This week, I was interviewed by one of the new writers – Alanna, who also writes Two Fat Als–¬†over at Slashfood. Some of you may recall that I wrote for Slashfood for quite some time. The interview is a good one and Alanna came up with some good questions. The only question I’m not sure I gave a good answer to was Where do you shop for baking supplies? because I wished that I was able to be more specific.
Truthfully, I shop absolutely everywhere.
Grocery stores are the most convenient places to shop in general and I always pick up staples there. Flour, butter, sugar, yeast, etc. I check the baking aisles and the candy aisles for new products that I think would be tasty in, for instance, a cookie recipe and I always check out the fruits in case there are any especially tempting looking seasonal items to add to the usual assortment of staples (fuji apples, bananas, red grapes, etc) in my fruit basket. I am fortunate in that my local markets usually have a good assortment of spices and flavorings, as well. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are the two stores I shop at most often, but any grocery store will do for these types of things.
Specialty stores are another favorite. Into this category, I put the restaurant supply store, craft stores and kitchen stores. A basic restaurant supply store yields inexpensive pans, utensils and cake/cupcake boxes. A slightly better one will usually have bulk baking supplies – flavorings, essential oils, chocolate, flours and spices, to name just a few. Either the prices are good or the selection includes things that you just won’t find at a regular store (chocolate extract and super-strength coffee extract are two that I always get). Craft stores, like Michael’s, often have an aisle fully of candy making and flavoring equipment, as well as a ton of stuff for cake decorating. Seasonal cupcake wrappers, pastry bags, fondant and chocolate molds are typical buys. These stores also often stock cake boxes and trays. Kitchen stores, like Williams Sonoma, tend to be more expensive but are great sources for specialty pans and some imported ingredients (Maldon Sea Salt – my fav!).
Catalogues and online stores fall into a sub-category of the specialty store genre. Amazon and Cooking.com have huge selections and are reliable places to find appliances. King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Cataloguehas everything from utensils to bakeware and gourmet mixes to specialty mix-in ingredients. As much as they offer, it’s not my favorite way to shop because I prefer the instant gratification – not to mention the immediate chance to put whatever I’ve just purchased to work in the kitchen -and don’t care to wait for shipping. I do order from them if I’m looking for something special that I can’t find elsewhere or if they have a particularly good price on something I want.
The final category on my list is the “random” category. Random stores – i.e. ones not included above – yield mix ins, fresh fruit, inspiration for new dishes and baking pans. Target usually has good prices on seasonal sprinkle mixes and cupcake papers, but their selection is pretty limited each month. Stores like Marshalls or Ross, which get clearance items from larger stores and companies, can actually be a great place to buy bakeware that is an overstock from Williams Sonoma or some other kitchen store. I’ve gotten some really fantastic prices on my favorite muffin pans (probably why I now can make over 4 dozen muffins simultaneously). Another random source is, of course, gifts from family and friends. They’re always appreciated and I especially love it when someone brings me something from their recent travels.
So, more or less, that is where I get my baking gear and ingredients. Keep your eyes you and you can find great stuff – and often great deals – anywhere. Feel free to put your shopping secrets in the comments. I would love to get some more tips!