Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fridge? Freezer? Pantry? Where Should I Store Gluten-Free Baking Supplies?

During the Bake and Switch Panel at the FABlogCon Conference in 2014, Charissa Luke (from Zest Bakery) and I were answering questions before we wrapped up. One of us mentioned something about storing a certain ingredient in the fridge… or the freezer. I can’t recall whether it was Charissa or me who brought it up, and I can’t recall the specific ingredient or where we stored it – that’s not important. What is important is that it launched us into a ten minute quick Q&A on where we store different ingredients for our food allergy baking.

Who knew that was such a confusing subject? I’ve been meaning to write a blog post on this topic since that time (yeah, just a little behind).

Keep in mind that Charissa and I didn’t have exactly the same answers – but the gist of our answers were the same. Where you live (hot or cold climate, dry or humid climate) and how quickly you will use up an ingredient, will affect where you should store it.

Why not just store everything in the fridge or freezer? Because you want to bring all of your ingredients to room temperature before you start baking (unless the recipe specifies something chilled, e.g., shortening).

These suggestions refer to opened packages. When factory sealed, most ingredients can be kept in the pantry. Once opened, store all of these ingredients in airtight containers (regardless of location).

Gluten-free flours:
Some gluten-free flours (e.g., rice and millet) have a tendency to pick up moisture easily, whereas others (e.g. bean, potato) have a tendency to go bad easily. My general rule of thumb is to store all gluten-free flours in the refrigerator. (Store them in the freezer if you don’t bake on a regular basis.) This goes for both home-mixed and off-the-shelf flour blends as well.

I store all starches (arrowroot, tapioca, corn, potato) in the pantry. If you live in a very humid area or use them very infrequently, store them in the fridge.

Yeast: I always store yeast in the freezer. Yeast needs to be alive to do its job. The freezer elongates the life cycle.

Those tiny little containers or bags of powder don’t look like they will last a long time, but even for an avid baker they can last a very long time (and they do go rancid easily). When I open a package of xanthan gum I divide it into two small airtight containers. One goes in the refrigerator, the other in the freezer (for later use). The same rules apply to guar gum.

Baking powder, baking soda:
Baking powder and baking soda can lose their effectiveness. If you have a package that’s expired, toss it. Otherwise, store it in an airtight container in the pantry. (Label them so you can tell the difference.)

Sugar is the ultimate preservative. It can dry out (especially true for brown sugar), but it doesn’t go bad. This is true for all sugars except maple syrup, which should be stored in the fridge after opening. (Maple syrup can develop mold. If that happens, skim off the mold, heat the remaining syrup, and store it—in the fridge—in a clean container.) All other sugars I store in the pantry.

Seeds: I do the same thing with a package of flax seeds or chia seeds as I do with gums – I store half in the fridge and half in the freezer. Keep in mind that seeds will go bad quickly once ground (e.g., flax seeds into flaxseed meal); therefore I recommend buying whole seeds and grinding them yourself using a seed and nut grinder. Sunflower seeds and other whole seeds I usually keep in the pantry.

Remember: Buying in bulk is only a good idea if you use in bulk!

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