Monday, November 19, 2012

Emily's 9 Holiday Pantry Must-Haves

It's almost Thanksgiving! We want to celebrate here at Assemble with a special Thanksgiving theme week. Now through Thursday, a new post just for the season! Today, Emily takes it from here!

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More than presents or decorating, in our house, holiday means baking! I find myself stocking up the pantry with the very first signs of fall, in anticipation of breaking out my cookie press and loaf pans. I want to share my nine favorite pantry staples, from an otherwise very long list. I'd love to know what's in your cupboards, too!
holiday pantry must haves for cooking and baking entertaining in the kitchen

1. Chocolate Chips
I am a firm believer that higher quality ingredients make a huge difference in baking. So it's funny to me that I really like to use good-old-fashioned Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips in my cookies -- I keep both milk and semi-sweet in the pantry year-round. The result is always consistent.
2. Tillen Farms Maraschino Cherries
From filling my mother-in-law's cherry bread to garnishing whiskey sours, maraschino cherries have a place in our holiday pantry. But I simply can't stand the bleached-and-dyed processed ones. Tillen Farms is a Pacific Northwest company that makes these all-natural cherries without dyes, sulfates, or preservatives. Score!
3. Solo Almond Filling
Almond paste is easy to find all year long, but I have a harder time finding almond filling for pastries, so I stock up as soon as I see these in the fall!
4. Darigold Unsalted Butter
Good butter = good baking. Darigold is a Northwest, farmer-owned, dairy co-op. I usually use unsalted when I bake, but their sweet cream salted butter is wonderful for cooking or buttering bread.
5. Crisco
Good thing Crisco has a very long shelf life, because I use it only once a year. But it is important -- recipes that call for shortening mean it. It'll make pastries flakey and cookies crumbly, where butter will fall flat (literally.)
6. Walnuts
I keep pecans and almonds around most of the time, but for some reason, holidays mean baking with walnuts. I prefer to buy them raw, in the bulk bins at our market. Nuts are expensive and get bitter if left out too long, so I just buy what I need.
7. Neilsen-Massey Bourbon Vanilla
Buy the best vanilla you can afford. You can smell the difference.
8. King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
I swear by King Arthur products, especially when baking bread! It has the most versatility, and will create high-rise breads or super tender pastries.
9. Organic Pumpkin
From October through December, I love making anything pumpkin flavored. I started using this Farmer's Market organic version and like how rich and pumpkin-y it tastes. Although, Libby's recipe for traditional pumpkin pie is impossible to beat!

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