So you’ve got a handle on making chocolate chip cookies without resorting to Mr. Pilsbury’s mess of preservatives and excessive sugar crap. Congratuwelldone! That was your first stop on the road to baking glory. But in order to achieve whatever it is you want to accomplish (a souffle, macarons, or a Schichttorte), it’s important to stock up on the right tools.
These are the 5 essential things that I think every beginner baker should have in their kitchens. Get these tools, master them, start a blog showcasing your talented work, then knock Martha off of her ivory cake pedestal! (Just kidding Martha, I don’t hate you…I just fear you sometimes).
1. Hand Mixer
I think my life changed after buying a hand mixer. When I started to bake more and more, I was still in University and therefore essentially broke. I couldn’t afford to buy nice gadgets and do-dads, thus I used dollar store whisks instead. Graduating from school in the middle of a recession didn’t really solve the cash flow problem, so I withheld from purchasing a mixer for a long time.
Hand mixers are great for quick jobs and they honestly cut down on the work, especially when making whipped cream or mixing cake batter. They are also very easy to clean and store away, which is a godsend if you have a tiny kitchen like me.
2. Silicone mat
Economical and more environmentally friendly than parchment paper, these silicone-based mats are the most versatile and reliable things in my kitchen! Great for getting out of sticky situations (whether it be setting peanut brittle or unfolding certain cake batters). Plus they make clean up so much easier, which makes a lazy person like moi very happy indeed! I like using the Silpats and Roul’Pat brands because honestly I haven’t used anything else, but there are tons of other less expensive silicone mats out in the market.
3. Pastry cutter
I am ashamed to admit that I used to use my fingers to blend butter into flour when making pastry dough. It’s not effective at all. The heat from fingers melt the butter, which makes the pastry less flaky and more dense. Invest in a good pastry cutter, one that will cut fats well into the dry ingredients.
Silicone coated, narrow, and balloon, are just some of the types of whisks you may want to start collecting. For meringues and whipped creams, whisks with a large balloon shape is best, since it will incorporate more air in to liquids quicker. When you’re making lemon curds or pastry cream in a sauce pan, a narrow whisk with its slender frame is more easy to use. Silicone-coated whisks are great for scraping down the sides of bowls.
5. Piping/pastry bags and tips
There’s so much more to piping bags than just cake decorating or squeezing frosting into your mouth like Go-Gurt. It’s also great for filling in things like eclairs and canolis.
When I first started to get serious about baking, I moved beyond the simple pancakes and muffin recipes to the gateaus and pastries by using actual baking tools. But this does not mean you have to go out and buy a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer to make the perfect meringue – although admittedly I have a shiny red one, which was given to me as a birthday present from J. Once you start to bake more challenging stuff, the stand mixers and digital scales will probably be a good investment down the road.
Remember that baking is just as much a science as it is an art. Once you stock up your laboratory with the proper instruments, then you’ll have more fun with your experiments!