Can You Really Tell Quality Of Ingredients?

Decorating By Sumkat Updated 13 Mar 2010 , 1:17am by prterrell

Sumkat Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 1:14am
post #1 of 62

I'm wondering what others think on this topic. Can you really tell a difference when you use expensive ingredients in your baking vs. super market ingredients? Does it really make a difference to use farm fresh eggs, imported butter, expensive chocolate and extracts vs. what you buy in the grocery store? If you think there is a difference I'd like to hear about it and if you have a product you use and swear by what is it?

61 replies
PinkZiab Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 1:34am
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It varies by ingredient really... some things, the bargain basement brands are fine, but others there really is a difference. It's taken me a long time and plenty of trial and error to find what I feel are the best ingredients for my recipes (and a few back-ups, in the event certain brands suddenly become unavailable to me).

PumpkinTart Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 1:35am
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It depends on the ingredient and how it's being used. For example, the imported butter absolutely makes a difference in pastry such as danish or croissants. Another example, I bought store brand rum extract for a glaze and had to use the entire bottle just to get a slight flavoring instead of the 1/4 tsp called for in the recipe. Yes, some things it definitely pays to get higher quality ingredients.

I don't think you'll taste a difference in a cake because of the eggs used (i.e. farm fresh/cage free vs. regular store brand). That's mostly a personal decision about how you want your ingredients to be sourced. Like the whole 'organic' debate. In most cases, the products don't tast better simply because they're organic. People just feel better about them because they weren't doused with pesticides, injected with hormones, etc.

JP Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 1:36am
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I think there is a definite for some ingredients, depending upon how prominent they are in the recipe. For example, I think a high quality imported chocolate is far superior for a chocolate mousse than Bakers' chocolate. By the same token, I think Bakers works well for something like a brownie recipe. I rarely make the extra expenditure for a flavor that only plays a supporting role in a recipe!

indydebi Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 1:54am
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Also depends on what you're using it for. I used to use the Great Value brand choc cake mix as a base for my choc cookies. THe name brands just didn't work as well .... well, they didn't work at ALL! When walmart discontinued them, I was screwed! Finally found a recipe that worked, but I was in a real panic!

I'd never use the GV brand cake mix for a cake (bleck!) but it was the BEST for making cookies!

rainyone Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 2:15am
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Depends on if the flavor is important for that particular ingredient.

I will use a really good vanilla for cakes where the taste will come through but say in a chocolate cake- any type will do..

It's like if you were having eggs on their own you could taste the difference but in a cake you usually can't.

aundrea Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 2:44am
post #7 of 62

i agree with the above-it depends on what you are using and what for.
i know for me, getting the freshest eggs makes a difference.
organic vanilla, sour cream and high quality butter taste better.
but using wal-mart shortening is better than crisco.
i think its trial and error. i also like to use oragnic flour and sugar. but vegan sugar is not as sweet. (think it has something to do with not using animal marrow during the process)
organic alcohol free vanilla-not so good for me. i had to use twice as much to get the taste i wanted.

Kitagrl Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 2:57am
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I agree with all the above! I made some icing at someone else's house and without my sweetex and regular butter and my brand of vanilla, the icing was NOT the same. Weird.

Each chocolate has its own flavor too. I can't afford Callebut and all that but I do get Ghiridelli's for my ganache and frosting and stuff.

Loucinda Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 2:57am
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I agree with most of the above....any product that plays a "supporting role" is not that important. (eggs, sourcream, milk, those all taste the same - just make sure they are fresh) IMO the important things are the vanilla, and the chocolate - things that make a difference and are important aspects of the end product.

I have started making my own vanilla for that reason......a fifth of good vodka, 30 (yes, thirty) vanilla beans and time = DELICIOUS!!!

Kitagrl Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 3:01am
post #10 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Loucinda

I agree with most of the above....any product that plays a "supporting role" is not that important. (eggs, sourcream, milk, those all taste the same - just make sure they are fresh) IMO the important things are the vanilla, and the chocolate - things that make a difference and are important aspects of the end product.

I have started making my own vanilla for that reason......a fifth of good vodka, 30 (yes, thirty) vanilla beans and time = DELICIOUS!!!




Yum! But I go through vanilla like I go through water practically (it seems!) so it would be so expensive to buy 30 vanilla beans...wow. haha. That sounds heavenly though!

