also called pinon, or pignole.
    • These small, cream-colored delicate nuts or seeds are high in fat and are a key ingredient in pesto.
    • They are harvested from the cones of a special type of pine tree.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Pine nuts can be become rancid quickly. They can be stored for 1 month in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer. If the nuts become soft they can be toasted. Pine nuts can be found in jars in the nut section.
    • They should not be shriveled or discolored. Nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Pistachio Nuts

    Description

    • Pistachio nuts are small green or ivory nuts with a papery skin inside a tan shell.
    • This shell easily separates to remove the nut, which is good for snacking and used in some ice cream and baked goods as well as savory dishes. They originated in the Middle East, but are now grown in California.
    • They have a delicate, sweet flavor and are sold roasted or un-roasted.  Roasted pistachios are sold either shelled or in the shell in cans or packages in the nut or snack aisle. They can be salted or unsalted or flavored with spices such as black pepper.
    • One pound in the shell equals 2 cups shelled and chopped.
    • Red pistachio nuts have been dyed.

    Storage and Freshness

    • Store shelled nuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make pistachio nuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled pistachio nuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Unshelled pistachio nuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled pistachio nuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. They should not be shriveled or discolored. The nuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Plum

    Description

    • ​A plum is a pitted or stone fruit that is available year round though its peak season is mid-summer to fall.
    • It has a sweet tart flavor and can be yellow, green, red or purple. It is a juicy fruit with a smooth skin and flat pit.
    • There are hundreds of varieties of plums. Santa Rosa and Red Beauty have red skins. Damsons have a dark blue-black skin.
    • Plums make a great snack and are also used for desserts.
    • While all prunes are plums, not all plums can become prunes. Prunes are made from plums that have high sugar content. They are dried with the pits and without fermenting.
    • Prunes are also marketed as "dried plums” and are sold in containers and bags in the dried fruit section. They are most commonly used for eating right from the bag.

    Buying

    • Plums should yield slightly to pressure when ripe.
    • Look for smooth, unblemished fruit.
    • Ripen them at room temperature if they are not ready and then refrigerate

    Storing

    • Keep at room temperature or refrigerate for longer storage of 5-7 days, depending on the variety and the ripeness.
  • Poppy Seed

    Description

    • A poppy seed is an edible seed from the poppy plant.
    • Poppy seeds are tiny blue-black round seeds that add crunch to quick breads, coffeecakes and cakes.
    • Poppy seeds are also used to flavor salad dressings.

    Buying

    • Poppy seeds are sold in small containers in the spice section in the baking aisle of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • Store poppy seeds away from sunlight in tightly closed containers.
  • Powdered Sugar

    Description

    • Powdered sugar or confectioners' sugar is granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powder and has had a small amount of cornstarch added to it to prevent clumping.
    • Powdered sugar dissolves easily and is often used to make frosting and candy and can be dusted on desserts.

     Buying and Storing

    • Powdered sugar is usually sold in 1-pound plastic bags in the baking aisle of the supermarket. Store tightly covered to prevent clumping.

    Tips

    • To measure powdered sugar, lightly spoon sugar into a dry ingredient measuring cup and level top with a spatula or knife.
    • For a substitute for 1 cup powdered sugar, process 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon cornstarch in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
  • Preserves

    Description 

    • Preserves are made from fruit and have large fruits chunks suspended in sugar syrup.
    • Preserves are often eaten on toast or in sandwiches, but may also be used in baking bars or cookies or desserts.
    • Pectin is used to make most preserves, as it gels the product.

    Storage

    • Preserves have a high sugar content and can be left in the cupboard. Once opened, preserves should be refrigerated. Use by the expiration date.
  • Pumpkin

