Baking Staples: What the Pros Use

Unlike products I cook with — Trader Joe’s 100% Greek Kalamata Olive Oil, my Diamond Crystal Kosher salt, Grey Poupon Dijon, etc. — I somehow, after all these years, don’t have the same kind of brand loyalty to the products I bake with. So I thought this year, in anticipation of all the holiday cookie-ing, I’d ask two baking pros, Dorie Greenspan and Cheryl Day, what brands of flour, butter, and chocolate they order in bulk or reach for at their Main Street supermarket. Greenspan, a legend in the food writing world, is the author of, most recently Baking with Dorie (and the all-things baking Substack newsletter, xoxoDorie); and Cheryl Day is the James Beard-Award winning owner of Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery and author of, most recently Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. Not surprisingly their picks mostly lined up. As Greenspan says, “Rather than saying “best” ingredient, I think of these as my favorites, since when it comes to flavor, we’ve all got our idea of “best.” She also notes that she leads a double life when it comes to baking: “I have ingredients that I bake with when I’m making something for friends and family, and additional ingredients for testing. It’s the way I can be sure that my recipes will work for people all over the country.”

FLOUR: King Arthur
“I don’t think there’s a flour that I haven’t used in testing,” says Greenspan. I always keep supermarket flours on hand – Pillsbury, Gold Medal and Hecker’s – but I buy King Arthur All-Purpose Unbleached Flour in 10- and 25-pound bags (my husband, the bread baker in the family, and I share the big bags). I like the brand – I worked with them when we were shooting Baking with Julia and I got to know many of people there. I like the way they care about and help bakers.” Day agrees, saying “It’s a brand that I can always count on, and their values and dedication to baking and community align with my own.”

CACAO: Valrhona
They’re also in agreement on cocoa. “Valrhona has the most decadent, rich dark intense chocolate flavor,” says Day “and worth ever penny.” Greenspan: “I love it for its color, its rich flavor, and the texture it gives whatever it’s added to.” I use Dutch-processed cocoa for almost everything I bake.” (For testing, I might use Droste’s or Guittard, and “always has Hershey’s on hand.”)

BAKING CHOCOLATE: Valrhona & Guittard
Greenspan votes for, again, Valrhona, either Guanaja or Manjari. “I learned about it when I started working with the Paris pastry chef, Pierre Hermé in the late 1990s, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s a splurge – not an everyday chocolate – but it makes everything luxurious.” Greenspan is “a bittersweet girl” but also really likes Valrhona’s Jivara milk chocolates since they’re almost semisweet. Day favors Guittard for baking chocolate: “If you haven’t tried the big baking wafers in your cookies, what are you waiting for?” For everyday testing Greenspan uses a variety of chocolate, but is partial to Trader Joe’s, “a good chocolate at a good price.”

BUTTER: Plugra & Kerrygold
“I love European butter because the style of more fat and less water is always better in my style of baking,” says Day of Plugra, “yielding the flakiest layers in biscuits and pies, best delicate texture and crumb for cakes and cookies.” Kerrygold is my “treat” butter,” says Greenspan, “both the salted for eating and the unsalted for baking.” For every day and testing, she uses unsalted Cabot, Land O’Lakes or supermarket-brand butter. “If it’s on sale, I stock up and freeze it.”

Photo credit: Marti Sans for Stocksy.

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E E Deere

I would never argue with two such grand masters! But I must say, I really like Scharffen Berger chocolate for baking.

Susan Copp

When a recipe calls for cocoa, there are two types depending on whether or not the recipe calls for baking powder of baking soda. A natural cocoa powder is used with baking soda as the leavening and dutch processed with a neutral PH is used with recipes using baking powder. They are not really interchangeable, the baked good s turn out quite differently – so I think it would be helpful to determine which is used in each case – one is not best to use dutch processed with every recipe as you say above. I have found that many US inspired bakers use natural cocoa powder exclusively, however, in countries where the choice between natural and dutch processed is available it would be helpful to be specific.