Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Baking 101 - Kitchen Essentials

Lately I've gotten a lot of emails about baking gear and what I specifically use. I've put together a list of some kitchen essentials to help answer that question! I thought about making this a post about ALL of my favorite kitchen gear but it would have been way, way too long, so this post will only focus on baking. If there's interest, I'll do another one that is focused on cooking.

My very favorite kitchen tool, hands down, is my stand mixer. These babies aren't cheap, so if it's not in the budget right now, no worries. A hand mixer is great too and can do many of the same tasks at a much more affordable price. I have a black Kitchen Aide mixer like this one here:

I love my mixer. I use it for batters, dough, bread, and for shredding chicken. Okay, so that's not baking related.

Hands down, the question I've been asked the most has to do with the attachments for the mixer. Generally, mixers come with three attachments: the paddle, whisk and dough hook. The paddle is used for batters, cookies and cupcakes. The whisk is for mixing up egg whites into a frothy meringue or making homemade whipped cream. The dough hook is for making bread. I've mentioned my scraper paddle attachment before. It's the same as the regular paddle but with a rubberized coating on one side, so it continuously scrapes the bowl as it mixes. I highly recommend it!

Next up, you need three sets of measures (pictured are two). You need a teaspoon/tablespoon set, a cup set and a liquid measure. You never want to measure liquids in a solid measure or vice versa - they can actually come out to two different measures.

I also have a set of offset measures that my dad bought me. I LOVE THEM. If you are serious about baking, you should invest in some. They are measuring cups for 3/4 of a cup, 1 1/2 cups and 1 3/4 cups. Awesome.

Of course you will need mixing bowls to. These are my favorite ones from Williams Sonoma.
(Bowls Source)

The great thing about these are the spouts - making pouring any liquids out SO easy. They are also really durable, easy to clean and have a rubber circle on the bottom, which helps them stick to the counter and not walk around when you are whisking or mixing.

Muffin tins - you may have seen my Nutella Cupcakes post recently wherein I chucked my silicone muffin tins. They did not bake well or evenly, but standard muffin tins like these work great!

You'll need some silicone spatulas like these - they are great for scraping down bowls and getting every last drop of batter into a cake pan.

These are my favorite baking sheets. I've mentioned my quest to make the perfect cookie many times over the years, and these baking sheets have a lot to do with the way my cookies turn out. You never have to line or grease them and while they are a luxury as far as baking sheets go, they are simply the best I've ever seen.
(Pans Source)

They are called Goldtouch by Williams Sonoma and they will change your life. Or at least you baking.

Ice cream scoops! Well now, companies seem to be renaming them cookie scoops, but whatever, same difference. Why are these important?
(Scoop Source)

Because in order for everything to cook evenly and for the same amount of time, they need to be the same size. I have a few sizes of them and I use them for measuring muffin and cupcake batter into liners as well as cookie dough.

Cooling racks: It's important to properly cool baked goods and there are several kinds of racks available.
(Cooling Rack Source)

My favorite looks like the one above, which has small squares on it. Others just have long lines of metal and if you make something small or delicate (flimsy) they will fall through the slots unless you have one like this.

Pastry brushes are a fun little kitchen tool as well. You can use them for egg washes on a pie crust or water to seal two pieces of dough together.
(Brush Source)

There are lots of other baking tools that I use every day and love. Here's a small list:

Wooden spoons of various sizes, some solid, some with slots.

Pastry blender.

Food processor - sometimes for filling ingredients and also for pie crusts.

Toothpicks! You need these to check the doneness of your baked items.

French rolling pin. There are lots of rolling pin variations but this is my favorite.

Microplane: great for zesting oranges, lemons and limes.

Bundt and loaf pans.

I hope this answers a few of the questions I've received but if I missed anything feel free to leave me a comment!
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