    Description

    • A pumpkin is a type of winter squash. There are many varieties and vary greatly in size, but most tend to have heart shaped leaves. Growers compete each year at festivals and fairs to see who can grow the largest one. Some varieties can weigh over 1000 pounds.
    • Pumpkins have a hard, ribbed or smooth, orange or white shell and an orange pulp with seeds in a fibrous mass in the interior. The seeds, sometimes called pepitas, can be cleaned and roasted with oil and salt for a snack.
    • Pumpkin has a mild, sweet flavor and can be used like a squash, or used for pumpkin pie, bread, bars, cakes and other desserts. Some varieties are better for pie baking. Of course, they can be used for Jack O Lanterns.
    • Pumpkin is available canned. There is pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin pie filling generally has spices or flavoring added to it.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh pumpkins with no blemishes or soft spots and that are heavy for their size. Pumpkins are harvested in the fall. Canned pumpkin is available all year long in the baking aisle of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • A fresh pumpkin lasts a few weeks if kept cool and dry. Cooked pumpkin can be frozen.
    • Canned pumpkin should be used by the expiration date.
  • Raisins

    Description

    • Raisins add sweetness and texture to baked products.
    • Raisins are popular for snacking and in baking, from desserts to cookies to rice pudding.
    • Raisins are dried grapes. Dark raisins are sun-dried while golden raisins, generally moister than dark raisins, have been treated to prevent them from darkening and are dried in machines.
    • Currants are smaller grapes that have been sun-dried, so are just very small raisins.
    • Use dark raisins if a recipe does not specify which type to use.

    Storage

    • Store raisins in an airtight container at room temperature for several months. They can be refrigerated or frozen in an airtight container for up to one year.
    • Raisins should be plump and moist.

    Substitutions

    • The same amount of another chopped dried fruit, such as apricots, cherries and dried cranberries, may be substituted for raisins.
    • Golden raisins, dark raisins and currants may be used interchangeably in baking recipes.
  • Raspberries

    Description

    • Raspberries are jewels of the berries. The raspberry is made up of many drupelets; each has its own seed. These drupelets are connected around the core or center of the berry. Raspberries are available in red, gold and black. They are very fragile. The flavor and aroma is great and they are often eaten plain, with cream or baked in pies or desserts. They tend to be expensive.

    Buying

    • Look for raspberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. They are sold with the hulls off. Raspberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days. Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Raspberry

    Description

    • A raspberry is made up of many drupelets; each has its own seed. These drupelets are connected around the core or center of the berry.
    • Raspberries are available in red, gold and black and are very fragile.
    • The flavor and aroma is great and they are often eaten plain, with cream or baked in pies or desserts.

    Buying

    • Look for raspberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. They are sold with the hulls off. Raspberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Raspberries are fragile. Buy what you can use in a few days.
    • Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Rhubarb

    Description

    • Rhubarb is a spring fruit that is always cooked. It has long ruby red or green stalks with big green leaves which are not edible. Rhubarb stalks need to be cooked with sugar as they are quite sour. Rhubarb is also called the "pie plant", pie being one of the favorite uses of the stalks.
    • Rhubarb is really a vegetable so it can be used in savory sauces and with meat as well as for many rhubarb desserts.
    • Rhubarb was once a common pant in every farmer's yard in the Midwest and in some Northeastern and Northwestern states.

    Buying and Storing

    • Rhubarb is sold fresh in the early spring to mid-summer. Rhubarb is also available in the freezer section year round. When buying fresh rhubarb, look for stalks that aren't too large and that are not limp. If leaves are on the stalk, they should look fresh.
    • Store fresh rhubarb in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for a week or longer.

    Tip

    • One pound of rhubarb equals 3 cups chopped or 2 cups cooked.
  • Ricotta Cheese

    Description

    • Ricotta cheese is an unripened fresh cheese made from cow’s milk. It is a slightly curdy, moist cheese that is used in cooking. It is often used in lasagna and cheesecakes.
    • Ricotta cheese comes in different varieties. Part-skim ricotta is drier and whole milk ricotta is sweeter and more like cottage cheese.

    Buying and storing

    • Ricotta cheese is found in 15-ounce and 3-pound containers in the dairy case. Store ricotta in the refrigerator and use by the expiration date.
  • Rosemary

    Description

    • ​Rosemary has long slender, slightly prickly, stiff thick needle-shaped leaves on a sturdy stem.
    • Pull the leaves off in the opposite direction they grow to use. Don’t use the stems in cooking.
    • To use fresh or dried rosemary for cooking the needles should be chopped (fresh) or crushed (dried), as they can be tough to bite into. 
    • Rosemary has a great aroma and a slightly piney flavor making it one of the most pungent of all herbs.
    • Use dried or fresh rosemary in small amounts on pork or chicken, in tomato sauce or on pizzas. Rosemary is often paired with olive oil and garlic in making oven-roasted potatoes. Artisan breads and focaccia often include rosemary.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking herbs with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often they are in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried herbs are located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use rosemary within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store rosemary in the container they were purchased in or in plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the rosemary is loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a sealed bag it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. 
    • Store dried rosemary away from sunlight in a tightly closed container.