I squirt vanilla in every cake, and usually more than the recipe calls for.

newmansmom2004 Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 3:14am
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I do believe good quality ingredients make for a better product. The things I will never skimp on are: butter, pure vanilla or vanilla beans, and GOOD cinnamon! The first time I opened a container of good quality cinnamon I couldn't believe it. It was like nothing else I'd ever smelled. It was incredible and you could smell that cinnamony heat - you could SMELL it!!! I was in love. Everything I'd purchased prior to that came from the grocery store and it had absolutely no flavor compared to the good cinnamon that I now order from a reputable spice dealer online. I'll never go back!

I bought some grocery store bakery cookies last week as I was in panic mode and they ended up in the trash - they were awful. I used to buy these frequently a few years back but now I just can't eat them. Once you get used to good quality ingredients you can taste inferior products and it's just not the same.

CristyInMiami Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 3:16am
post #12 of 62

I used cheap rum on my first rum cake and was told it had no rum flavor. Ever since then I have bought BACARDI and never had a complaint again.

Kitagrl Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 3:17am
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Oh I know, I used to love Sams Club chocolate cake. Now that I've been making a really rich one from scratch, my hub bought me the sams club one for my birthday and he and I had a hard time eating it (kids liked it okay). Some of it ended up in the trash.

newmansmom2004 Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 3:51am
post #14 of 62

I have to tell a funny story. I was home for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and while there I was looking for a spice in my mom's kitchen. I started to notice that a lot of the boxes and bottles looked strangely familiar. I pulled several of them out to discover that most of them were the same bottles of spice that were there when I lived at home...over 25 years ago!!! I decided her cabinet needed a good cleaning out so I pulled everything out and there were some old McCormick bottles of food coloring and flavoring that had the dates stamped on the bottom and some were from the 1960's and had either solidified or simply evaporated! We nearly died laughing. She was still using some of those nasty old flavorless spices! I threw everything out and when I got back home to Texas I quickly placed an order for replacement spices and replenished her entire spice collection.

Can you imagine eating a lasagna with dried oregano and basil from 1975 or a pumpkin spice cake with old, flavorless cinnamon and nutmeg from 1978??? icon_cry.gificon_lol.gificon_cry.gif

Kitagrl Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 4:05am
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Yep I have sort of an "adopted mom" and she no longer cooks due to health problems and last summer I was at her house and fixing a meal and looked through her spices...same thing! EWWW! haha.

bakermom3107 Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 4:29am
post #16 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by newmansmom2004

I have to tell a funny story. I was home for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and while there I was looking for a spice in my mom's kitchen. I started to notice that a lot of the boxes and bottles looked strangely familiar. I pulled several of them out to discover that most of them were the same bottles of spice that were there when I lived at home...over 25 years ago!!! I decided her cabinet needed a good cleaning out so I pulled everything out and there were some old McCormick bottles of food coloring and flavoring that had the dates stamped on the bottom and some were from the 1960's and had either solidified or simply evaporated! We nearly died laughing. She was still using some of those nasty old flavorless spices! I threw everything out and when I got back home to Texas I quickly placed an order for replacement spices and replenished her entire spice collection.

Can you imagine eating a lasagna with dried oregano and basil from 1975 or a pumpkin spice cake with old, flavorless cinnamon and nutmeg from 1978??? icon_cry.gificon_lol.gificon_cry.gif





LOL!! My sister continues to use spices from a generic spice rack she got about 12 years ago. I try to explain to her that they are useless now, but she just doesn't follow icon_lol.gif

retaunton Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:21am
post #17 of 62

Same way at my Mom's house. I had to move back home in March 2009. Due to loss of job and she still had the same spices from 8 years ago when I moved back home also due to job loss. Thank God for Moms!

thin4life Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:27am
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As the old saying goes "you get what you pay for", need I say more?

Sumkat Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 4:34pm
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Yes, what is it with moms? Lol. Same at my moms house. Sometimes I take my own spices etc. if I am cooking at her house!

So what I hear most people saying is that depending on what the key ingredient is they splurge on the good stuff.
For butter, does anyone have any good brands they really like? What about flour? Does anyone use a specialty flour say over generic and notice a big difference?

m1m Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 4:41pm
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Found some spices at my parents house from 1978, but they didn't want to get rid of it!

KHalstead Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:03pm
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my mom always tells me "your spices are so much stronger than mine" and I tell her "no, my spices are so much FRESHER than yours" lol

indydebi Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:18pm
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Oh please! I can top any of those! Hubby bought me an antique spice rack for Christmas about 10 years ago. Complete with spices still in the jars. Antique. As in made in the 1800's or so!!!

