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I’ve been a serious home baker for over 25 years. And when I look at my arsenal of tools and equipment, I’m always amazed at the amount of things I don’t have.
You read correctly.
Most people assume that my kitchen is overflowing with every manner of gadget, tool and gizmo designed to “help” the home baker. But the reality is, that for most recipes, there are a relatively limited number of items you need. I’ve rounded up my “must-have” essentials, whether you’re a die-hard baker or a weekend warrior!
And the good news is that most are relatively inexpensive. It is a total myth that you need costly, fancy tools and equipment for baking. In fact, some of my most beloved possessions are my grandmother’s cake pans and mixing bowls. Plain and simple, and have stood the test of time.
Now before you look at my first picture and say, “Uhh, stand mixer? Inexpensive?” — let me explain.
Depending on how much baking you do — and the size of your recipes — there are certain items you may want to invest in. I bake several times a week, and often double (or even triple) the recipe, for freezing. Especially around the holidays. A 5-quart mixer with a heavy duty motor is essential for me, and I’ve had mine for many years. It handles large batches of pizza dough, double recipes of cookies, and enough batter to make a multi-tiered cake, without ever burning out.
I bake cookies on average twice a week, so good quality cookies sheets — that don’t warp or burn the bottoms — are a smart investment.
My point? With certain items, you get what you pay for — and certain tools will absolutely last longer (and work more efficiently) if you go for quality materials.
Turning out mouth-watering — and beautiful — baked goods definitely does NOT require a kitchen overflowing with fancy tools and expensive gadgets. Think quality over quantity, and wherever possible go for items that multi-task. These are my must-haves!
1. 5-Quart Mixer
My 5-quart stand mixer is the workhorse of my kitchen. I use it several times a week to make large quantities of you-name-it (pizza dough, cookies, cakes, quick breads). The bowl is generously sized, the motor heavy duty, and the attachments are of excellent quality. If you love to bake (or want to learn how), this will be your most important purchase.
2. Spoon-shaped Spatula
Almost as important as my mixer, I rely on a spatula that will scrape out large quantities of dough cleanly and easily. Most spatulas are flimsy, and wind up bending under the weight of a double batch of cookie dough. Not cool. This version is thick and sturdy, and I love the spoon-shaped head — a minor detail that makes all the difference.
3. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Obvious, I know. But since you will pull these out every time you bake, look for cups and spoons with sturdy handles and easy-to-read measurements. Like these.
4. Digital Food Scale
I’ll keep this one simple: if you bake, get a food scale. That is all.
5. Heavy Gauge Baking Sheets
I would rather own one or two of these baking sheets, than a half dozen of a lesser quality. Heavy duty aluminum sheets — that don’t warp or buckle — are essential for distributing heat evenly, and turning out perfectly browned and tender cookies.
6. Offset Spatular
A small angled — or “offset” – spatula is helpful for smoothing cake batter, frosting cupcakes, and loosening cakes and bar cookies from their pans. You’ll reach for this 4 1/4″ size often, but you’ll want a larger size (think 10″) for frosted layer cakes that have a smooth, professional finish.
7. Metal Mixing Bowls
I have a range of metal bowls, from 6Cs up to 15Cs across — and they get pulled out all the time for various baking tasks. I’ve had my grandmother’s for years, but if I were ever to replace them I’d get these — I love the no-slip bottoms.
8. Pyrex Measuring Cups
These are a must for measuring liquids. But they have other great uses too, from melting butter in the microwave, to mixing salad dressings and pancake batter. And I can personally attest to the fact that they are virtually unbreakable.
9. Cooling Racks
If you bake, you need a cooling rack maybe even three or four. And they are great for more than just cooling cookies and cakes.
Place them over baking sheets for draining breaded chicken cutlets — this ensures that they don’t get soggy underneath. They’re also great for dipped or glazed cookies and cakes – place the rack over a baking sheet to catch any drips.
10. Parchment Paper
I’m a huge fan of parchment paper — and I have it in rolls, sheets and even rounds for my cake pans. It’s non-stick, makes for easy clean-up and these pre-cut sheets are essential during the holidays, when I’m staging large batches of cookies.
11. Cookie Spatula
Sometimes it’s the little things. And if you’ve ever struggled to wedge a regular sized spatula between your just-baked cookies (only to dent or break them), then you will love this. It’s wide enough to support larger, heavier cookies, and very thin to slide easily underneath.
One of the most inexpensive tools in my kitchen, yet ones I reach for again and again. A large whisk is perfect for blending big quantities of liquid ingredients, as well as being a great makeshift “sifter” for dry ingredients. A large whisk also gently folds sugar into beaten egg whites without deflating them. I love the smaller version for emulsifying dressing ingredients or breaking up one or two eggs.
13. Custard Cups
I must own at least a dozen of these, and I use them every single day. They are perfect for so many things. Staging batches of colored icing, sprinkles and chopped nuts. Holding small quantities of ingredients like zests and spices. Melting a tablespoon or two of butter. The list goes on and on.