    Tip

    • Dried rosemary is more potent than fresh, so if substituting it for fresh rosemary, start with one half the amount of fresh rosemary, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried rosemary instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp rosemary, trim off about 1/2-inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash rosemary just before using and pat dry.
    • The stem and leaves can be used as a basting brush or placed over meats to be broiled or roasted.
  • Salt

    Description

    • Salt (sodium chloride) is a common seasoning that enhances flavors in cooking and baking.
    • In bread baking, salt controls yeast growth to prevent the dough from rising too much.
    • There are several types of salt that can be used in cooking and baking:
      • Table salt -- This is a fine-grained salt with additives that make it free-flowing. This is the most common form of salt used and comes from salt mined from large salt deposits left by dried salt lakes.
      • Iodized table salt -- This is table salt with added iodine. It is particularly important in areas that lack natural iodine, to prevent hyperthyroidism.
      • Kosher salt -- This is a coarse-grained salt that is additive-free.
      • Sea salt -- This can be coarse or fine-grained but sea salt crystals may also be flaky in appearance. This salt comes from the evaporation of sea water.

    Storing

    • Store salt in a covered container in a dry place to prevent clumping.
    • Salt can be stored indefinitely if stored properly.

    Substitutions

    • Kosher salt, iodized salt, sea salt or a non-sodium salt substitute may be used in place of table salt in baking.
  • Sesame Seed

    Description

    • The sesame seed is from a plant grown just for its seeds. Sesame seeds are tan, small, oval-shaped seeds that add a nutlike flavor when sprinkled on buns, bread, crackers and some main dishes.
    • Sesame seeds can be used plain or lightly toasted.
    • Sesame seeds are used to make sesame oil. Sesame seeds are ground for tahini.

    Buying and Storing

    • Sesame seeds are found in the spice section. Toasted sesame seeds can sometimes be found in jars in the ethnic Asian food section. Store sesame seeds in a cool dark place with other spices or refrigerate and use by the expiration date. They can become rancid, so taste a few if in doubt.

    Storing

    • Sesame seeds can become rancid quickly. They can be refrigerated for a longer shelf life.
  • Sour Cream

    Description

    • ​Sour cream is a dairy product that is made by adding lactic acid to light cream. It is white, thick and rich with a cultured flavor.
    • Sour cream is also available in reduced fat and no fat varieties.
    • Sour cream is used to top baked potatoes, in desserts and baked goods. Sour cream is also used to make dips and do add richness to many entrees and side dishes.

    Buying and Storing

    • ​Buy sour cream in the dairy section in plastic tub containers.
    • Store sour cream in the refrigerator and use by the expiration date.

    Substitute

    • For a substitute for sour cream, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup light cream. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10-30 minutes to thicken. Refrigerate.

    Measuring

    • 1 (8-ounce) carton equals 1 cup sour cream.
  • Star Anise

    Description

    • Star anise is a whole spice that looks like an 8 point star. It contains tiny black seeds with an anise like flavor.
    • It is widely used in Asian cuisine and to flavor liqueurs and baked goods. It is a ground ingredient in Chinese Five-Spice powder.

    Buying

    • Whole star anise can be found in Asian markets and with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Store away from sunlight in a tightly closed container.
  • Strawberries

    Description

    • Strawberries are a very popular berry now available year round. Some are huge. They are purchased with the stems on.
    • Sliced or whole, in a bowl or on cereal, for strawberry shortcake, desserts and smoothies, strawberries are an attractive and welcome fruit. Strawberries are eaten fresh and used in fruit salads, sauces, pies, desserts and jams. Strawberries are good with chocolate.
    • A strawberry, picked from the garden when ripe, has a great aroma and flavor. They are often smaller and solid. Commercial berries tend to have a hollow middle, especially the larger ones.

