So you’re at the grocery store in the baking aisle, staring at the array of flours in front of you. You came to buy the all-purpose flour because that’s what you’ve always used. But this time you stand there and think, “but why is it bleached and enriched?”
As different health crazes have popped up in the past couple of years, more and more bakers have embraced alternative ingredients as they realize the health implications of the standard ones. If you’ve tried being gluten-free for a month, you’ve come to know and (maybe) love buckwheat and rice flour. If you’re vegan, you are all about that applesauce substitute.
But what about if you’re environmentally conscious? Why aren’t there recipes focused on bettering the environment as well as informing you about why you shouldn’t use flour that is as white as confectioners sugar? I challenge you to use these 5 ingredients to help you bake more sustainably.
1. Bob’s Red Mill Baking Powder
Standard baking powder is typically made with sodium aluminum phosphate or sodium aluminum sulfate as the acid ingredient. Our friend Bob here takes out the aluminum and instead uses monocalcium phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate. This produces a double-acting baking powder and eliminates the metallic taste you may get from other brands.
Also try using Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda. They use water, rather than chemicals, in the extraction process. Moreover, Bob’s products are produced in a gluten-free facility and each batch is always tested to ensure purity. Thumbs up for no metals in your baked goods!
2. Organic Valley European-Style Cultured Butter
Bakers adore European-style butter, and you should too. It’s churned longer than traditional butter, resulting in less moisture and a higher fat content, making the final product richer and flakier. (Note: Make sure it is labeled “European-Style Cultured Butter”)
Organic Valley’s USDA Organic butter is cultured. This means they add live cultures to organic sweet cream from their pasture-based cows and then let it ripen slowly before churning.
You may be surprised at the bright yellow nature of this butter, but Organic Valley doesn’t add any color. In the summer the butter will be more yellow because the cows will forage on pastures, and in the winter the butter will be a lighter yellow because the cows are eating stored forage.
Also, as a general note, you should always use unsalted butter when baking in order to control the salt content in your food.
3. Nature’s Promise Organic Fresh Brown Eggs, Large, Grade A
These eggs are certified USDA Organic, which means they have no antibiotics, no synthetic hormones and no synthetic pesticides. However, be careful about eggs that claim to be just “cage-free.” I know you picture healthy, happy hens wandering around green pastures, harmoniously living with cattle and other friendly farm animals. You should know that “cage-free” can also mean Perdue-style chicken, an inhumane way of raising poultry despite their “cage-free” and “humanely raised” labels. For a more in depth understanding of food labels look at this brief guide to labels and animal welfare.
Also, make sure to buy eggs that use good packaging – ideally cardboard or plastic. Foam containers are detrimental to our environment.
4. Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic Sugar
Not only does Wholesome Sweeteners grow their sugar cane organically in South America, but they are also strongly committed to non-GMO agriculture. They don’t use chemicals, synthetic herbicides or fertilizer, and only green cut their crops instead of burning them, as is the practice in many other areas of the world.
Bonus: Fairly traded sugar means secure jobs, money and happier lives for farmers. Pretty sweet, right?
5. King Arthur Flour, Organic and Unbleached
Flour is arguably the most important ingredient when it comes to baking because it is considered the building block of all recipes. It’s also typically the single largest quantity of an ingredient you will need when baking. This flour is great, not only because it’s USDA Organic, but because it’s milled with 100% U.S. wheat and is also certified organic by Quality Assurance International. Although it’s still enriched, it is never bromated and does not contain bleach, preservatives or unnecessary additives and chemicals.
If none of the above ingredients are at your local food store, always look for similar items in the organic section or try your local farmer’s market.
“What else can I do to eat sustainably,” you ask? We answer: