“A good craftsman never blames his tools”. There is some truth to this quote but I don’t know if I fully agree with the saying. The equipment you use makes a big difference. The combination of a good technique, and proper tools and equipment ensures consistent results and success. Although a good cook or chef’s ability is innate, being able to select important tools and pick one that does the job will allow that ability to shine through and make things more enjoyable. Enjoying baking and having fun will make people want to do it more and eventually get better at it. It’s a fun cycle!
Every pastry chef, cook or avid baker will tell you that baking is an exact science and they are right. I’ve compiled a list as a guide of thingamabobs that I always use when baking. There is nothing listed that is out of reach for a beginner baker and depending on how often you bake or how serious you are. You may want to stock up on some tools of the trade. Here are my top 5 basic baking tools to have in your kitchen.
Two things that say it all: fast and accurate. A quality, accurate scale is definitely at the top of my list. Having a digital scale allows for accuracy and consistency. It measures all types of ingredients, even liquid or solid. It does not matter the state the ingredient is in, whether it’s packed, sifted, melted or not. It is also consistent across international standards so cooking based on weight rather than volume is more accurate.
Why is accuracy important? Bakers are almost like chemists; we add and use particular ingredients not only for flavour but for their chemical reactions and physical properties as well. Previously, I discussed the importance of accuracy for weighing ingredients needed in making a meringue or a straight mix cake procedure. The quantities are specific to balance a recipe, which will assist in achieving a particular result. The more accurate you are, the higher the chance of a successfully baked product. The digital scale will ensure this. Although they are up to twice the price of measuring cups and spoons, a digital scale is definitely worth the investment.
The rubber spatula does almost the same things that the plastic scraper can do but I find that both tools are almost always used when I’m baking. On top of a rubber spatula being a handy tool to scrape off all the last bits and pieces in your bowl, they also allow for you to fold cakes, meringues and batters delicately (especially smaller batches). Being able to scrape the bowl cleanly means that you are able to incorporate ingredients well. Pick a spatula with a firm sturdy spine and handle, with a silicon head that is flexible, while not too flimsy around the edges. A heat resistant one is also very good for stirring mixtures and cooking over the stove.
This will be your best friend for speedy incorporation of ingredients; it will create lump free mixtures in a jiffy, incorporate air into creams or make emulsions. It’s just like multiplying your hands by the number of wires you see on your whisk.
Baking pans and trays
These are essential tools since you will need something to bake on. The most basic are flat trays which are great for cookies, and sheet cakes or roulades. A rectangular baking pan is designed for brownies, slices, cakes and even pastry. As you move forward and progress onto more difficult recipes, experimenting on new techniques and being more adventurous, you can buy different trays as you need them. Try to get basic shapes first that you can use for multiple purposes, from tarts to cakes and flans (like bottomless round cake rings or basic square pans) rather than intricate, specific-purpose pans like bundt or kougelhopf pans (unless you’re making lots of them).
With baking paper, you don’t need to worry whether your pan is non-stick or not. This is by far the fastest way to ensure that removing your baked goodies from a tray or a baking pan can be done in a jiffy. The use of baking paper allows you to skip the step of greasing and flouring your baking pan. On top of that, if you are freezing dough or some fruit for future use, baking paper ensures they don’t stick on the tray as well. Note that it’s also known as silicon paper in some recipe books.
These are the 5 most basic baking tools that will get you started. To ensure success read on to see the next 5 most essential kitchen equipment and tools to ensure baking success and consistency here
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