Ten Items Every Baker Needs

Every baker has favorite baking items. These are the I-can't-live-without tools that occupy the easy-to-reach front spaces in the kitchen cabinet and drawers. These essential items are staples in the kitchen of both home and professional bakers. When the mission is delectable baked goods, consider the following 10 items every baker needs.

1. Baking sheets. According to TLC Cooking, "a baking sheet is a sided pan, while a cookie sheet has no sides and is used for cookies only." Whether you call them baking or cookie sheets, trays or pans, this item is, hands-down, one of the most popular tools used by bakers and cooks. A quality baking sheet can mean the difference between burnt cookie bottoms and golden brown edges.

Many bakers prefer non-stick sheets, but any tray can be made non-stick with the addition of a silicon mat or parchment paper. When choosing non-stick, be aware that the cook time on these surfaces will vary from other sheets. In addition, non-stick baking sheets will need to be stored with care to avoid scratches upon the coated surface. Insulated cookie sheets, with air between two layers of metal, can help prevent burning.

2. Cooling Rack. From Williams Sonoma to Calphalon to Chicago Metallic, cooling racks are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and prices. One of the most popular baking tools, the cooling rack provides baked goods a place to rest after baking. Cooling racks are raised and slotted to ensure that air can circulate around the cookies or baked goods, helping to prevent sogginess. Many cooling racks are collapsible and fold neatly for easy storage.

3. Measuring Tools. Unlike basic cooking, baking often requires precise measurements to guarantee that the final product is not hard as a brick or sporting a mushy middle. Every baker needs a set of both dry and wet ingredient measuring cups and measuring spoons. Ideally, you should invest in at least two sets of measuring spoons and several different measuring cups. Measuring cups may be glassware, stainless steel, ceramic or plastic. They vary in price from inexpensive sets found at the dollar store to items like the Taylor digital measuring cup, a high-end tool that allows a baker to measure both volume and weight with an LCD display.

4. Mixer. The stand mixer has been a staple appliance in kitchens for decades, giving the baker hands-free mixing capabilities. Such mixers range in price from about $100 to more than $500. Many home cooks and bakers swear by this tool, making this one of the most popular items for any baker. KitchenAid, Cuisinart, and Sunbeam are just three major manufacturers of stand mixers. Depending on the model, the mixer's controls will vary.

Things to consider when selecting a stand mixer are its construction plus its power and capacity. It also should have speed selections to allow for different types of batters. A higher-end model may include a countdown timer.

A hand mixer with dual beaters is a helpful alternative when making a quick batter for cookies, brownies or a cake.

5. Mixing bowls. Every baker needs mixing bowls, because regular soup and storage bowls often are not appropriate for baking needs. A set of ceramic, stainless-steel or heavy-duty plastic bowls with a non-slip base and pour spout work great. OXO makes several sets, including a stainless steel version. EcoLife has a set made from renewable resources with 70 percent plant material. Most mixing bowls are top-rack dishwasher safe.

6. Parchment paper. A handy item for all bakers, parchment paper is used to line baking sheets and pans. It is moisture and grease resistant. Parchment paper can be found in your grocer's paper-goods aisle near the aluminum foil. Reynolds makes a variety sold in a roll like tin foil. It is a great tool when a baker wants to move any entire batch of cookies from sheet to cooling area. Just lift and transfer. The baking sheet stays clean and is ready for the next batch.

7. Pastry bags. Pastry bags with decorating tips are useful for more than adding piping to cakes. They can be used for cookie decorating, especially during the holidays, and for adding flair and fun to baked items, such as brownies. They'll also come in handy outside the baker's purview, for everything from deviled eggs to twice-baked potatoes to appetizers.

8. Sifter. A quality sifter is handy for every baker. It can be used during baking as well as in other cooking endeavors. A stainless-steel crank sifter is ideal and can be found in different volume sizes. Battery-operated sifters also are available. Cuisipro has a scoop-and-sift flour sifter with a curved handle that is designed to hook onto mixing bowl or counter edge.

9. Spatula. A silicon spatula/scraper is ideal for scraping batter from the sides of the mixing bowl. Its flat, flexible surface works better than a spoon at removing the maximum amount of batter from the bowl's interior. It also can be used to spread icing. Spatulas come in a variety of sizes.

10. Timer. Baking requires precise timing. Although most ovens come with a built-in timer, a counter-top kitchen timer is helpful. A digital timer is ideal, especially when a baker is timing more than one item. Polder makes a triple digital timer with three LCD screens to allow for three separate timings. In addition to the above 10 items every baker needs, a kitchen that produces baked goodies may also want to include a rolling pin, various styles of baking pans and several lidded containers to store the finished treats.

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