Pantry Peek #1

What’s in your pantry?

Inspired by a blog post from Zingerman’s Mail Order managing partner Mo Frechette, we asked several folks here at Zingerman’s to share some of the foods that are their go-to favorites; foods they always try to keep on hand in their pantries. Today, we’re posting the very first in this series by our friend, Dana:

I have worked at Zingerman’s Bakehouse for six years. In that time I have learned to love and appreciate great food, but I still have a small budget, so I have to pick and choose when to get the ‘good stuff,’ and when to settle for average. The things I have pictured are simple, but give you the biggest bang for your buck. – Dana
Dana's favorite staples

Dana’s fave staples

Neilsen-Massey Vanilla
I learned shortly after coming to the Bakehouse that imitation vanilla extract is not even vanilla, and even ‘pure vanilla’ extract from the grocery store can taste awful. I suggest you only use real vanilla extract made from real vanilla beans, or you will be disappointed with the results. Just replace the grocery store vanilla with the same amount of the good stuff (unless the label says it is extra strong vanilla)!

Muscovado Brown Sugar
Muscovado sugar has such a deep, rich, caramel flavor that it instantly improves the taste of whatever you’re making. As with the vanilla, substituting regular or brown sugar in a recipe with the Muscovado will instantly improve the taste and complexity of your food. Brown sugar will tend to make your cookies and such a little chewier because it holds on to moisture better, but who doesn’t love chewy cookies?
*Note: This is what we use in our amazing Zzang candy bars, as well as other delectable treats from Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory. 

E.D. Smith Preserves
I love the American Spoon products that we sell at the Bakehouse, the Deli, and Mail Order, but I have a teenage boy at home who can tear through a whole jar of jam in one sitting. I will make my own jam when I have the time, but  when I do not I try to get the ED Smith brand. It’s more like a spoon fruit, as it is low sugar, and made from fruit available locally (Michigan and southern Ontario).

Whole Spices
Good quality spices should kept whole until needed, and then used shortly after they are ground. What more can I say? If I am replenishing the whole stock, which you should do once or twice a year, I will order them from the Spice House. They’re based in Chicago, and they come recommended by my hero, Alton Brown. I have always found the spices to be high quality, the prices reasonable, and the service good.
*Note: Zingerman’s is also a big fan of Montreal’s Épices de Cru, and you can find their terrific spices at the Deli!

Unbleached and Unbromated Flour
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When I started working at the Bakehouse, I learned that most American flour is adulterated with bromide, because it helps hasten the flour aging process, which helps the flour’s gluten form. Unfortunately, bromide has been linked to a host of potential health issues (more information here). Zingerman’s Bakehouse only uses and sells unbleached and unbromated flour. Other good sources for unbleached, unbromated flour are companies like King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill. If it does not say ‘unbromated’ on the bag, it probably isn’t.

Thanks, Dana!