Fresh and great quality ingredients are as important to me as the recipes themselves. I will go organic whenever possible, and avoid refined sugars (and refined and processed things overall).
Here is a list of frequently used ingredients in my recipes, with a few notes on the side.
agave nectar– sweeter than sugar, this is my go-to sweetener for baking (and at times cooking). A general rule of thumb when substituting for granulated sugar, is to use 2/3 cup of agave for 1 of sugar and to reduce the other liquids by 1/4 to 1/3 (depending on each recipe).
almond flour (meal)– while you can buy it made already, it can also be done at home (with a little extra effort). Taking raw almonds (I prefer skin and all) place them in a food processor until powdered. Just watch that you do not over-process, or you will be left with (a rather yummy) almond butter. Can be done as well with chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias and pistachios.
amaranth flour– while whole (and puffed) with honey is a traditional Mexican sweet, when ground into a fine powder it adds an incredible earthy taste when baking.
arrowroot– a great thickener for fruit pies, rouxs and sauces.
buckwheat flour– one of my favourite flours (despite it not being an actual cereal), particularly when it comes to breakfast treats.
cacao butter– the vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Due to its chocolate aroma (mmmm), it has great uses in baking (home-made white chocolate anyone?). Oh, and a natural (and highly effective)(and yummy) lip balm. Up there with the likes of Creme de la Mer’s The Lip Balm (seriously).
cacao nibs– not all cacao is made equal. In fact, there are three varieties: criollo, forastero and trinitario . Once you taste the criollo variety (which accounts for only 1% of world production) you will never go back. In fact, it is the only variety that I will eat just as it is.
coconut oil– aside from being a great natural moisturiser (seriously), due to its higher smoke point of 177 °C (351 °F) (and lovely taste and aroma) makes it an ideal candidate for baking (and cooking pancakes).
corn flour– what us Mexicans call masa harina, it can vary due to the different types of corn. Most common nowadays are the white and blue corn varieties (with blue corn being my own personal favourite when it comes to tortillas for quesadillas). But it also makes for some killer pancakes and waffles!
(raw) evaporated cane juice– whenever sugar must be used when baking, I go for this. And hey, you can also grind it in the blender (works better than the food processor) to make powdered sugar (with non of the store-bought additives).
ghee– otherwise known as clarified butter, it is produced by melting butter and allowing the butter fat and milk solids (which are removed) to separate. With its negligible amounts of lactose and casein, it can also be consumed by most people with lactose intolerance. And, due to its higher smoke point than butter of 252 °C (485 °F), it is great for sautéing and can replace butter in most things.
grapeseed oil– just as it names states, it is the oil pressed from the seeds of the grapes. Due to its higher smoke point of 216°C (421°F), I use it nowadays as a substitute for olive oil when cooking. Due to its light and clean taste I have found it is great for baking as well.
greek (or strained) yoghurt– since I have yet to find a great quality store-bought Greek yoghurt here in Mexico (anyone?!), I strain organic (full-fat) yoghurt with cheesecloth (or coffee filters) overnight in the fridge.
stevia– originally from South America, it has virtually no calories and a glycemic index of zero- making it the sweetener du jour. It is available as a liquid extract and in powdered white or powdered leaf form. Given that it is seriously a lot sweeter than sugar (stevioside, a component of stevia, is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar), always start with just a pinch. Please don’t buy the ones that are ‘cup-for-cup’ to sugar, as they are loaded with additives, making it a processed ingredient.
vanilla extract– I use Mexican organic vanilla extract from Veinte Soles (along with their pods). It is wonderfully aromatic, and way (way) better than using vanilla essence.
xanthan gum– did you know this is the stuff that binds together your toothpaste into a uniform consistency? Well thank goodness for it, because it is essential in gluten free baking to help bind ingredients together perfectly (which is why it is also really popular in molecular cuisine!).