Sometimes I take for granted that folks checking out my recipes have experience in the kitchen. It dawned on me while writing one of my cake recipes that maybe the reader has never made a cake before. What if I’m not giving enough information or details? I assume the reader would ask the question, but I thought it may be nice to collect some “baking basics” into a blog post to help out the novice baker.
This post is specifically about backing tools and equipment. I will also cover topics like Cake Basics, Cookies and Bars, Breads, Pies, and Gluten-Free Baking. But lets start at the beginning: what do you need to have on hand in order to make these things?
If you don’t have one or more of these, I would borrow from a friend or neighbor before investing in them. Make sure that you will actually use these items, or they will end up taking up space in your kitchen cupboards!
Measuring cups – both individual cups (1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, 1 cup) and liquid measuring cups that hold 2-4 cups of liquid and are labeled in both cups and ounces. I have 2 sets of individuals and 4 multi-cup liquid measuring cups: 2 Pyrex glass (a 1 cup and a 2 cup), and 2 plastic (a 2 cup and a 4 cup). I recommend the Pyrex glass measurers because you can safely use those in the microwave if you are melting something, like butter or chocolate chips.
Measuring spoons – you’ll need teaspoon increments (1/4, 1/2, 1 teaspoon) as well as tablespoon (1/2 and 1 tablespoon). I have 3 sets, simply because I cook and bake a lot so I like not having to wash them in the middle of cooking.
Whisks – I rarely sift anything. In fact, my sifter is buried in the bottom of a drawer. I prefer whisking dry ingredients in a large bowl to sifting. I have a variety of whisks: large, medium, and small as well as metal and silicon coated whisks. The small ones are great for beating eggs or mixing small amounts of dressings while the big ones are good for batters, sauces, and dry ingredients.
Rubber scrapers – these are a must for scraping down the bowls as you mix batters and icings. Also, they ensure you get every last drop of batter out of a bowl, as they glide smoothly over the surface of the bowl. Additionally, they are great if you are heating liquids on the stove and you don’t want them to stick to the bottom of the pan. I have lots of these in various sizes and shapes, but I will say that you get what you pay for here: the cheapo ones don’t last.
Offset spatula – You’ll need this for icing cakes as it allows you to hold it at the correct angle for smoothing on frosting. I have a large one and a small one.
Metal spatula – I know most folks have nice silicone spatulas in their kitchen because they don’t scratch up your cookware and work great on non-stick surfaces. However, I highly suggest at least one nice metal spatula as well. These are perfect for lifting cookies off a cookie sheet.
Pastry cutter: if you are making pastry or pie dough, or just making a nice streusel topping, a pastry mixer or cutter is a must. Sure, you can use a fork to cut the fat into the flour, but this hand little thing makes that job much easier.
Mixing Bowls – Invest in a set of nice stainless steel bowls of various sizes. I picked up my current set at Crate and Barrel for under $50, however you can buy cheaper sets or even individual bowls at most big box retailers. I use all sizes, depending on what I’m mixing up.
Cooling racks – I have these in various shapes and sizes, but I think the ones I use most of the time are about square shaped and approximately 10″. They are perfect for turning cakes out of pans to cool and the size is easy to handle. The longer/larger cooling racks are great for cupcakes and cookies so you can space them out to allow for better cooling. I have a set of stack-able cooling racks which are awesome if you have limited counter space.
Pans – I’d say one good 9 x 13 baking pan is a must, as is one 12 cup cupcake pan. I have 4 cupcake pans, but that’s because I used to bake up lots and lots of cupcakes! I have minis but I rarely use them, so don’t bother unless you really intend on making lots of mini cupcakes or muffins! The third size I recommend would be an 8″ round – get two of these so you can easily make layer cakes. Now, there are lots and lots and lots of other pans I have in just about every shape and size out there, but if there are three that should be in your kitchen, it’s the 9 x 13, the cupcake, and the layer cake pans.
Parchment Paper – not really a “tool” per se, but this is a supply I always have on hand because it is so useful. First, it makes clean up super easy. I line cookie sheets with parchment paper when I am roasting vegetables, cooking chicken, etc because not only does it create a non-stick surface, allowing the food to slide off the pan, you simply throw away the paper, and rinse off the pan without having to scrub tough, stuck on food. Also, I’ve found that when I’m making things like roasted chicken or chicken tenders, it helps to create that nice crisp crust on the bottom as well as the top. Additionally, parchment paper is great when making most types of cookies because they lift right off the pan so easily, and also for lining the bottoms of cake pans.
Mixer – Again, you get what you pay for here. If you picked up a $10 hand mixer from a discount store, don’t expect it to have as much power or last as long as a good quality hand mixer. The Kitchenaid hand mixer I am currently using is 12 years old, and still runs like a champ. I think taking care of it helps as well. I always wipe it down and dust out the air vents after every use. I also have a heavy-duty Kitchenaid stand mixer, however this isn’t a “must have” for every kitchen. I would start with a really good hand mixer, and if you find you are making lots of icings, meringues, or whipped creams, then go invest in a stand mixer. They really are great for making meringue and whipped cream because you don’t have to stand there, beating forever. They are also able to handle thicker doughs and larger quantities of batters better than a hand mixer.
Additionally, you can purchase attachments like spiralizers, grinders, and pasta makers for stand mixers.
Now, there are lots of other kitchen tools you should have for every day cooking as well (I could create a pretty extensive list!) but this short list of items will definitely make your baking adventures much easier.