When it comes to the best baking ingredients, they’re not necessarily expensive or hard to find—or entirely made from scratch, for that matter; even pastry chefs shop at the grocery store for some staples.
For baking enthusiasts, there can be a lot of pressure to make everything homemade. But why does there have to be shame in serving baked goods from a store-bought mix to guests? Why do we hesitate to admit that any element of a dessert we’ve made is anything less than DIY?
It’s time to stop the stigma, because even professional pastry chefs shop the grocery store baking aisle when they’re making desserts off the clock. Keep scrolling to learn more about their favorite store-bought ingredients.
Related Reading: Our Favorite Ingredients for Better Baking
1. Puff Pastry (Any Brand!)
If you’ve watched “The Great British Baking Show” (or tried it yourself), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that making homemade pastry is hard work. And while it might seem somehow noble to put in the time and elbow grease to go the DIY route, even the experts skip that step and buy it pre-made in squares or sheets, instead. Sohrob Esmaili, who works as the pastry chef at the San Francisco Proper Hotel, uses store-bought pastry for tarts, galettes, danishes, hand pies, and other fun party desserts. He also recommends it for more savory recipes like pot pie or cheese twists.
2. King Arthur Gluten-Free Cookie Mix
Gluten-free baking can require a lot of ingredients, some of which you are unlikely to have casually stocked in your pantry. When the time comes to whip up a gluten-free treat, pastry chef Amanda Santos has a shoppable go-to. “One product I use a lot is King Arthur gluten-free cookie mix,” Santos, who works at The Don Cesar Hotel, says. “Making gluten-free pastries takes a lot of knowledge in understanding why certain ingredients behave the way they do. This cookie mix takes the guesswork out, especially if you’re not well-versed in gluten-free baking.”
King Arthur Gluten Free Cookie Mix, $4.49 at Target
3. Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream
It’s kind of fun to think about making homemade ice cream, but without the proper equipment, it can be a time-consuming process…and sometimes, you need a spoonful (or more!) of that frosty perfection faster and without room for user error. Clarice Lam, the pastry chef at Brooklyn-based The Baking Bean, is not shy about buying ice cream from the grocery store, especially for use in profiteroles. Lam’s preferred brand? Häagen-Dazs.
Related Reading: How to Make Ice Cream Without a Machine
4. Pillsbury Grands! Canned Refrigerated Biscuits
You might not technically find these in the grocery store baking aisle, but they can make a great addition to your baking repertoire—and they’re readily available at almost all supermarkets! According to Casey Carr, pastry chef at Nashville spot Henley, these are among “the most versatile things in the store.” Carr uses them to make doughnuts by poking holes in the center, stretching them to a doughnut shape, and pan-frying them until they are golden. She also uses them to make monkey bread.
5. Almond Flour
Making your own almond flour may be an inexpensive, relatively simple process, but there’s no shame in purchasing it ready-made. Lady M pastry chef Manami Narita likes to shop almond flour from the grocery store to make pound cake in her free time. When there are larger selections of international products available, she opts for almond flour from Spain, which, in her experience, lends itself to a stronger almond flavor in the final product. “There’s something special about physically visiting a store and comparing products,” she says. “It gives you the chance to discover new things.”
Related Reading: How to Safely Shop for Groceries During the Coronavirus Pandemic
6. Ghirardelli Brownie Mix
Even trained pastry chefs are not immune to random, intense cravings for the kind of chocolatey goodness that only a boxed brownie mix can provide. When those cravings hit for Santos, she opts for the Ghirardelli brand. “They come out perfect every time,” she says—even if she has to mix them with one hand while holding her toddler in the other.
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Brownie Mix, $2.08 at Walmart
7. Confetti Cake Mix
According to Carr, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a boxed cake mix, and you can put a spin on them in your own kitchen to add a little extra flair. “Who doesn’t love confetti cake?” she says. “You can make the traditional cake or tweak an ingredient and make confetti cookies. You can’t go wrong with something that you can make into whatever you want it to be.”