No mix can do everything — or, it can’t do everything well. But three of them could get you far. So I asked Abigail Johnson Dodge, author of “The Everyday Baker” (Taunton Press, 2015), to create one white mix, one chocolate and one cornmeal option that could go savory or sweet.

To our great surprise, we have become attached to these mixes and are now preoccupied with ideas for those that do not yet exist —  but could. (A brownie mix is at the top of our list.)

Once you compose these dry mixes from scratch, I doubt you will want to give Betty, Duncan or the rest of their kind another look. A DIY baking mix makes for a thoughtful gift, too. 

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Oh, the places you can go with these three DIY baking mixes. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post.
For The Washington Post

Oh, the places you can go with these three DIY baking mixes. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post.

Big-batch dry mix

Makes 10½ cups

This plain, versatile mix can be used to make cakes, cupcakes, muffins, scones and pancakes.

Spelt flour is preferred here; it can be replaced with whole-wheat flour, or the mix can be made using 100 percent unbleached all-purpose flour.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 cups spelt flour or whole-wheat flour (see headnote)

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

4 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons table salt

Steps

Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container with a tight-fitting lid (15- to 16-cup capacity), until thoroughly incorporated. Seal, label and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup (using whole-wheat flour): 500 calories, 13 g protein, 111 g carbohydrates, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber, 27 g sugar

Big-batch cornmeal dry mix

Makes 9 cups

Cornmeal can go sweet or savory, and there’s no use in creating an all-purpose mix with it if you’re not going to account for both. With this mix, you can make old-fashioned blueberry muffins or skillet corn bread. But don’t stop there: Apply it to a peach upside-down cake or sophisticated olive oil cake. Serve syrup-coated cornmeal pancakes for breakfast, or their smoked salmon-topped counterparts as hors d’oeuvres.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

4 cups finely ground cornmeal

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3½ tablespoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons table salt

Steps

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container with a tight-fitting lid (15- to 16-cup capacity), until thoroughly incorporated. Seal, label and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup: 470 calories, 10 g protein, 101 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar

Big-batch chocolate dry mix

Makes 11 cups

Everyone needs a chocolate layer cake at the ready for those special celebratory moments. That’s what this one’s for, and with just some water and oil, and an egg, it’s pretty much frosting-ready. It’s so much better than anything you could have bought in a box. Muffins, scones and cupcakes, of course, are all doable as well.

Created by cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Stir mix well before using. Mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Ingredients

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour (may substitute spelt flour)

2½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

4 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons table salt

Steps

Combine the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large container. Whisk until very well blended, making sure to get into the corners and bottom of the container. Cover, label and stow at room temperature until ready to use.

Nutrition | Per cup: 470 calories, 14 g protein, 98 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 25 g sugar

Blackberry cake with a kick

8 to 10 servings (makes one 9-inch round single layer cake)

This simple cake showcases fruit that’s sweet-tart and perhaps undeservedly underrated, with a little grown-up mischief from black pepper, homey comfort from dark brown sugar and richness from creme fraiche.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

Flour, for the pan

2 ½ cups  Big-batch dry mix (stir well before using)

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

3/4-to-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup milk

½ cup creme fraiche

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups blackberries (large ones halved)

½  cup rolled oats, for sprinkling

Steps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a little butter to grease a 9-inch round cake pan, then flour it, shaking out any excess.

Whisk together the Big-batch dry mix, brown sugar and pepper (to taste) in a mixing bowl, until well incorporated.

Use a fork to whisk together the milk, creme fraiche, eggs and vanilla extract in a large liquid measuring cup until well blended. Pour over the dry mixture, along with the melted butter, and whisk with the fork to form a slightly lumpy batter.

Use a flexible spatula to gently fold in the berries, then use the spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Scatter the oats over the top. Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then run a round-edged knife around the edges to loosen the cake, then invert onto the rack and lift off the pan. Turn the cake right-side-up and let cool completely.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10): 330 calories, 6 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

Fully Loaded Chocolate Muffins

9 servings

Sometimes, it’s okay to break the rules and add a few extra chocolate chips to your muffins. These might remind some of the Chunky candy bars of old, because they combine that chocolatey goodness with nuts and dried fruit. Spices — cinnamon, and just the tiniest bit of cayenne —  take them beyond the vending machine.

MAKE AHEAD: The dried cherries need to be rehydrated for 30 minutes. The muffins are best served the same day they are made, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

¼ cup dried cherries

1 3/4 cups Big-batch chocolate dry mix (stir well before using)

½ cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon table salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

½ cup buttermilk

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

½ cup chocolate chunks

¼ cup toasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped (see NOTE)

Steps

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 9 wells of a standard-size muffin pan with paper or foil baking cup liners, or grease them with cooking oil spray.

Meanwhile, place the dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with warm water; let sit for 30 minutes, then drain.

Whisk together the Big Batch Chocolate Dry Mix, sugar, salt and the cayenne pepper, if using, until well incorporated.

Pour the buttermilk into a large liquid measuring cup, then add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract and oil; use a fork to whisk together until well incorporated. Pour over the dry ingredients, then add the chocolate chunks, plumped dried cherries and hazelnuts; use a flexible spatula to gently fold to form a barely blended batter that’s a bit lumpy.

Divide evenly among the muffin cups or wells. Bake (middle rack) until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then dislodge the muffins and place them directly on the rack to cool completely.

