Peaches, Tabby's granddaughter from The Entertaining Tales®, writes this column to share her household tips

Storing your Baking Supplies

I love autumn. The cooler weather lends itself to baking delicious foods in the kitchen.
The kids are back in school and now is a good time to go through all your baking supplies to make sure you will have what you need for all the holiday baking coming up.
Did you know that baking powder has a shelf life of just 6 to 12 months?  If you are unsure if your baking powder is still good enough to make those biscuits and cakes rise up like they should, then drop a little bit of the baking powder into hot water. If it bubbles up it is still good; if it doesn't, then you should put a new can of baking powder on your grocery list.
The same goes for baking soda.  To 1/2 cup of hot water add 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar and then a little baking soda.  If it doesn't bubble up right away you need to add that to your grocery list also.
You should also be dating every bottle of herbs or spices that you bring home.  Whole spices will be good for about 4 years,  ground spices about 2 years, and herbs about 1 to 2 years.  I find the best way to date things like this is to label them with the date they should be thrown out.  Then, no thinking is required when you do an annual quick check of your herbs and spices.  After all, you do want that cinnamon to be in peak form to create that delicious apple pie!  Store your spices and herbs in a dark cupboard or drawer away from moisture and heat.  It may look pretty when you see pictures of kitchens with the herbs and spices in glass jars in a rack by the cooktop, but this location will make the herbs and spices lose their flavors faster.  
Vanilla extract is a necessity for baking.  Pure vanilla extract will last indefinitely, but imitation vanilla extract is only good for 2 to 4 years.   Just as with your spices and herbs, be sure to store your vanilla extract in a dark cupboard and away from moisture and heat.  
There are differing opinions on how long you can keep flour.  But in my experience I have found that flour can become "stale" and baked goods will not rise as much. I use these guidelines:
All purpose flour:   if stored in a sealed container - 8 months.  If kept in the refrigerator - one year.
Bread flour:   same as all purpose flour
Self-rising flour:   4 -6 months on the shelf and one year in the refrigerator
Sugar - well sugar will really last forever.  Brown sugar can harden if you keep it around long enough. To soften brown sugar, put it in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 30 seconds. 
I am sharing a recipe for you to enjoy.  You will find my recipe for Autumn Applesauce Bread under "Recipes" in the Advice & Ideas menu.  Nothing makes a home smell better than the aroma of something delicious baking in the oven!