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Food for Thought
Mix It Up
Flour seems to fly pretty freely around my kitchen. It's usually one big mess at mealtime, because I'm not very conscientious about planning ahead, and often decide to throw together a pan of biscuits or cornbread at the last minute. While the spontaneous, free-spirited side of me enjoys the flurry, the drudge on my left shoulder is shaking her head, knowing that there will be more pans and baking equipment to clean, flour and dough to scrape from the counter, and containers of flour, sugar, and leavenings to return to the pantry.
There is an answer to this sudden urge for side dishes, and it doesn't involve tearing open a box or package from the grocery store. In just a few hours you can make a selection of your favorite baking mixes and tuck them onto the shelf for later.
My original intention was to compare the horrible ingredients on packages of biscuit, cornbread, and pancake mixes to those used in wholesome homemade mixes, but I was surprised to see that with the exception of cake mixes (bad, bad, bad), the packaged mixes just weren't as heinous as I expected. They contained the expected shortening, of course, but I could pronounce almost everything on the labels. Commercial baking mixes would be perfectly acceptable in a pinch.
But to assure freshness, save money, and keep the pantry stocked, making these simple mixes is definitely the way to go. If you have young children in the household, this is a wonderful project to do together. They'll love to help measure the ingredients and won't even realize they're gaining valuable math skills!
The easiest and least expensive method is to simply combine all the dry ingredients in your favorite recipe and put them in an airtight container or zipper bag. You will still need to add the wet ingredients when you're ready to bake, but you will have saved the time needed to haul out the flour, leavenings, and seasonings, at least . . . and won't need to use as many measuring utensils. They'll stay fresh in your cupboard for up to two months; longer if you have room to keep them in the freezer.
If convenience is more important than cost, there's another option, in which powdered eggs, milk, or buttermilk (and in some cases, all three!) are added to the dry ingredients to make a complete mix. Powdered eggs and egg whites can get pretty pricey when you use them as a substitute for fresh eggs. The powdered milk and buttermilk are worth using in my opinion. I use this method because we don't live close to town, so if we run out of a staple (like milk or eggs) in the middle of winter, we're just out of luck. In most cases these mixes will only need cold water and some oil, shortening, or butter. If a mix includes shortening or coconut oil, all you will need to add is water, which is very helpful when you're in a hurry.
After a quick attempt at "doing the math," my brain shut down. I'm definitely not a math person. There is an amazing array of homemade baking mix articles on the Internet, most of which agree that homemade mixes will save you money, so I'm running with that conclusion. The one mix that I feel is more expensive to make is cake mix, but after reading the ingredients on the cake mix boxes, I'll spend the extra money and make my own. Besides, homemade cakes taste so much better!
Whichever option you choose, you will have the satisfaction of seeing a shelf full of ready-to-use baking mixes in your pantry. They also make great hostess gifts or holiday presents, and are perfect for shut-ins or new mothers, too.
Jars or quart-sized zipper storage bags are perfect for individual quantities of mix. Make sure you clearly mark each container with the amounts of liquid ingredients needed. Add the baking temperature and time, and you're good to go! If you prefer to scoop out the quantity you need each time, canisters or gallon zipper bags work well. Add the quantity of mix you'll need for a batch to your label, and be sure to date it.
Clear your counters, throw on an apron, and have fun! A little time now will save you lots of time and mess for months to come.
Contact Lorinda at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Also enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.
Food for Thought copyright 2013.