As we are downsizing, I said that I didn't want the rack ... I've no place to put it. He asked if I wanted the jars. I said if I don't have the rack, why would I want jars sitting around?

he said, .... yeah, you guessed it......

"Can't you still use the spices that are in them?" dunce.gif

carmijok Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:23pm
post #23 of 62

I'm embarrassed to say that I reached for some cornstarch last month (I hardly ever use it) and looked at the expiration date. It said use before January 10, 1985. That single box of cornstarch moved with us twice! I'm glad to say that's the only thing in the kitchen that was almost as old as my daughter! Yikes! But in the great scheme of things...does cornstarch ever really go bad? I don't feel I poisoned anyone the few times that I used it. I believe the last time was 3 years ago. icon_redface.gif

TexasSugar Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:36pm
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My mom's spice cabinet is the say way as newmansmom's moms, though I can say my mom didn't actually use the spices any more. She just had a hard time throwing away 'good' stuff. There were stuff in it from a grocery store that we no longer have in town and hadn't had since I was a kid.

Of course I can be honest and say I have a spice rack in my house that has become decoration only. The jars of spices are many years old, but I never use them. Does that make it better? I haven't thrown them out because they are the glass bottles and I keep thinking I'll use them for something. Or replace them at some point on the wooden rack that is screwed into the wall.

newmansmom2004 Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 5:38pm
post #25 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumkat

For butter, does anyone have any good brands they really like? What about flour? Does anyone use a specialty flour say over generic and notice a big difference?




I just use Land O'Lakes butter and Gold Medal or Pillsbury flour. Unless you're going totally organic, I think most of those types of things are very similar unless you use European butter which has - correct me someone if I'm wrong - a higher fat content? I bought European butter once just for toast and everyday eating to see if I could tell a difference and I could. I wasn't as fond of that as I am of Land O'Lakes.

Debi that story of your hubby asking if you can still use the spices from the 1800's is classic! LOL!

Sumkat Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 6:34pm
post #26 of 62

Debi - LOL - that is amazing!

I used to buy King Aurthur Flour for my bread but honestly couldn't justify spending the extra for the small difference it might make. My bread was still really good using Gold Medal or even flour from the bulk bin. I think sometimes it just makes me 'feel good' to use a specialty brand.
As far as butter goes, I have been thinking about trying the imported Irish butter to see if it was any different. One problem with that is it doesn't seem to come unsalted?

jjkarm Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 7:48pm
post #27 of 62

A while ago I wanted to test the difference between high quality white chocolate and the cheaper stuff in my homemade fondant. I used Lindt white chocolate and almond bark. Honestly, after tasting each one, there was hardly even a difference. The Lindt did taste slightly better but unless you were comparing the two fondants side by side.... you'd never be able to tell the difference! There are some recipes which you'd probably want to use the high end white chocolate, but for my homemade fondant, the cheaper stuff works fine.

Loucinda Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 8:08pm
post #28 of 62

That butter is plugera butter, and I agree, no taste difference to me either. (it has a higher butterfat content)

Again, the IMPORTANT ingredients (vanilla, chocolate, rum - like for a rum cake) get the good stuff. Anything else - no one is going to know the difference except you......

Melvira Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 8:23pm
post #29 of 62

I agree that it depends on what you're using and what you're making, but sometimes it's just a matter of personal taste. I've seen tons of people swear that you have to use premium chocolate to make a decent ganache, but I use chocolate chips a good portion of the time, and it's fantastic. It's not any less 'quality' than the 'real' chocolate in my opinion, and I have pretty feisty taste buds.

The only thing worse that a cupboard of old spices... an empty spice rack! I was recently trying to make dinner at *someone's* house for them, and I just stood there blinking dumbfoundedly at the fact that all they had was some off brand vanilla, black pepper, and LOW SODIUM salt!! icon_eek.gificon_confused.gif Who can possibly cook like that? And what the HECK is low sodium salt?? Um... hellooooo?

newmansmom2004, what you did was a PUBLIC SERVICE! hahaha! To everyone that ever eats at her house!! God bless your mom, at least you were nice enough to replace the stuff! thumbs_up.gif

Kims_cakes Posted 11 Mar 2010 , 8:39pm
post #30 of 62

This thread just saved me lots of time! I was going to have some friends over to taste a few different cakes. High quality ingredients vs. "normal" grocery store buys. I was going to see if anyone could taste the difference. Good to know!

Kitagrl you can buy some high quality vanilla beans on-line at some great prices. I am on my third batch of homemade vanilla. Hmm, then again, I bet you can find some great prices on vanilla extract on-line too. Never mind.

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