Essential Baking Supplies

Chances are you already have many of the essential baking supplies needed to turn out sheets full of cookies, loaves of hot bread and pies made from scratch, but there may a few you're missing. The key to baking (and cooking in general) lies as much in the recipe and ingredients as the equipment you use.

For Measuring
It doesn't matter what you bake, your kitchen baking supplies will fulfill the lists of recommend bread baking supplies, cake baking supplies and cooking baking supplies you find. What does matter when it comes to baking, is measuring ingredients as accurately as possible.

First, toss any plastic measuring cups you have on hand and replace them with quality stainless steel. These measuring cups are best reserved for measuring your dry ingredients although there are some bakers who prefer to measure dry goods by volume using a kitchen scale. Weighing your dry goods may require that you do some math, but what you expend in calculations will made up for in terms of accuracy (you can't pack ingredients too tightly or miss an air pocket when you measure by volume).

When you're choosing measuring cups, stick with sets that have the fullest measurement even with the rim of the cup so you can level off easily when you're measuring. For liquids, look for Pyrex glass measuring cups in the sizes you think you'll use most often that have large, easy-to-grip handles and spouts for pouring. In both cases, you'll want your measuring cups to feature both metric and U.S. measuring units so you don't have to spend precious baking time converting recipes.

Finally, you'll want a good set of measuring spoons that range from a minimum of ¼ teaspoon to a 1 tablespoon. If you cook a lot, keep an eye out for newer measuring spoons that include a 1/8 teaspoon measurement and a 1 ½ teaspoon measurement, two common recipe amounts. Purchase at least two sets, so you'll always have one clean (three, if you're really serious in the kitchen).

For Mixing
When it comes to mixing batter and folding in cream, you'll need both something to do your work in and something that does the work. For mixing bowls, you can choose from a variety of materials like stainless steel, glass, ceramic, plastic and even silicone. If you choose plastic, go for quality-inexpensive plastics can warp and absorb flavors that will seep into the next recipe you cook.

Purchase mixing bowls in a set or purchase only the sizes you want as individual pieces. Look for mixing bowls that have high sides to prevent splatters and spills. Some bowls are designed with spouts to make pouring batter easier.

An electric mixer makes quick work of mixing dough and batters, especially thick ones. Some recipes may call for a combination of hand mixing and electric mixing, depending on the dish. How much mixer you need, depends on your baking style, so think long and hard about how often you'll need the mixer and for what. You may find that you can get away just fine with a hand mixer rather than spending a few hundred dollars on a stand mixer.

You'll also want to have multiple whisks and spatulas at your disposal. If you only buy one whisk, make it a stainless steel balloon whisk. This nearly all-purpose utensil should be easy to grip, comfortable to hold and have some weight to it. Buy two and/or buy them in different sizes so you'll always have a clean one at the ready for beating egg whites and whipping cream.

Lastly, you'll want to have at least two mixing spoons (one wooden, one metal) and two spatulas (one metal, one silicone). Plastic spatulas mix well and can double as a bowl scraper, while metal spatulas help transfer baked goods from sheets and pans to cooling racks.

Other Must-Haves
Once you've stocked your kitchen with the basic equipment you need, there a few more things that are well worth investing in or adding to your inventory:

  • Pastry blender
  • Pastry brush
  • Quality chef's knife for chopping nuts and chocolate
  • Non-stick rolling pins
  • Pie weights
  • Quality oven mitts
  • Cake tester
  • Kitchen timer
  • Cooling racks
  • Silpat baking sheets
  • Parchment paper

Additionally, you should invest in one or two good pairs of kitchen shears. Use one pair for opening packaging and the other to snip dough and never use the same pair for both tasks.

You'll have a startling array of options when it comes to choosing bakeware, but start by purchasing the key pieces: cookie sheets, baking pans, cake pans, baking dishes and pie plates.

You want your cookie sheets to have some weight, so they won't warp in the oven. Look for cookie sheets that are light in color as darker sheets heat faster causing cookies to brown faster than you might like. Alternatively, you can skip cookie sheets altogether and purchase multiple baking pans, which look like cookie sheets, but have raised edge. The edges serve two purposes: first, they're easier to grip when you're putting them in or taking them out of the oven and second, they prevent items from slipping off the sheet, like toasted nuts or baked granola.

If you bake brownies, crisps or crumbles, you'll want a glass baking dish that can withstand the heat and do double-duty as a serving dish. Cake pans come in several shapes and sizes, but the classics include circular (for layer cakes), rectangular and square (for sheet cakes), bundt and springform (for cheesecakes and tortes, although they can be used for regular cakes too). Choose from metal, glass or silicone.

For pie plates, you may want to purchase several in different materials (glass, metal and ceramic) and try them out against your recipes to see which yields the best results. Generally, heavier pie plates that are dark in color heat more evenly and turn out the best crusts.

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