There are a few small things in my life that bring me a goofy amount of satisfaction: a well-stacked woodpile; extra-sharp kitchen knives fresh off the whetstones; and an organized pantry full of basic ingredients. In my youth, my family operated on a use-it-up policy that dictated we not buy a new bottle of ketchup until the existing bottle was completely gone. As a result, we were constantly out of everything, a fact which usually revealed itself mid-recipe.
My philosophy is a little different: I want to make sure I have the basic building blocks for the widest range of applications possible. As a result, my shopping cart usually looks like I’m about to head out on the Oregon Trail, but there’s a reason these things are called “staples.”
I keep big cambro containers of the following: All-Purpose (AP) flour; Bread Flour; Coarse Corn Meal; Whole Oats; Masa Harina; White Sugar; Brown Sugar; White Rice; and Brown Rice. I also keep a wide variety of canned goods, dried pasta, and some other basics I’ll cover in the future, but these big containers form the foundation of our kitchen. With these staples, combined with a stocked freezer of meat and some dairy in the fridge, we can make pretty much everything from french toast, to fried chicken, to pizza crust, to emergency cookies, all on a whim. It’s handy because it means we don’t need to meal-plan down to the letter, which is frankly a waste of time with two toddlers anyway.
The whole point of these ingredients is versatility. Take the oats, for example. You may have noticed I don’t keep whole wheat flour around. Well, I have the oats which (in addition to making oatmeal) become granola, and whole oat flour. This flour, in turn, can be used in pancakes, waffles, sandwich bread, and really anything where whole wheat flour would play a part. And, it’s incredibly simple to make.
The recipe (if you can even call it that) is as follows: dump some oats on a baking sheet (or two) and toast in the oven at 250F for an hour and a half, stirring halfway through. Then, buzz them up in the food processor. Literally, that’s it:
You can see there’s still some texture here, which I like, and I would caution that this isn’t to be used as a 1:1 substitute for whole wheat flour as it behaves a little differently, but it’s extremely versatile stuff. It’s earned a place of honor next to my other staples.