    Buying

    • Look for strawberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps or hulls. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Strawberries are also available frozen.
  • Strawberry

    Description

    • A strawberry is a very popular berry now available year round. Strawberries are purchased with the stems on and come in a variety of sizes.
    • Sliced or whole, in a bowl or on cereal, for strawberry shortcake, desserts and smoothies, strawberries are an attractive and welcome fruit. Strawberries are eaten fresh and used in fruit salads, sauces, pies, desserts and jams. Strawberries are good with chocolate.
    • A strawberry, picked from the garden when ripe, has a great aroma and flavor. They are often smaller and solid. Commercial berries tend to have a hollow middle, especially the larger ones.

    Buying

    • Look for strawberries in the produce section. They should be an even color, not bruised or wet looking. Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps or hulls. Most are sold in half pints, pints or quarts. Strawberries are also available frozen.

    Storing

    • Berries are fragile and so buy what you can use in a few days.  Don’t wash until you are ready to use them. Wash before removing the caps, otherwise they soak up the moisture. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  • Sugar

    Description

    • Sugar cane and sugar beets are the sources of most granulated sugar.
    • Granulated or white sugar is highly refined sugar and most commonly used as a sweetener in cooking and baking.
    • In addition to sweetening, sugar adds tenderness to doughs, stability to mixtures such as beaten egg whites and can aid in some food preservation.
    • Superfine sugar is finely ground granulated sugar that dissolves quickly. It is good in meringues and whipped cream. It is sometimes referred to as castor sugar.

    Buying and Storing

    • Sugar is found in the baking aisle of the supermarket. Store in an air-tight container to prevent hardening.

    Tip

    • To measure granulated sugar, spoon the sugar into a dry ingredient measuring cup and level with a spatula or knife.
  • Summer Squash

    Description

    • ​Summer squash are eaten when they are young. They have a soft rind or peel and seeds, and the whole squash may be eaten. These squash grown quickly and have mild flavors.
    • Chayote is pale green and has a large seed in the interior. It is round or pear-shaped and grows on a tropical vine. It has a slight apple flavor, but is fairly bland and can be used like zucchini. Look for this in the produce section.
    • Patty pan squash can be white, yellow or green. It has a scalloped appearance and is small. Slice and sauté, stuff, broil or grill.
    • Zucchini squash are green or yellow. Green zucchini is long and slender and can be eaten raw or cooked. The texture is firm and the interior is white. Yellow zucchini can be long and slender or available in a crookneck variety. Smaller zucchini are sweeter, but the overall flavor is somewhat bland and texture is tender. Young zucchini retain their shape when cooked quickly. The seeds are almost invisible in young zucchini. Zucchini can be sliced and sautéed, grilled, broiled, stuffed, or shredded and made into an array of baked goods, such as zucchini bread. Zucchini is an ingredient in minestrone soup. Zucchini flowers can be stuffed and deep fried.
    • Buying
    • Some varieties of summer squash are mainly available in the summer, but zucchini is available year round. Look for unblemished, firm squash.

    Storing

    • Use these squash within a few days or refrigerate in the crisper drawer for up to one week.

    Tips

    • Wash these squash just before cooking.
    • One medium zucchini equals 1/2 cup cubes or 1 cup shredded zucchini.
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk

    Description

    • ​Sweetened condensed milk is whole milk which has had sugar added and half of the water removed. It is creamy white, sticky and sweet.
    • Low fat and fat free sweetened condensed milk are now available.
    • Sweetened condensed milk is used in making candy, some fudge recipes and desserts. Sometimes no extra sugar is needed. If lemon juice is added it will thicken, without baking, for a lemon pie filling.

    Buying

    • Sweetened condensed milk is found in 14-ounce cans in the baking section of the supermarket.

    Storing

    • Store unopened cans in the cupboard. Once the can is opened it should be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Do not freeze, the texture will change.  Use by the expiration date.

    Tips

    • As the product ages the color may start to turn a light tan.  If it is within the shelf life marked on the can, it can still be used.
    • A caramel sauce can be made by heating the sweetened condensed milk over low heat, stirring constantly.

