You need only a few baking utensils to make pastry, bake a cake, bread or muffins, so the initial outlay is low, but benefits are much higher. Baking not only warms the kitchen but also the heart. It's a known fact that if you are staging your home to sell it, just throw a cinnamon-laced dish in the oven when a possible buyer is coming to see the place. The spicy aroma is sure to win them over, because they can't resist that welcoming feel that baking gives a home.
But there are other reasons why people bake - to save on their food budget and to control the additives that go into their food. And some, just love to bake - love doing it, like the baking results and get much satisfaction out of the family enjoying the baked treats too.
Whether you plan to bake a little or a lot, there are some essential baking utensils you'll need to accomplish your baking tasks. Of course, there are a few appliances that can also help with your baking and I'll address these a little too. Though you can bake without them, they are time-savers and those minutes can surely add up. They also help if you have problem hands and need a little more muscle to mix and knead.
Rolling pins come in all sizes, lengths and types of materials, but the most common are wooden pins with or without handles. There are also silicone pins as well as fancy (pattern-making) models for specific tasks. Regardless of the type of pin you choose, it's a matter of getting used to the feel of it and how much flour it needs to keep the dough from sticking to it. You need a rolling pin if you intend on making pastry, tea biscuits, cut-out cookies, donuts and other delicacies, but not for cakes, breads, muffins or squares. When choosing a pin, consider the length - if you plan on making large pies or several butter tarts, you might want to get a longer one, so you can roll out a larger pastry. That being said, a shorter pin (less pastry) is easier to handle and roll, if you're new to baking.
Whether you bake a lot or only on special occasions, at least one or two large mixing bowls are a must. You can use any type of bowl - plastic, ceramic, glass or stainless, as long as you have enough room to mix the amount of ingredients. If you plan on making several loaves of bread, you would need an extra large bowl for mixing the dough to the point where you turn the dough out onto a board to knead. You'll more likely want to have more than a couple of mixing bowls and different sizes are very practical. When it comes to making cakes, many recipes will call for dry ingredients to be mixed in a smaller bowl, to be transfered later into a second, larger bowl that contains the wet ingredients. Mixing bowls are very versatile kitchen equipment that can be used for serving dishes, salads or left-overs.
If you plan on making cut-out cookies - where you roll out the dough with a rolling pin and cut out the cookies - you'll need a few cookie cutters. Likewise if donuts are on your to-do list. A cookie press is used with a simple dough recipe to make pressed or formed dainty cookies, more commonly enjoyed around the holidays. Presses are easy and fun to use, and results look amazing. Cutters and presses are economical to buy and very durable. Rosettes are a different kind of cookie, deep fried using a rosette or timbale iron.
Baking pans come in various sizes and shapes from sheets for baking cookies, pans for cakes, bread or muffins to shaped or Bundt cake pans. If you want to bake a variety of goods, you'll probably need one or two of each type. For cakes and dessert mixes, you should have a 9"x13" pan for standard cakes, as well as an 8" or 9" square pan for smaller mixes. While cookie baking sheets are tin or stainless, you'll need to decide between silicone, tin or glass for cake and bread pans. Muffin tins are available in tin or silicone. Tin pans come in either plain or with a nonstick coating which helps with food removal and clean-up, but these pans require more care. Silicone bakeware is popular with some and not so with others. If you do try out silicone pans, follow my tips for best results and remember that they are not nonstick and should be greased before using as you would do with a tin pan.
In order to follow any baking recipe, measuring cups and spoons are essential. You'll also find that having duplicate cups can be very handy. You can choose any type of measuring cups and spoons in plastic, stainless or glass, and you'll find the see-through (glass) one, two and four-cup measuring cups very practical for baking and cooking. Standard measuring cup sets usually have a 1-cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup and 1/4-cup measures - and you will use these different sizes depending on the recipe.
The term spatula refers to several types of kitchen utensils including: rubber or silicone tools to blend or scrape the food from the bowl; metal, silicone or plastic egg turners or flippers. You need at least a couple of rubber or silicone spatulas to scrape the bowl, as well as a small metal spatula to serve desserts. A few wooden spoons for mixing and blending are also handy. An icing spatula, which is a long flat off-set knife, makes it easier to ice a cake. A couple of wire or silicone whisks are also very practical baking utensils.
You can simply use the range timer if your's is so equipped, but having a small minute timer can be very practical. It allows you to take the timer outdoors with you or to another room, so you can hear it and know that you should check or remove your baking. Having more than one timer is handy when you are cooking and baking.
There are various types of thermometers, but the most common one used in baking is a candy thermometer if you plan on making candies, chocolates or boiled frostings.
While you can just cool cakes or breads by removing from the pan onto a board, the bottom of the baked goods tends to become soggy. But if you use a cooling rack, the baking cools evenly because air can flow around it. If you want to make it easier to store, choose a cooling rack size based on the type of baking items you usually bake.
While they sound similar and are often referred to as the same type of pastry tool, a blender is somewhat different than a cutter. A pastry blender is used during the mixing of the pastry dough. It also has lots of other applications, such as blending the flour, sugar and butter for a fruit crisp or mashing boiled eggs for egg salad. A pastry blender is a basic essential tool for mixing pastry.
A pastry cutter on the other hand, is used after the dough has been rolled, to cut out shapes as you would do with cookie cutters, or to cut strips of dough with a rotaty-type of cutter, for fancy pie crust tops or other pastry delicacies. Depending on the type of baking you will be doing, you may find having a pastry cutter very convenient.
Some home bakers cannot be without parchment paper to line their baking sheets and pans, while others tend to grease the tins. Parchment paper helps with cake removal, does make pan cleaning quicker and it keeps them from discoloring.
Muffin liners are big on convenience, cleaning and ease of handling. Their low cost makes them very affordable and worth having on hand for cupcakes and muffins.
Silicone baking sheet liners are an alternative to using parchment paper in flat baking sheets. They have become very popular because they help the cookies to bake thoroughly and evenly, while keeping pans easy to clean.
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