How is it already October, friends?! This year has been flying by, not to mention the last month or so. I’ve been absolutely negligent here on Designs of Any Kind and hopefully things will start slowing down in the next few weeks so that I can finally focus on bringing you some creative and delicious things before the clock strikes 2019!
A few months ago I did a post about 15 kitchen tools I cannot live without, which a lot of you really liked. That being said, this week we decided to do 15 Baking Tools I Cannot Live Without in my kitchen. There are so many fun tools out there for baking and despite how innovative and unique they may be, I prefer to keep my tools minimal and to the point. I have a unhealthy love of dishware and glassware, therefore space in my kitchen is limited. Each tool needs to have a very important, multifaceted purpose if I’m going to allocate a spot for it in my kitchen.
The tools below go a tiny bit beyond the basic and obvious tools such as measuring cups and spoons, whisks, timer, oven mitt, rolling pin, cake and muffin pans, etc. All those tools are pretty essential and likely in most kitchens. However, not everyone stocks the tools below. However, if you do have a bunch of the tools below, then pat yourself on the back as you are definitely serious about your baking skills! If there are any tools not listed below, that you possibly can’t live without, make sure to write about them in the comment section below. I would love to hear about them and possibly find a new must-have item to add to my baking tool box!
We are starting off this baking tool list with my favorite and most prized tool! My KitchenAid mixer has been with me since my high school days… like a really long time!
My first year into marriage we moved to Charleston, SC and my mixer was right there with me! It served me well during our years there, but unfortunately was left behind in our storage unit for 5 really long years when we moved to California! I’m pretty sure I stopped baking entirely without my mixer by my side! A year or so ago we were finally reunited and everything became right with the world again!
My KitchenAid mixer is essential to any baking I do and even though it’s over 18 years old, it’s still mixing up cake batters and cookie dough like a champ! The only thing I will change if and when it’s time to replace my trusty friend is to get a larger quart size for the bowl. A 4.5 qt simply doesn’t hold the larger quantity doughs or batters that I tend to make.
Large Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
In the restaurants we have bowls more than twice the size of these 8 quart bowls, but for a home baker, these bowls are ideal! They are great for mixing up larger batters or doughs that may not fit into your stand mixer. Often I will mix batters in my stand mixer right up to the point of adding in the flour to avoid overflowing, then transfer the batter to these large bowls to hand mix in the flour.
They also work great when it comes to anything that requires “folding in” of an ingredient, such as whipped egg whites or whipped cream. The extra space allows you to reach more surface and decreases over mixing. In the links below, I’m linking to just the 8 quart as well as set of mixing bowls that range from .75 – 8 quarts. If you don’t already have a variety of sizes you need this in your life!
Half Sized Sheet Pans
In the restaurant world, there are full-sized, half-sized, and quarter-sized sheet pans. They are always the same universal dimensions to ensure other cooking tools always fit in them perfectly. Things like Silpats (a must for both cooking and baking,) cooling racks, and precut parchment paper (unfortunately not the roles you buy at Target) are a few examples.
For me, the half sized sheet pan fits the best in my basic home oven so that’s what I stick to. If you are lucky enough to have a massive home oven, I would recommend having a combination of both the half and full-sized sheet pans, as well as the quarter. The quarter comes handy when you need to bake something small and don’t want to use a half-sized. I hate cleaning sheet pans, so the less, the better for me!
As I’m writing this post, I’m already realizing I could use a few more of these… dare I say it out loud, but Christmas is 3 months away! I love baking a million cookies and 1 rack is not going to cut it! It never has, but I keep ignoring the issue.
Cooling racks do exactly what their name implies… they allow air to reach more of the surface, therefore cooling your baked goods faster; which in terms avoids overbaking.
I also use cooling racks for cooking meats or vegetables if you don’t want them to mingle with the juices collecting in the pan. Cooking with cooling racks also allows the heat to reach the under side of your meat, which helps a more even cooking process.
Parchment paper is nonstick and oven safe, which makes it perfect for lining sheet pans, cake pans, and springform pans. If you’ve ever cooked your fish “en papillote“, parchment paper is what you’d use.
If you are having to sift flour or other ingredients, simply sift it directly onto a sheet of parchment paper, fold the parchment sheet in half to form a funnel, then pour your sifted ingredients into our dough or other mixtures.
Overall, parchment paper is your friend and is essential when it comes to baking! Parchment paper comes in rolls or precut, for full-sized or half-sized sheet pans. It also comes bleached or unbleached, which is simply a health preference (unbleached is technically better for you.)
A kitchen without a spatula is like a boat without a motor. You can still use a boat without a motor, but then it’s simply a row boat that’s slow and clunky! I use a spatula every single time I cook or bake; I can’t think of a moment when I haven’t needed or used one. You can get away with just one good spatula in your life, but I find it valuable to have a few different sizes and shapes.
More than anything, your spatulas should be heat proof; at least able to withstand 450° F or more. There’s nothing worse or possibly toxic than a cheap spatula leaking melted plastic into your food! I also recommend looking for spatulas that have a one-piece design, which mine are not, but I will be linking below. A one-piece design avoids the issue of food particles getting trapped where the handle goes into the spatula. I always pull the two apart and wash separately.