    Measuring

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eyes are level with the markings on the cup. If you lightly spray the measuring cup with no-stick vegetable cooking spray before measuring the milk it will not stick to the glass.

    Substitute

    • Do not substitute evaporated milk for sweetened condensed milk.
    • Combine 1 cup instant non fat dry milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup boiling water and 3 tablespoons melted butter.  Process this mixture in a blender until smooth. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
  • Sweeteners

    Description

    • Liquid sweeteners add moisture, color and sweetness to baked products.
    • In baking liquid sweeteners include:    
      • Corn syrup: Cornstarch processed with acids or enzymes, producing a syrupy liquid.  
        • Light corn syrup is further treated to remove any color. Light corn syrup is very sweet, but does not have much flavor.
        • Dark corn syrup has coloring and flavoring added to make it caramel-like.
      • Honey: The nectar of plants that has been gathered and concentrated by honey bees.
      • Maple syrup: Created by boiling the sap from maple trees, has a thick, syrupy consistency.
      • Molasses: Made from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets that is boiled until a syrupy mixture remains. It is less sweet than sugar.
        • Light molasses is lighter in flavor and color and results from the first boiling of the syrup. Use light molasses if a recipe does not specify the type of molasses to use.
        • Dark molasses, dark in both flavor and color, is not as sweet as light molasses. It comes from the second boiling of the syrup.
        • Blackstrap molasses is thick, very dark, and has a bitter flavor. It comes from the third boiling of the syrup. It is only sometimes used for baking.

    Storage

    • Unopened containers of liquid sweeteners may be stored at room temperature. After opening, store containers in the refrigerator to protect against mold.
    • Liquid sweeteners will keep indefinitely when stored properly.

    Substitutions

    • Light molasses and dark molasses may be used interchangeably in recipes, according to your preference.
    • Light corn syrup and dark corn syrup may be used interchangeably in recipes. Baked products made with dark corn syrup will have a slightly stronger flavor and darker color than those made with light corn syrup.
    • Substitute for 1 cup molasses: Use 1 cup honey. The flavor and color will be lighter.
    • Substitute for 1 cup corn syrup: 1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup liquid used in recipe.
    • Substitute for 1 cup honey: 1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup liquid used in recipe.

    Measuring Liquid Sweeteners

    • Use a glass or clear plastic liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Bend down so your eye is level with the marking on the cup.

    Dissolving Crystallized Honey

    • If honey begins to crystallize, place upright in a pan of hot water. Stir or shake occasionally until the crystals re-dissolve.
  • Sweet Potato

    Description

    • The sweet potato is not related to the potato. It has a smooth skin. The variety that has an orange-red skin has a pinkish interior and the darker red-skinned variety has a brighter orange interior. Both have a sweet flavor.
    • Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed, made into pies, and even used in cakes, biscuits and breads.

    Buying and Storing

    • Look for firm sweet potatoes with no soft spots in the unrefrigerated produce section by the potatoes and onions.
    • Store in a cool dark place. Do not refrigerate.
  • Tapioca

    Description

    • Tapioca is obtained from the root of the bitter cassava or yuca plant. It is sold as granules, flakes, tiny balls (pearl tapioca) or flour (tapioca flour). During cooking the grains sweet and become gelatinous. Tapioca is used to thicken soups, puddings and fruit pies and is eaten as a dessert when combined with sugar, milk and eggs.

    Buying

    • Tapioca is sold in 1-pound boxes and found where the pudding and pie filling mixes are sold.

    Storing

    • Tapioca can be kept in the box and stored in a cool, dark cupboard. Use by the expiration date.
  • Thyme

    Description

    • ​Thyme has many tiny, pointed oval leaves on each stem. It has a strong clove-like flavor and is popular in French cooking.  
    • This herb is used in bouquet garni, in stocks and marinades and in pork and poultry dishes.
    • The leaves are small, so often don’t need to be chopped. It is pungent when fresh.  
    • It is often paired with lemon in baked goods.

    Buying

    • Look for fresh-looking thyme with no wilted leaves and brown spots. Often thyme is in plastic containers on hooks over the produce section. Dried thyme is located with the spices in the baking section of the store.

