Nothing lasts forever. At least once a year, it’s a good idea to clean out the pantry and start fresh.
All items should be stored in airtight containers in a dry environment, away from direct sunlight. Storage times may vary according to whether an item is opened or unopened.
Here are some guidelines for baking supplies.
Baking powder loses its oomph after about 6 months (opened) and 18 months (unopened). To test if it is still active, mix 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder into 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot water; mixture should bubble immediately.
Baking soda should be replaced every 6 months (opened) and 2 years (unopened). If stored in refrigerator (opened), replace every 3 months. To test if it is still active, mix 1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking soda with 2 tsp (10 mL) vinegar; mixture should bubble immediately.
Chocolate should be stored at room temperature, but if it is too warm, a bloom will occur. This is when cocoa butter separates from the solids, leaving a harmless white discolouration on its surface. Though unattractive, it will disappear when melted. Store wrapped chocolate in cool dry place and use within 2 years. If the kitchen is warm, use as soon as possible.
Cocoa will keep indefinitely (unopened) in airtight container or for up to 1 year (opened) in a cool, dry place.
Dry yeast (or dehydrated yeast) will keep in a cool, dark place for 6 months. Freezing yeast can help it stay fresh for up to 1 year, and it can still be used straight from the freezer. Either way, throw away expired yeast (look for date on package), because it will not yield satisfactory results.
Extracts (such as almond, peppermint and vanilla) should be stored in original containers. Although they can last for up to 2 years, test them every 6 months to ensure flavours are bright and containers are free of leaks and cracks, which could cause evaporation or sticky messes.
White flour (all-purpose and cake and- pastry) should be stored in airtight containers for up to 1 year. Check periodically for fl our bugs. These bug eggs survive all the sifting, sorting and filtering because they are about the same size as the fl our particles. To outsmart them, keep flour in sealed container and use it faster than the bugs can hatch and start a life cycle in your cupboard (6 to 8 months).
Whole wheat and multigrain flours should be stored in airtight containers in refrigerator or freezer to prevent rancidity for up to 6 months.
Spices lose flavour after about 6 months, so mark purchase date on label and test regularly. If you have doubles or spices that are used infrequently, they can be frozen for up to 1 year. If you find standard containers too large, purchase in small quantities from bulk food stores.
Sugar (granulated) will keep indefinitely in airtight container. Though moisture may cause clumping, it is still fine to use once broken up with wooden spoon handle or sifted.
Likewise, icing (confectionary) sugar may also harden after 4 to 6 months and should be sifted well before using to avoid hard clumps. Brown sugar hardens if exposed to air but can be softened by adding a slice of bread; store in airtight container for up to 6 months.
Oil (canola, olive and vegetable) should be kept in cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Nut oils should be refrigerated to prevent rancidity.
Nuts have high fat content. Freeze in airtight containers for up to 1 year to prevent them from going rancid.