The Secret Baking Ingredient Ina Garten Always Keeps In The Pantry

"Barefoot Contessa" host Ina Garten often shares unusual culinary tips with her fans. From the secret ingredient she adds to her margaritas to the mess-free way she cuts a cauliflower, the Food Network personality is full of surprising and helpful kitchen tips.

There are probably many things you don't know about Garten, who is not only the author of 13 cookbooks, but also a four-time winner of Outstanding Culinary Host for her show, "Barefoot Contessa." Another thing you may not know is the secret weapon she uses when she wants to deepen the flavor of baked goods — the one baking ingredient Garten insists on having in her pantry at all times.

In her 2020 cookbook, "Modern Comfort Food," Garten shares a recipe for Black & White Cookies with a special something in the glaze — a surprising addition that you may already have in your pantry. Hint: It's the jar you may keep on the shelf for when your grandpa visits.

A caffeine infusion

When you think of the Barefoot Contessa, you may think of complicated recipes using expensive and obscure ingredients like truffle butter or fleur de sel salt. However, the baking ingredient Ina Garten always keeps in her pantry is neither expensive nor obscure. According to Food & Wine, Garten's secret to enhancing the flavor of her baked goods, including her Outrageous Brownies, is the addition of instant coffee.

Some of Garten's recipes call for instant coffee while others use espresso powder, and she clarifies the difference between the two on her website, explaining that she decides which one to use based on how much coffee flavor she wants to add to a recipe. Her Black & White Cookies recipe calls for half a teaspoon of instant coffee, but she uses a full tablespoon of Medaglia d'Oro, her preferred espresso powder, when she makes her decadent Peanut Butter Globs (per Food Network).

The multi-purpose Joe

Ina Garten isn't the only one to find unexpected uses for instant coffee. Bon Appétit has a long list of ways for java aficionados to jazz up ordinary things using instant coffee, including by adding it to the likes of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream, oatmeal, or salad dressing. The caffeine jolt we all rely upon can also work to perk up your houseplants and can keep cats out of your garden (per Waka Coffee).

You may be surprised to discover that the sugary foamy brew that became a TikTok sensation is made with instant coffee. That's right. Dalgona Coffee uses plain, old instant coffee and its newfound popularity on social media made sales of the coffee crystals surge in 2020 (via Eagle-Tribune).

Instant coffee can be your secret ingredient to better baking, too. So, do like Garten and always have some on hand.