    Storing

    • Use thyme within a few days to 1 week.
    • Store thyme in the container it was purchased in or in a plastic bag in the produce bin of the refrigerator. If the thyme is loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed into a sealed bag it will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.
    • Store dried thyme away from sunlight in a tightly covered container.

    Tip

    • ​Dried thyme is more potent than fresh, so if substituting it for fresh thyme, start with one half the amount of fresh thyme, for example, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
    • To revive limp thyme, trim off about 1/2 inch of the stems and place stems in cold water for a few hours.
    • Wash herbs just before using and pat dry.
  • Vanilla

    Description

    • Vanilla extract adds a very sweet, fragrant flavor to baked goods.
    • Vanilla extract is produced by soaking dried vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution. It is then aged for several months. Bakers like the complex flavor.
    • The three most common types of beans used to make vanilla extract are Bourbon-Madagascar, Mexican and Tahitian.
    • Imitation vanilla extract or flavoring is an inexpensive substitute for pure vanilla extract. The flavor is not as complex. It is found with the vanilla in the baking section.
    • Vanilla beans are pods that vary in length and thickness.
    • To use vanilla seeds, which have the flavor, the pod is split open and the seeds are scraped out. Use the seeds in home-made ice cream, in sauces and pastry creams for a wonderful flavor.
    • The reason vanilla beans and natural vanilla are so expensive is that the pods ripen on the vines for 8 to 9 months and then are hand picked and dried.

    Buying

    • Vanilla extract is found in the spice section of the baking aisle in most supermarkets.
    • Vanilla beans are sold in the spice section in tubes or jars. Usually they contain 2 to 3-inch pieces of vanilla bean pod.

    Storage

    • ​Vanilla beans have a long shelf life if kept sealed in a cool, dry place.
    • Store vanilla extract in a cool, dark place, with the bottle tightly closed, to prevent evaporation and loss of flavor.

    Substitutions

    • Imitation vanilla flavoring can be substituted for vanilla extract, but it may have an artificial taste. 
    • Other extracts that may be used instead of vanilla are almond, peppermint, rum or lemon, where desired or appropriate. Use the same amount as the vanilla extract called for in the recipe.

    Tip

    • Once the seeds of the vanilla bean are scraped out, the pods can be used to poach fruit, or add to sugar for a few weeks to make a vanilla-flavored sugar.

    Measuring Extracts and Flavorings

    • Fill the measuring spoon to the top. Be careful not to let it spill over. Don’t measure extracts or flavorings over the mixing bowl – any spillage will go into the bowl and you will not know the amount of extract or flavoring you have added.
  • Vegetable Shortening

    Description

    • ​Vegetable shortening is a solid fat made from vegetable oils like soybean or cottonseed.
    • The oil is changed from a liquid to a solid through a process called hydrogenation during manufacturing. This shortening is 100% fat and is flavorless.
    • It has a soft texture so can be easily cut into flour in baking and cooking.

    Buying

    • Buy in foil-wrapped stick or cans in the baking section.

    Storing

    • Store up to 1 year or use by date. Store in a cool, dark place.
  • Walnut

    Description

    • ​A walnut is a common and popular hard-shelled from the walnut tree used in baking.
    • The most common variety of walnut is the English walnut. 
    • Walnuts have a rich, sweet and slightly bitter flavor.
    • They are available in the fall and winter in the shell, or unshelled year round packaged in halves, pieces or chopped.

    Storage and Freshness

    • ​Store shelled walnuts in an airtight container in a cool place. Heat, light and moisture make walnuts go rancid faster. Refrigerate shelled walnuts for up to four months or freeze for up to eight months. Un-shelled walnuts will keep twice as long.
    • Shelled walnuts should be crisp in texture and uniform in color. Walnuts should not be shriveled or discolored. Walnuts should smell and taste fresh, not rancid with an off-flavor. Rancid nuts will ruin the baked product. Always taste nuts before using.
  • Wheat

