Every artist needs to have the tools of his or her craft close at hand. That said, whether you’re a home baker or a professional one, the desired end results are the same – beautiful and delicious tasty treats to serve to family and friends. I’m personally not a fan of lots of gadgets, especially the trendy ones, but I do stock up on all of the items that help me over and over again to make classic cookies, cakes, pies and breads. Here is a list of what I think are the most important items to keep on hand for baking up a storm.
Some bakers suggest glass bowls while others will only use stainless steel. I personally like to use both as glass is great for being able to see what you’re doing but stainless steel keeps things like dough very cool. Both glass and steel bowls can also work as a double boiler when needed.
If you want to make cakes, you need cake pans. The good thing is that they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and my favourite is the 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) square pan because I can use them to make other things like fudge. Buy two and you can start stacking to make those delicious double-layer cakes you see in all the food magazines.
Also known as sheet pans, cookie sheets aren’t just for making cookies. You can also use them for freezing chocolate, making candied fruit peels and more. I like to have both full (66cm x 46cm) and half (46cm x 33cm) sheet pans to allow me the flexibility in the amount of items being baked in the oven at one time.
Don’t skip this important item if you like to bake cookies, as it’s important to let them sit on racks after baking so that they can cool on all sides. Cooling racks help to avoid burning, as many baked goods still continue ‘baking’ when they’re removed from the oven.
Flour sifters have been around forever and for good reason. If the desired result of a recipe is a light cake, for example, most likely the directions will call for ‘sifted’ flour to go into the recipe. Unsifted flour can produce a denser cake or pastry, which isn’t usually as desirable for most baked goods.
A mixer can come in many shapes and forms so it’s important that you have at least one of them. I personally can’t live without my stand mixer, but there are times when I do resort to a big old wooden spoon and a large stainless steel bowl to make some of my most trusted cake recipes. However, that won’t work for my pizza dough as the stand mixer with its dough hook and other important attachments are critical to a quick and reliable dough.
Unlike cooking, when it comes to baking you need to have precise measurements for everything so make sure you have good and reliable measuring cups (both the kind used for liquid and dry ingredients) and not the decorative types which are most likely not produced to reliable specifications.
As important as measuring cups are so too are measuring spoons. Again, it bears repeating that it’s essential to leave the decorating kind to do just that – decorate something, not measure.
The best bakers don’t waste a single drop of ingredients as they realise that frugality takes you a long way to producing larger quantities of your labour-intensive baking projects. Spatulas are the perfect item to clean out any pan or bowl to perfection and they also can sometimes double as a quick frosting spreader.
Not just for ice cream, scoopers are great for doling out the right amount of cookie batter or other things you need to plop onto a cookie sheet uniformly.
Whisks are indispensable in the baker’s kitchen as they help shape ingredients from one texture to another effortlessly.
Bonus item: Food scale
If you’re really interested in being as precise as possible when baking, particularly if you’re baking for commercial purposes, or if you live in a country where measurements by weight are the norm (such as in the UK), consider investing in a food scale. These help you get accurate weights of ingredients rather than merely measuring by spoons and cups, which can sometimes be slightly inaccurate and affect the results of baking projects, particularly those being worked on in bulk.