Saturday, September 24, 2011

Baking Essentials: A Baker's Toolbox Part 1

When I started baking a long time ago I really didn't see a need for so many quizmos and gadgets.  I mean after all you just open a box, pour it in a bowl, crack a couple of eggs and some oil and whip it up, dump it in a pan right?  Well, ya, I guess so if you're going straight out of a box.  Nothing wrong with it but as you get more adept at baking you will want to try newer things and will start thinking outside the box and if you don't have the proper tools you'll be stumped.  

Do mechanics only have a few tools?  Not any I know of lol...I guess what I'm saying is to get the results you are looking for in baking you need to have the right tools handy.  I have compiled this list to "must have" items and I am sure along the way you'll find even more to add to your list.  Until then, this will get you started.  I tell Mr. V my kitchen "tools" are just as important as his garage tools!

Hand Graters and Zesters

These make my life so much easier.  Graters and zesters are used for finely grating citrus peels, making your own fresh ground cinnamon or nutmeg (you have to try it this way...the jar stuff can't compare) ginger and even fine grate chocolate over that whipped cream on your hot cocoa or on a cake.  I have one for spices, one for zesting and one for chocolate.  Reason being even with washing flavors can linger.

Fine Mesh Sieve 

 I have several of these from large to very tiny and I use them all.  Fine mesh sievesare used for draining wet ingredients, sifting dry ingredients, using them to dust powdered sugar on french toast or brownies or on anything that calls for a "light dusting".  Sifting dry ingredients breaks up any lumps, making your dry ingredient like flour, light and airy which results in a lighter cake or pastry.

Kitchen Ruler

Yep, you heard me right...a kitchen ruler.  You will use this for things like measuring the thickness of a rolled cookie dough or diameter of a piecrust.  It's also needed when for making a straightedge to evenly cut strips of dough for say making a lattice pie.

Wooden Spoons

The classic cook and bakers tool.  What kitchen is without wooden spoons?  None that I know of.  Wooden spoons used for baking should not be used for anything else.  Wood is porous and takes on stronger flavors.  For example if you use your wooden spoon in spaghetti sauce then later after washed use it to mix a dough your dough will pull the flavors of the spaghetti sauce off that spoon no matter how much you wash it.  So have a batch of different size wooden spoons for your baker's toolbox only to be used for baking.  Oh, and make sure you hand wash them.  Putting them in the dishwasher will warp the wood.

Rubber Spatulas/Scrapers

Rubber spatulas help to get every last drop out of your bowl,  jar or pan.  They are handy dandy for when a recipe calls for "folding" wet and dry ingredients together.  I prefer silicone spatulas over rubber or plastic.  They withstand high heat and do not melt where the other two can and will.  I know how tempting those dollar store spatulas are but if you bake a lot you will fbe replacing them more than needed than if you paid a few more dollars on a really good set of silicone.

Offset Spatula/Spreader

The beauty is in the bend for this spatula.  A must have when frosting cakes, brownies or spreading out your batter evenly in a cake pan.  offset spatulas with the bend verses a straight edge one keeps your knuckles from grazing across the surface you're trying to keep smooth.

Metal Spatula/Turner

Use a metal spatulato transfer cut out cookies or any cookie from counter to pan and to a cooling rack after baking.  An especially thin metal blade is the key of handiness.  It's flexible enough to get under whatever it is you are moving without squishing the dough, breaking up the cookie or a piece of cake.

Pastry Brush

Like the wooden spoons I recommend having one for baking and one for other cooking like basting or brushing bbq sauce or olive oil on something.  A softly bristled pastry brush has many baking chores.  Use it to grease a pan, use it for slathering layers of melted butter on say phyllo dough or use it for egg washes on pie crusts and more.


One of my favorite "toys" in the kitchen.  A wire whisk is a huge must for beating eggs but's use doesn't stop there.  They are perfect for whisking/whipping cooked puddings, custards and terrific for mixing dry ingredients as well.  Just a handy dandy tool!

Pastry Wheel

The pastry wheel makes smooth sailing cutting pastry dough.  Unlike a knife it doesn't pull the dough or crush delicate layers to say a puff pastry which can create a "tough dough".  

Pastry Blender

If you like to make streusel toppings, bake pies or make biscuits like I do then a pastry blender is the best for cutting in cold butter or shortening into your dry ingredients.

Rolling Pins

Needed for rolling out piecrusts, cookie dough, puff pastry and more.  Sorry ladies it's not for chasing your husband around the house because he didn't get his  honey-do-list done <grins> There are two basic types of rolling pins.  The classic roller style as shown in the picture or a French style.  They come in wood, ceramic, silicone, metal and even marble.  

Kitchen Scissors/Shears

Notice it says Kitchen!  Tell everyone the kitchen scissors or shears are off limits.  Nothing makes me crazier than when I need them someone took them to cut cardboard or something AHHHHHH.  Whew, ok, anyway, keep a pair of good sharp ones at hand for snipping herbs, cutting parchment paper or strings off your roast.  

This should get you started.  Just a tip here.  You can find most if not all of these handy useful gadgets in your local thrift store that are in excellent shape as well as buying new at your local store.  My pastry blender I got from a local thrift store over 13 years ago and it's my favorite!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Baking Basics:  A Baker's Toolbox.  Until then, see you 'round the table

Where Meals and Memories are Made

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