    Description

    • Wheat is the most common source of flours used in baking. Wheat can be categorized in three types, hard wheat, soft wheat and durum wheat. Hard wheat is high in gluten and the wheat flour is good for bread baking. Soft wheat flour is lower in gluten and is better in baked goods like cakes and bars.
    • Wheat grain is covered with a papery skin called bran. It is high in fiber. Bran is removed to make white flour.
    • Wheat flour contains gluten, a protein that forms an elastic network. This network helps contain the gases that makes mixtures such as doughs and batters, rise as they bake. Different flours vary by level of protein, which determines the applications for which that flour is used.
    • Wheat germ is the tiny seed of the wheat grain. It has a nutty flavor and is rich in protein, fats and minerals, but is often partially or completely removed when making white flour. Wheat germ can be sprinkled on cereal or added to bread dough.
    • The endosperm or wheat kernel is the starchy part of the wheat grain that is high in starch and proteins. Wheat contains gluten, which provides the structure of foods like bread. Wheat is used to make white and wheat flours, for wheat germ, for wheat berries and is used to make many cereals.
    • Wheat berries are the whole grain of wheat. They should be soaked and boiled before adding to soups, salads or breads. They can also be sprouted and used in salads. They have a sweet, nutty flavor. Wheat berries are most often found in health food stores.

    Buying and Storing

    • Most wheat is used for flour, so look for other wheat products in the flour area of the store. Store in a cool, dry place and use by the expiration date.
    • Wheat germ is sold in jars. It has a short shelf life so refrigerate after opening.
  • Yeast

    Description

    • Yeast is a microscopic organism that produces carbon dioxide as it grows and multiplies, causing baked products to rise. This leavening action helps make bread light and airy.
    • There are several forms of yeast on the market:
      • Active dry yeast, the most popular form, quick-rising dry yeast or bread machine yeast are sold as dry granules and packaged in either 1/4-ounce packets or 4-ounce jars.
      • Compressed fresh yeast is a small block or “cake” of moist yeast that can be found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Generally, it is softened in warm water before using.
    • Quick-rising yeast is a more active strain of yeast than regular active dry yeast. Using quick-rising yeast in a bread recipe reduces the rising time by 1/3. It is usually mixed with dry ingredients before the warm liquids are added.

    Storage

    • Store packets of active dry yeast and quick-rising yeast in a cool, dry place to keep out moisture. Store unopened jars in a cool, dry place until opened. Once opened, store tightly covered in the refrigerator.
    • Store compressed yeast tightly wrapped in the refrigerator to preventing it from drying out or spoiling. Use by the date printed on the package. Freeze compressed yeast in a resealable plastic freezer bag for up to 3 months.
    • If compressed yeast becomes moldy or discolored, throw it away.

    Substitutions

    • Quick-rising dry yeast can be substituted for active dry yeast, except when dough is allowed to rise in the refrigerator. The cold temperature will prevent the dough made with quick-rising dry yeast from rising quickly.
    • One (.6-ounce) cake of compressed yeast can be substituted for 1 (1/4-ounce) packet of active dry yeast.
    • Substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast for 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast.
    Using Yeast
    • Dough should be allowed to rise at 70° to 85°F. to encourage the best yeast growth.
    • If you are making a recipe by the traditional method (yeast dissolved in liquid before dry ingredients are added) dissolve the yeast in liquid that is between 105° and 115° F. so that the yeast is not killed.
    • If your recipe requires mixing the yeast with part of the flour before adding liquid, warm the liquid to 120° - 130° F. The flour protects the yeast from being killed by the warm liquid.
    Testing Yeast for Freshness
    • Dissolve the yeast to be used in your recipe in warm water with about 1/16 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Set the mixture aside for 5 to 10 minutes. If it begins to foam and expand, the yeast is alive. If not, start over with a fresh package of yeast.
  • Zest

    Description

    • Zest is the orange, yellow or green skin, rind or peel from oranges, lemons and limes. It is important not to remove too much of the peel, as the white pith underneath is bitter tasting. A fine grater or a tool called a zester can remove fine, moist shreds of zest. Zest can also be peeled in wide strips to use as a garnish or to make candied peels.
    • Zest is used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes in cooking and baking.

    Storing

    • Zest can be placed in a sealed container and frozen for up to one month but is better used fresh.

    Measurement

    • 1 orange should yield about 1 tablespoon fresh grated orange rind.