The Low Sugar Pantry
A few weeks after going sugar-free I started to love baking again. I noticed how different my pantry looked compared to a few months ago. It’s mostly stocked with ingredients to bake with, as opposed to being full of processed baked goods. Here's a list of my essential low-sugar pantry items:
Except for the odd treat, I don't eat gluten. Therefore, quinoa and brown rice are my complex carb staples. I also use pasta made from 100% brown rice.
For the rest of the family, I buy Unbleached All-Purpose, Whole Wheat Bread, and Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.
I find following the 50/50 whole wheat rule seems to work best for them.
The first two are easy to find at any grocery store. Whole wheat pastry flour is harder to find. I buy it in bulk at my local health food store. You can also order it here.
The main difference among flour types is the gluten content. Different varieties of wheat contain different amounts of protein. The more protein the flour has, the higher gluten it has.
Gluten makes the dough elastic and stretchy...great for chewy crusty breads. Less protein gives you a soft flour, best for light and tender cookies and fluffy cakes.
Whole wheat flour will go bad and should be stored in the fridge or freezer.
Large Flake or Rolled oats are whole oats that are steamed, pressed with a roller and then dried. They cook in 5 minutes, add a chewy texture, and are clearly visible in baked goods.
Quick oats are simply rolled oats that have been broken down into smaller pieces. They cook in 3-4 minutes. They are finer and give a more uniform texture to baked goods. Both of these are usually interchangeable in a recipe and really it’s up to personal preference.
Oat flour is simply oats that have been finely ground up in a food processor.
Steel cut oats have not been steamed or rolled. They require 50 minutes to cook and are usually used for making breakfast oatmeal rather than baking.
Almond meal & hazelnut meal are made from finely ground nuts. I use it to replace the flour in my gluten-free baking. Nut meal is also great for adding protein to baked goods. I like Bob's Red Mill Almond meal and hazelnut meal.
You can make your own nut meal by grinding nuts finely in a food processor.
Almonds, Cashews and Macadamia nuts are often used as a substitute for dairy. Walnuts and pecans make great salad toppings. Sesame and pumpkin seeds also add variety to stir-frys and dinners.
Pistachios make a great snack.
Peanut butter, macadamia butter, almond butter, etc add protein to baked goods. Macadamia nut butter is very subtle and thus works well in recipes where you don't want a peanutty taste.
Try nut butters as a dip for apples or celery.
You can find nut butters in health food or gourmet grocery stores.
I use chickpeas weekly in hummus, as protein in salads, and various recipes. Beans work great as a thickener in soups and black beans are surprisingly good in baked goods.
As much as possible, choose cans that are NON-BPA lining.
I keep three types of oil in my pantry. Coconut oil is great for cooking and baking. Olive oil is perfect for low-heat cooking and salads. Grapeseed oil is a good substitute when you need an oil will little flavour.
Coconut milk is quickly replacing the dairy I used to use in recipe. It also makes a great whipped cream!
Very similar to soy sauce but gluten-free. Adds great flavor to a stir-fry or sauteed veggies.
I occasionally add stevia for a treat or to make something "good for me" palatable.
The best stevia has no chemicals, alcohols, or fillers. For more on stevia see here.
My favourite stevia products that I use in my baking:
Sweetleaf Liquid Stevia
Nunaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia
Nunaturals Peppermint Liquid Stevia
Sweetleaf Chocolate Liquid Stevia
Sucanat is Su-Sugar, Ca-Cane, Nat-Natural.
It is essentially, pure dried sugar cane juice. One teaspoon of regular sugar has 4g of sugar. One teaspoon of Sucanat has 3g of sugar. Think of it as whole wheat (but whole cane) sugar.
You can usually find Sucanat in health food stores or you can purchase it here. Locally I've paid about $10 for a 2 lb bag. That might seem expensive but a bag lasts a long time.
Dates are high in natural sugars but are full of nutrients and fiber.
Pit them, chop them up, and throw them in a food processor with some of your flour or oats.
Find out more about the sugar content of dates here.
Unsweetened applesauce adds moisture and bulk that sugar-free baking needs. Its great because it doesn’t affect the taste of baked goods. It also adds fiber which is always a plus.
You can find unsweetened applesauce in the health food section of your grocery store. The only ingredient in it should be apples.
Not exactly the pantry, but frozen fruits and veggies are on my weekly grocery list. I use frozen fruit daily in my green smoothies and to make sorbets.
I also keep different frozen veggie mixes on hand for convenience and variety.
Trust me! Buy the best vanilla you can afford. There’s different types of vanilla.
- Madagascar vanilla is best paired with cream and chocolate, hence my favourite.
- Tahitian is best paired wth fruit
- Mexican Vanilla works best with spices like ginger and cloves.
The best price I've found for organic Madagascar vanilla is through iherb.com. (As of Aug 2013 – $8.12 for 4 oz bottle).
Buy unsweetened coconut with one ingredient on the package: 100% Coconut.
Make sure it is doesn’t have sulphites. I like this "Let's Do...Organic" unsweetened coconut available at your grocery store or here.
Baking Powder & Baking Soda:
This might seem like a bit of a boring topic, but it’s important and you’ll see why.
Baking powder and baking soda cause your baked goods to rise by releasing carbon dioxide gas when heated. We tend to take these two for granted, which is fine until you start substituting ingredients.
Baking powder is basically just baking soda with the helful acid added in it. It's best to choose aluminum-free GMO-free baking powder like Rumford, Frontier, or Bob's Red Mill. Not only is it better for you, your baked goods will taste better....less bitter or 'tinny'.
Baking soda works with foods that are acidic. It needs the help of ingredients like buttermilk, molasses, lemon, vinegar, natural cocoa, etc... Baking soda is either mined naturally from pure sodium bicarbonate or it is processed with chemicals. Bob's Red Mill and Frontier both sell naturally mined baking soda.
Baking powder and soda eventually expire, so buy small quantities and make sure they are still potent.
The problem with most cream, half and half, sour cream, etc ... is the use of thickeners and carrageenan.
The best way to avoid this is to buy organic or find a local dairy producer that offers pure dairy products like Hewitt’s. ($3.49).
Western Creamery is another Canadian company that makes carrageenan-free dairy products. It can be found in many canadian grocery stores.
I'm always buying lemons and limes.
Lemons juice and zest add a great punch of flavour to dishes and baked goods. I also use lemons and limes everyday to make fizzy lemonade.
Spend money on good quality spices. Buy organic if possible. The next time you go to a grocer who carries both, notice how organic dried spices are a different colour than the regular spices you buy.
I always try to keep some fresh herbs on hand, at the very least, fresh parsley. Rinse and wrap loosely in a paper towel and store in fridge for about a week.
I buy most of my spices from iherb.com
You might be surprised to see chocolate on my list of essentials.
Chocolate is awesome and I like to use it in ... well everything.
Everything you need to know about chocolate can be found here.
A scale is essential in low-sugar baking.
It’s always best to weigh ingredients, like chocolate chips, to get an accurate measurement. Eyeballing it, can add quite a few extra grams of sugar in a recipe.
At the very least, use a scale until you’re familiar with the ingredient and what it should look like in your measuring cups.
So there you have it! These, along with a few other essentials, like eggs, olive oil and butter, are what you will always find in my pantry.