Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baking Essentials

I'm on something of a baking kick lately. I am not sure why, exactly, but I do find a great deal of peace in baking something yummy. Baking requires you to slow down, to take your time and work through a process. And once you're done, you end up with great smells coming from the oven and (hopefully) something delicious to munch on. Baking is exact, but it's like a marriage of chemistry and magic. And that's always fun.

There are a ton of gadgets and do-dads that make cooking easier, but here is my list of absolute baking essentials:
  • Measuring tools: at very least, you should invest in decent measuring cups and spoons. I prefer stainless steel because they seem more official. They also clean up easily and seem like they'll last longer than plastic (that's just my humble opinion). You'll also need something to measure liquid. For this, I like Pyrex glass measuring bowls. I have several different sizes of these and I recommend you get a 1-Cup, a 2-Cup and a 4-Cup for your kitchen. Remember: the Pyrex measures can go into the microwave, so they're super handy. Plus the large size allows you to mix up batter which is convenient. I've tried the angled liquid measuring cups, but I don't think they're very accurate or easy to use.

  • Decent scale: You don't have to spend a ton of money on this, but like I said earlier in the week, using a scale to weigh your ingredients is faster, easier, and more accurate than measuring by volume (that said, you'll still need to get decent measuring cups and spoons!).

  • Quality pans: Spend a tiny bit more (and go to a more specialized kitchen store) and get heavier pans that seem more sturdy and less likely to warp over time. You'll want (at very least) a normal sized cupcake pan (or two), 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, a brownie pan, and a loaf pan. I like the professional line of products by Chicago Metallics because they're reasonably priced and good quality. Nordicware also rocks.

  • Sheet/Cookie pans: Again, I really think it's better in the long run to invest in good quality stuff. Buy at least two half sheets and you should be set.

  • Cooking racks: I have two wire cooling racks, but I really think I should get one or two more. They're useful for cooling, but you can also put them inside your half sheets if you're cooking stuff like chicken (it lets the fat drip away from the meat--I do this when I cook chicken legs/wings in the oven). I am not a big fan of the stacked cooling rack, though they save counter space...I suppose.

  • A decent mixer: I take it for granted that everyone has a Kitchen Aid mixer in their house--probably because I think everyone should have one. I got mine for a high school graduation gift, and I adore it. I use it constantly and can't imagine not having one. If you don't have a Kitchen Aid, at least invest in a decent electric hand will save you hours of mixing by hand.

  • Good bowls: Use whatever you like, but make sure you have a decent set of bowls. I have glass, stainless steel, and melamine bowls and each serves its purpose. I am not a huge fan of ceramic bowls--they tend to chip and don't stand up for the long haul.

  • Spoons, scrapers, etc.: You can never have enough wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, or stainless steel tongs, in my opinion. You'll also want a good whisk and a bench scraper in your collection.

  • Rolling pin: I prefer a rolling pin without handles. I rarely use my rolling pin because I have yet to become an enthusiastic pie/pastry maker. But still, it's good to have one around because using a wine bottle to roll out dough only goes so far.

  • Pastry brushes: I can't stand silicone pastry brushes for baking, but many people swear by them. I always have a couple brushes around--in different sizes.
This should get you started, but this is just a bare bones list. There's a ton of other stuff that could be mentioned, but I'll save that for another time. What's your favorite baking tool? Leave a comment and let us know!

1 comment:

phairhead said...

Mom doesn't like silicone brushes either. Seems the essential I'm missing is the Kitchen Aid :D