Liquid Measuring Cups
“Dry” ingredient measuring cups and teaspoon/tablespoon measuring spoons are often a given when it comes to baking. However, not as many people have liquid measuring cups in their kitchen. This is an essential tool for measuring any liquid your baking recipes may require. The glass allows you to accurately see how much liquid you are measuring and often it’s a bit more accurate than dry ingredient measuring cups.
The larger liquid measuring cups allow you to measure more volume vs the maximum 1 cup from a dry ingredient measure cup.
Fine Mesh Sieves
Sieves are essential for sifting dry ingredients when making cakes, pastries, cookies, breads and basically anything that requires flour. More often, your baked goods will be negatively effected without this crucial step. I use my large sieves for sifting flour and the smaller ones for sifting powdered sugar or cocoa powder over finished baked goods as well as straining sauces.
Ideally, it’s best to have a few sieves designated for dry ingredients and another set for wet ingredients. This way dry ingredients won’t clog the mesh when they get wet.
Digital Kitchen Scale
A digital scale takes you from an average baker to a serious baker! Suddenly this whole other world of recipes, once a nonexistent option to you, are ready and waiting for you to explore! I’m referring to recipes that list out ingredients in weight vs measurement. These recipes are what the usual professional pastry chef would use, even if it’s their tried and true basic white cake recipe.
Weighing out dry ingredients vs measuring them produces a more consistent result. The reason is that the volume of a dry ingredient can change based on the environment it’s in. If it’s raining outside or you have the air conditioning on; all of these little things will effect your ingredients, therefore effecting your outcome. Kind of complicated I know, but that’s why it’s said that baking is a bit like science. In a way it’s also a relief when that cake you made did not turn out and it was a measured recipe vs a weighed one. You can literally blame it on the weather if you feel like it, haha!
Cake Decorating Spatulas
Since I love to make cakes, I use these 3 different spatulas all of the time and each size serves a purpose. The smaller of the 3 spatulas, which is also called an offset spatula, is the one I use all of the time. I use it to flip things, remove cookies from my baking sheets, frost cakes, smooth out batters before baking, etc. I’m sure I’ve even used this spatula in other non-baking methods as well. The thin, rounded metal end makes and ideal flat head screw driver when in a bind.
If you are decorating cakes, than I recommend all 3. If you are just baking cookies, bars, or even sheet pan cakes, then you can get away with just the small spatula.
Revolving Cake Decorating Stand
A revolving cake decorating stand is a must if you love to decorate cakes or looking to get started. This is the exact brand we used at one of the bakeries I worked. I fell in love with the weight of the base and how smooth the turntable rotated, so I picked one up for myself the moment I changed jobs. I would highly recommend avoiding cake stands that are made of plastic. I’ve used them in the past and they are too lightweight to support a 4 layered cake with frosting and clunky when they rotate, just FYI
Kitchen Blow Torch
I know that this insanely large blow torch is a bit overkill and no, I’m not a pyrotechnic freak! In fact, every time I fire up this torch I say a prayer in hopes that I don’t blow up! Honestly, there’s like 10 explosive warnings on the canister and of course I’m a worrier to the max. That being said if you have kids at home or simply value your life, haha, I would suggest the culinary torch in the link below.
Now that I’ve clearly made you question my sanity, I’ve included a torch in the “tools I cannot live without” for this main reason… crème brûlée! It’s my favorite dessert!
Honestly, a blow torch is great for other things as well – warming up cold buttercream while mixing it in your stand mixer or simply searing thin slices of meat for a beautiful appetizer. Not matter the use, please remember safety first with flames!!!
Ice Cream Scoops
Ice cream scoops are not just meant for scooping out delicious mounds of ice cream when that late night craving hits you and you cannot resist. Friends, this great tool just happens to be ideal for measuring out perfectly-sized cookie dough balls. Simply scoop your dough, plop them on your prepared cookie sheet and bake to perfection! An ice cream scoop makes it consistent, cleaner, and faster. Based on the size of cookie you want to make, it’s helpful to have a few different sized scoops, just FYI.
Each person likes to prepare their dough differently, but for me I prefer a pastry cutter. It doesn’t overwork the dough like a food processor would and honestly, happens to be a lot easier to clean than a food processor.
Pastry cutters are also great for blending up any crumb type toppings, chopping nuts, mashing bananas for banana bread, blending avocados for guacamole, and even making mashed potatoes. Bonus, is that a pastry blender is a whole lot cheaper than any mechanical tool you can buy for the same job, just saying!
Last, but not least, is the Bench Scraper. I use for chopping up butter, portioning out bread dough and scrapping it into an oiled bowl to proof, cutting icebox cookies, transferring small pastries or cookies onto baking sheets or platters, and some times even the task of chopping up veggies or fruit. Another thing I find the bench scraper useful for is smoothing out icing on a cake. Just run the flat end of the scraper along the side of the cake as you spin your revolving cake stand to remove any excess or uneven frosting.
Featured photo by Erol Ahmed