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10 Must-have Staples for Holiday Baking

Baking Soda

Ironically, baking soda doesn't get used much in baking anymore. Since it reacts with acids to fizz and produce carbon dioxide gas, it was once used to make breads and cakes fluffier. These days, it's mostly been replaced by its flashier cousin baking powder, which doesn't need an acid in the batter to release its gases.

However, baking during the holidays is a high-volume affair, which means high-volume messes when things go wrong. Baking soda is a cheap, eco-friendly way to deal with these incidents, which makes it the official workhorse of your kitchen.

For starters, you can use baking soda to put out a grease fire. Baking soda can also be used to clean out blackened pans with burned-on remains of the inevitable failed cookies and cakes of the holiday season. Sprinkle baking soda on dirty pans, add hot water, soak them overnight, and the charred remains will lift right off.

Like butter and chocolate, baking soda will absorb the odors around it. An old trick is to keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to trap unpleasant smells, but keep another supply on hand in a sealed plastic bag to prevent it from clumping.