NOTE: To toast the hazelnuts, spread them on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Nutrition | Per muffin: 340 calories, 5 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 27 g sugar

Maple-cashew scones

8 scones

The combination of maple, cashews and spelt here is especially winning, but if you used whole-wheat flour in your dry mix base, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the results. An alternative name for these would be Pancakes Scones, because they were inspired by and taste like pancakes; they even spread a bit more than typical scones.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

2 ½ cups Big-batch dry mix (stir well before using)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Up to 3/4 teaspoon spices (see note below)

½  cup toasted, unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped 

Up to ½ cup buttermilk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Flour, for the work surface

1 large egg

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling (about 2/3 teaspoon)

Steps

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Combine the Big-batch dry mix, cold butter pieces and spices, if using, in a mixing bowl. Use two knives or a pastry blender to work the butter and flour into pea-size pieces (this step can be done in a food processor, pulsing as needed, then transfer to the mixing bowl). Stir in the cashews and toss to distribute evenly.

Pour 1/3 cup of the buttermilk into a large liquid measuring cup, then add the 1/3 cup of maple syrup and the vanilla extract; use a fork to whisk until well incorporated. Pour over the dry mixture; use a flexible spatula to stir and form a moist dough with some floury bits showing. If the dough isn’t coming together or seems dry, add more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there and gently knead a few times until the dough is evenly moist and just holds together. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the scones will be dense.

Gently pat and shape the dough into a 6-inch disk. Use a large knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges. Transfer them to the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Whisk together the egg, the remaining tablespoon of maple syrup and the heavy cream in a bowl, then use the mixture to liberally brush the tops of each scone. Sprinkle them with the flaked salt.

Bake (middle rack) until the tops are lightly browned and the tops spring back when gently pressed, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the scones cool, about 15 minutes, before serving or storing.

NOTE: For spices, you can use ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, freshly grated nutmeg, ground cardamom or espresso powder.

Nutrition | Per scone (using 1/2 cup buttermilk): 350 calories, 6 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 17 g sugar

Bread-n-butter pickle corn bread

10 to 12 servings

As this rendition proves, the addition of chopped pickles is one of the better things to happen to this American staple. Working cottage cheese, Sriracha and some reserved pickle juice into the batter might just land this in the baking canon.

From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.

Ingredients

2½ cups Big-batch cornmeal dry mix (stir well before using)

1½ teaspoons table salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½  cup buttermilk

½ cup cottage cheese, preferably full fat

2 large eggs

1 cup drained bread-and-butter pickles, coarsely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of their pickle juice (from the jar)

2 tablespoons hot sauce 

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted melted butter, plus 1 teaspoon for the skillet

½  cup chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Steps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Preheat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet on the stove on low heat, gradually increasing the heat to medium.

Combine the Big-batch cornmeal dry mix, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

Use a fork to whisk together the buttermilk, cottage cheese, eggs, the tablespoon of pickle juice and the Sriracha in a large liquid measuring cup until well blended. Pour over the dry ingredients along with the 8 tablespoons of melted butter, the chopped pickles, chives and dill; use a flexible spatula to stir and form a lumpy batter.

Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter in the hot skillet, tilting to coat. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Run a round-edged knife around the edges to loosen the bread, then invert onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let cool completely before serving. 

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 12): 210 calories, 5 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar

Three-step basic cake

To make a basic single-layer cake (8-inch square or 9-inch round) or loaf cake (8 ½-by-4½ inches), use a fork to whisk together 2½ cups Big batch dry mix, 1/3 cup granulated sugar or packed light or dark brown sugar and up to 2 teaspoons spices in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, unsweetened coconut milk, water or a fruit puree, 2 large eggs, up to 1½  tablespoons flavorings, 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 8 tablespoons unsalted melted butter in a liquid measuring cup, then pour over the dry mixture, along with up to 1½  cups of add-ins. Stir to form a lumpy batter. Pour into a greased/floured pan, scatter pre-bake toppings over the surface (optional).

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes (square or round) or 55 to 60 minutes (loaf), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pan to cool completely.

To make a two-layer cake, double the recipe and bake in two pans.

Three-step basic corn bread (sweet)

To make an 8-inch square or loaf (8½ by 4½ inches), use a fork to whisk together 2½ cups Big-batch cornmeal dry mix, 1/3 to ½ cup granulated sugar or packed light or dark brown sugar and up to 1 teaspoon spices in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, unsweetened coconut milk or a fruit puree, 2 large eggs, up to 1½  tablespoons flavorings and 1½  teaspoons pure vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup, then pour over the dry mixture, along with 8 tablespoons unsalted melted butter and up to 1 cup of add-ins (optional). Gently fold until well blended, then pour into the greased/floured pan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes (square) or 50 to 55 minutes (loaf). Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan, then dislodge to cool completely.

Three-step basic chocolate cake

To make a basic single-layer cake (9-inch round), whisk together 1 3/4 cups Big- batch chocolate dry mix, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, up to 3/4 teaspoon spices

3/4 cup water, ½ cup oil, 1 large egg and 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour into a greased/floured 9-inch round layer cake pan and tap it gently on the counter to release some of the batter’s air bubbles.

Bake in a 375-degree oven for 39 to 41 minutes (square or round) until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then invert to dislodge and turn right side up on the rack to cool completely.

To make a two-layer cake, double the recipe and bake in two pans. To make 12 cupcakes, bake in a 375-degree oven for 17 to 19 minutes.

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