If you want to create the very best baked goods, there are some important items you should consider purchasing that will greatly improve the outcome of your recipes. We were thinking of listing these baking tools and their uses in order of importance, but it really depends on what you are making, so consider this a randomly ordered list – except for #1. Accurate measuring tools are really important, no matter what you are baking or cooking.
1. High Quality Measuring Tools – Precisely made dry and liquid measuring cups are some of the best investments you will ever make that will positively affect your baking. We recommend dry measuring cups and spoons from Cuisipro or King Arthur Flour, as well as both Anchor Hocking and classic Pyrex liquid measuring cups. You should note that in 2011, Pyrex came out with some “read-from-above” liquid measuring cups, but in an independent test, they were not as accurate as their older models. It appears that they are again producing their classic styles. Go with those.
2. Commercial Half-Sheet Pans – Heavy-duty aluminum pans, typically 18 x 13 inches, used for cookie sheets, large-batch brownies and sponge cakes; for protecting the oven from dripping pies; as a tray to catch ingredients you are sprinkling on cakes or cookies; for carrying ingredients from here to there, etc. There are so many uses! We buy ours at a commercial kitchen supply store but you can find them online and at better kitchen and houseware stores. When we call for a baking sheet in Bakepedia recipes, this is the item we are referring to.
3. Parchment Paper – Cut parchment paper to fit cake pans, make parchment cones and, of course, to line cookie sheet pans (half-sheet pans), making for easy clean up. It is also handy to sift dry ingredients onto it; you can then pick up the paper and pour ingredients right into a bowl or measuring cup.
4. Oven Thermometer – Without an independent oven thermometer, you do not really know what temperature your oven is heating to. Poorly calibrated ovens are pretty common and can wreak havoc with your baked goods. CDN makes several reliable ones; their MOT1 Multi-Mount Oven Thermometer is very highly recommended. It can hang from or be perched on a rack and also has a magnet.
5. Shot-glass Measuring Cup – This looks like a shot glass, but it has measurements printed on the outside ranging from 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, with milliliters measurements as well. It is very practical when measuring small amounts of liquid. Crate & Barrel carries a great one called the Mini Measure.
6. Rubber or Silicone Spatula – Okay, in the old days we called these rubber spatulas (and many people still do) but nowadays most are made of silicone. Either way, these flexible spatulas scrape the last bits out of bowls and bottles, they fold delicate ingredients together and gently stir items in pots on top of the stove. The best baking tools are multi-purpose and these are some of our favorite. We like having an array of sizes from extra small (gets into small bottles), to standard size (great for everything) and extra large, too (perfect for folding egg whites and handling large quantities of food).
7. Icing Spatulas (offset and straight) – The “other” spatula for the baking kitchen. They are inexpensive and it pays to have short, long, straight and offset versions if you do a lot of baking. We use them to apply frosting on tiny cupcakes as well as giant wedding cakes, to smooth thick batter in pans for a leveled layer that allows the dessert to bake evenly, and to loosen a cake’s sides from its pan for easier unmolding.
8. Whisks – Whisks come in several different shapes, and they all serve their own purpose, so we recommend having a variety at your disposal in the kitchen. A balloon whisk with a large, bulbous end is best for large amounts of ingredients. We like to use this shape to help start the folding process when making angel food cakes, for instance, or when folding large amounts of whipped cream into mousses, then we finish off with a silicone spatula. Whisks with a more narrow profile are great for using in pots and pans. Their slender shape makes them a more agile choice when whisking lemon curd or pastry cream on top of the stove. We use an assortment of metal whisks, as well as whisks with silicone-coated wire that scrapes the sides of a bowl like a spatula.
9. Silicone Pastry Brush – Silicone transformed the pastry brush. The old-fashioned type with natural or nylon bristles not only shed but also held onto flavors and colors. If you used one for BBQ sauce or a strong curry, forget using it for a delicate apricot glaze the next day, even after thorough washing. Silicone brushes clean up perfectly in the dishwasher with no residual trace of flavors or pigment and they don’t shed! They come in various sizes, but for the pastry kitchen, look for ones with delicate “bristles” such as the one shown.
10. Bench Scraper – Ah, we love a simple baking tool that has multiple uses and simply gets the job done! Bench scrapers scoop up ingredients to transfer to bowls, aid in cutting brownies and bars and make for easy clean up. After you have dusted your work surface with flour to roll out pastry, the bench scraper gets every last bit of flour and dough up off of the surface at the end. Especially if dough sticks to the surface, it is excellent at getting that up, too. When we chop nuts, the bench scraper scoops them and transfers them to batters and doughs and then easily scrapes up all the little powdery bits left on the table. These are one of those items where once you have one handy, you will use it again and again.