The basic baking essentials used to make bread from your stored grains (e.g. wheat berries) include baking powder, baking soda, salt, and yeast. Some people (e.g. Mrs.J) also keep a supply of vital wheat gluten (or bread enhancer) for their bread making.
The question (and answer) for today is, How do I store these baking essentials for longevity?
The NUMBER ONE concern for these particular ingredients is MOISTURE.
For optimum shelf life the storage conditions must be DRY.
Baking soda typically comes in a cardboard box (the little yellow box). Baking powder typically comes in a ‘can’ (pressed cardboard with a moisture-resistant liner). Yeast typically comes in foil-lined sachets or a jar. Salt typically comes in a pressed cardboard container.
If these containers have not been opened (as in, ever), they will do a pretty good job keeping moisture out and the contents dry. For awhile…
I said, “for awhile”, because eventually these containers may ‘breathe’ in humidity and moisture. Obviously this will occur sooner in a humid environment.
For example, for a time we rented a small house while transitioning from our previous home-ownership to our current home – and the rental had a basement. We kept some of our food storage down there. I knew that this particular basement was a bit excessively humid due to the apparent lack of proper moisture prevention around the foundation. I ran a dehumidifier most all the time – which helped. With that said, and when we began packing to move to our present home, I discovered that quite a number of those ‘pressed cardboard’ type containers – such as the salt containers and those which hold baking soda, etc.. had absorbed moisture from the air and the contents inside had become hard as a brick…
I could have easily prevented this if I had stored those particular type containers inside another water-resistant and somewhat air-tight container – such as a plastic storage bin with a well fitting cover. Whooops… Lesson learned.
It’s about storage conditions. Moisture can rapidly deteriorate all of these cooking essentials.
Salt will turn to a brick (although it won’t ‘go bad’).
Baking powder and baking soda will react with moisture and will chemically change.
Note: You can make your own baking powder which will eliminate this problem.
Yeast will lose its viability if exposed to moisture.
Temperature extremes will not have much negative effect compared to the effects of moisture. In fact you can freeze without harm. Excessive heat though may lead to deterioration.
Once you open any of these ingredients, keep them away from moisture. For example, maybe it’s not such a good idea to keep them in a cabinet near the stove (where cooking will produce steam and moisture). Same thing goes with the kitchen sink location – not such a good idea.
To test baking powder for viability, mix 1 tsp. in 1/3 cup warm water. If bubbles form, there is activity left in the baking powder.
To test dried yeast activity, add 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water (~100°F). Stir in 1 envelope yeast (2 ¼ tsp.) and let stand 10 minutes. If the yeast foams to the 1/2 cup mark, it is active.
The conclusion here is that many store-bought packaging / containers WILL eventually ‘breathe’ and absorb moisture from the environment. If you want to store these ingredients for a longer shelf life (especially if you live in a humid environment), take simple precautions and store them in an additional protective environment (container, bin, Mylar, vacuum seal, even a Ziploc, etc..).