Baking utensils and equipment I just can’t live without
I love spending time in the kitchen. It feels like my haven; I know where everything is, I can prepare amazing food while singing along (badly) to some awesome tunes at the top of my voice, and I’ve got all my lovely equipment that works just how I like it.
At this point I should probably point out that I am a bit of a baking nerd. I love baking shops; my favourite is an amazing locally-run place right round the corner from me called Bert’s (check it out if you’re ever in Brighton, UK) and I swear this place is my mecca. Need a miniature heart-shaped cake tin? How about a vintage-style cupcake stand? Bert’s is the place to go.
Baking has actually been proven to help depression, and I can well believe it. However, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe and realising that one all-important tool is missing. You know the feeling: “curses, I knew I should have bought that zester!”. No? Maybe it’s just me then. But either way, there are some things that no baker’s kitchen should be without, and these are my top 10.
Essential Baking Equipment Top 10
1. Large Ceramic Mixing Bowl
Why is this my number one? Because if you can’t mix your ingredients together, how are you ever going to make anything?? My Gran has a beautiful ceramic mixing bowl, and so does my mum. Now I do too, and I feel like a proper baker every time I use it.
When I first left home to go to University, my parents did what most parents do: they bought me the basic kitchen kit. Kettle, toaster, cutlery, plates, bowls and a saucepan set. Everything you need, right? Maybe it is when you’re a poor student living on instant noodles and beans on toast, but when I started getting into baking, I realised this was the major thing lacking from my cupboards. I still remember trying to mix up a bread dough in Tupperware tubs…. Aah the memories.
This one from Signature Housewares is the perfect size. The weight keeps it steady when you are beating mixtures, they clean up easily and are virtually indestructible, although don’t hold me to that.
The original and the best. No kitchen is complete without a set of wooden spoons and these are vital for all kinds of baking tasks, from basic butter softening to, well, being super lickable when the cake’s in the oven! While it may seem like the kind of thing you can skimp on, cheap wooden spoons will warp and split with repeated use and washing. Get a nice set and it will last you for life. This range from OXO are of great quality.
3. Kitchen Scales
Unlike regular cooking where I am a big fan of the ‘chuck it in and see what happens’ method, baking often needs a high level of accuracy and precision to work out. So, as with my number one piece of essential baking equipment, you won’t get very far without accurate scales.
A cheap set will only set you back a few dollars/pounds but I have found them to be wildly inaccurate. Investing a little bit more will be totally worth it in the long run. Whether you go for a digital set, a mechanical one or the traditional style (which I love looks wise but aren’t quite as practical), is entirely up to you but make sure they are good quality. The Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale is accurate, resets easily and is moderately priced.
4. Silicone Baking Mat
Oh my, where would I be without a BrightSpring silicone baking mat. Yes, I know, we are BrightSpring so we would say that, but silicone baking mats are useful for a multitude of reasons. The non-stick surface makes them perfect for hassle-free baking, while the fiberglass mesh distributes heat effectively to ensure an even bake and just the right level of browning. The healthy alternative to oils and sprays, these mats are a doddle to clean and will save you scraping and scrubbing at blackened baking trays.
5. Baking Tray/Baking Sheet
While silicone baking mats are a beaut to bake on in terms of non-stick, they are somewhat lacking in rigidity. For this reason, you will need a baking tray/baking sheet to put it on! You will use your baking tray regularly without even realising it: the unsung heroes of the kitchen that no-one can live without.
6. Muffin Tray
Useful for loads of stuff. Muffins (duh), fairy cakes, Yorkshire puddings, little individual desserts, baked ham-and-egg cups (these are obscenely delicious and I will be posting a recipe one of these days) to name just a few. Get a nice non-stick set, and silicone is an option too. This Wilton Recipe Right Muffin Pan is non-stick and looks stylish.
Mixing, scraping, folding, spreading, smoothing, stirring, some more esses… You name it, these little devils can do it, and usually with far less fuss than traditional utensils. While I will admit that in certain situations, nothing will beat a good old fashioned wooden spoon (see number 2), a lot of the time I will turn to these instead. They are super-cheap and a basic set is all you need.
8. Cookie Cutters
Obviously great for cutting out cookies and biscuits, they are also useful for making individual pies (ooh mince pie season soon), stacking food in a neat circle if you’re feeling all master-chef-y and a multitude of other things. Try to get a circular set of varying sizes with both smooth and serrated edges.
Other shapes are available if you’re into that sort of thing, and it’s always nice to have some entertainingly shaped cutters lying around. These days you can actually get some pretty imaginative ones too, so you’re not limited to the basic stars and hearts of yesteryear. For example, I have some Tetris ones which I LOVE.
For a standard cookie cutter, the Ateco Cookie Cutter Set is neat set of different sized cutters.
9. Cooling Rack
Soggy bottom, anyone? No? Well without a cooling rack, the land of the soggy underside will be yours forever.
You can pick up a non-stick cooling rack set of two from Baker’s Secret for under $20.
10. Wire Balloon Whisk
So many recipes will call for aeration of ingredients. By trapping air into a mixture or batter, you are helping it to rise resulting in light fluffy bakes. A wire balloon whisk may seem old-fashioned, and you can of course get yourself an electric mixer, but I find it is much easier to ensure just the right amount of whisking when doing it by hand: remember, over-whisking can be just as harmful as under. So man up, engage those arm muscles and get whisking. As a plus, it really helps fight the old bingo wings. Win-win. Again, OXO have a great product to meet these needs and is our whisk of choice.
11. Piping bag and nozzles
In my opinion you can make anything beautiful with a piping bag and a bit of imagination. Whether to go for the disposable plastic bags or re-useable fabric ones is a personal choice, but get a good selection of nozzles in varying shapes and sizes like this set from Nopro. You will find yourself using these for far more than just cake decorating.