One of my favorite pies at this time of year is apple pie. But not just ANY apple pie, it needs to be homemade apple pie. There’s no comparison between the taste and texture of a pie made from fresh, crisp apples and a pie found in most bakeries and supermarkets.
A few years ago, I made a special trip to a bakery with a stellar reputation for pies. I was hosting the Thanksgiving feast and wanted only the best apple pie for my guests. Can you imagine my disappointment when we sliced into the pie and I discovered it was made from canned apple pie filling? In addition to having a mushy texture, the apples were overly sweet and dark in color from the canning process.
Since then, when it’s my turn to bring a dessert to a fall or winter event, I prefer to make my own pie. Yes, it’s a pain when it’s time to peel and slice all those apples, but it’s worth it.
Sift Through Your Baking Ingredients
If you’re like me, you’re not much of a year-round baker but only pull out your baking ingredients at this time of year. Flour, baking powder, baking sodIf you’re like me, you’re not much of a year-round baker but only pull out your baking ingredients at this time of year. Flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and more tend to hide in the dark recesses of the pantry if not used on a… Click To Tweeta, spices and more tend to hide in the dark recesses of the pantry if not used on a regular basis. But did you know that, like most other foods and ingredients, these have “best by” dates and that yours might be past their prime?
Consider taking a bit of time to review your baking ingredients. Do you know how old each of them is?
Going forward, consider writing the date on the package with a Sharpie whenever you open a new baking ingredient. This helps to keep track of how long it’s been open.
But how long do food items last? A helpful resource is the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cornell University and the Food Industry Association online FoodKeeper which provides guidelines on food freshness and quality.
Here are their recommendations for the maximum amount of time to keep those common baking ingredients once they’ve been opened:
Baking power: Six months
Baking soda: Six months
White flour: Six to eight months in the pantry; One year in the refrigerator
Sugar (white granulated, confectioners, brown): Two years
Solid shortening: 12 months
And what about herbs and spices?
Spices can lose their potency. The guidelines found on the McCormick website suggest the following:
Ground spices: Two to four years
Whole spices: Three to four years
Ground and whole leafy herbs: One to three years
Frozen herbs: One to two months, although they often last longer.
I often freeze herbs from my garden. After washing and drying them, I place in a freezer bag or airtight container. This allows me to savor my garden year round. The herbs I froze this year include parsley, sage, basil, oregano and thyme.
- Package use-by date if in the pantry from the date of purchase. 1 – 2 weeks if pantry stored after opening. 4 weeks if refrigerated after opening.
- If you have walnuts or pecans from last Christmas, do not use as they are likely rancid.
So what are YOU going to bake this holiday season? And will the ingredients be top quality which translates to exquisite baked goods?
As for myself, I’ll likely bake my usual rotating three varieties of cookies, a few apples pies and a few pans of apple crisp. And I’ll use fresh and dried herbs and spices in my turkey stuffing, butternut squash soup, turkey wild rice soup and other recipes that are simply wonderful this season!