Baking is an exact science… most of the time. While I do much improvisation in the kitchen (it is difficult to follow a recipe without adding my own spin), baking is a delicate balance, and requires precision. And so I present to you, my eight top baking utensils. These tools are a must-have to make at-home baking more accurate, more enjoyable and more tasty!
The 8 Essentials are:
- Oven Thermometer
- Pastry Bag & Tips Set
- Fine Mesh Strainer
- Hand Mixer
- Glass Jars
Let’s get into it!
When making my grandfather’s cookie recipes, I always use a scale. Weighing ingredients provides for a much higher level of accuracy and consistency, particularly if you are making smaller or larger batches than the original.
Here’s a solid starter scale on Amazon. As you get more comfortable measuring by scale, it may be worthwhile to invest in a scale that provides two decimals when measuring in grams (1.25 g for example).
Using a scale is my preference for baking. Besides the obvious accuracy of measuring with a scale vs. attempting to perfectly level 3 cups of flour, it makes clean up much faster!
2. OVEN THERMOMETER
Again, baking is an exact science. Sure, you can ~set~ your oven to 350 degrees, but how do you know it actually ~is~ 350 degrees? Enter the oven thermometer.
Oftentimes, ovens run a little hot, or a little cold. Recently, I’ve noticed the oven in our apartment running hot. Thankfully, I can check my oven thermometer before putting anything in the oven. By checking the thermometer and adjusting the oven temp, I can get an accurate temperature every time I bake.
3. ZESTER — MICROPLANE
I’ll admit, zest is one of my most favorite baking ingredients. I love dessert, but am NOT a fan of anything overly sweet. Citrus zest is a relatively foolproof way to balance out the sweetness of your favorite dessert with a fresh burst of acidity.
Have a good zester on hand to lighten up any dish, sweet or savory!
- Orange Zest to Chocolate.
- Lemon Zest to Vanilla.
- Lime or Grapefruit Zest to Berries & Fruit.
4. PASTRY BAGS & TIPS SET
Most commonly, I use my pastry bags and tips for decorating cakes. However, there are some cookies I make that utilize the pastry bags to form the cookies.
Pastry bags and tips can also be used in savory cooking. In general, they are beneficial to have on hand when you feel like dressing things up a bit!
This is the exact first pastry bag & tip set I purchased. The tips are small, which is ideal for learning how to pipe. It’s easier to manage the frosting in small amounts, just make sure your buttercream/frosting is well mixed so nothing gets stuck.
I prefer the plastic pastry bags to the stretchy silicone type included in the set. Depending on what you are pastry, the silicone bags have a tendency to stretch more when you are trying to pipe, making it harder to control.
Find some plastic piping bags here. If you are concerned about the throw-away plastic, I’d recommend a canvas piping bag instead. They are durable, will last you literally decades if properly cared for, and don’t oddly stretch and give as the silicone bags tend to do. Find some canvas piping bags here.
5. FINE MESH STRAINER
I have a small version of this strainer and I love it. It use it for many things. The feet on the bottom make it easy to sit over the edge of a bowl and measure directly into. It’s ideal for sifting ingredients. The smaller size is convenient for all recipes, or even just dusting a cake with powdered sugar. Buy it on Amazon here.
6. HAND MIXER
Having a hand mixer ~on hand~ is simply essential. They are small in size, affordable and versatile. The hand mixer I use is this one, from Hamilton Beach. I break it out when I want to whip up a batch of 5 minute homemade whipped cream, semi-homemade buttercream frosting, or when I’m saving time by using a boxed baking mix.
My stand mixer, (this one here), is quite literally, a monster. My kitchen can barely accommodate Esther (yes, SHE has a name) so bringing her down from her home in that awkward cabinet above the refrigerator requires a very good reason. For everything else, I use my hand mixer.
A tip: Be sure to use the single whip when making whipped cream. The beater attachments are not sufficient for incorporating air into the cream and will instead deflate it. Use the beater attachments for baking mixes.
7. GLASS JARS
These are what I use to store my open bags of flour and sugar. Sealing the flour in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid keeps the flour fresh, and prevents pest infestation. Similarly, sealing your open bags of sugar in glass jars deters ants that would otherwise consider the scent of brown sugar wafting from your baking cabinet an open invitation to a downright stampede. Needless to say, if you plan on baking regularly, or even just cooking regularly, invest in (or start collecting) quality sealing glass jars. Plastic is OK, but glass is always preferred.
You MUST have a good set of spatulas to bake. Out of all the essential tools listed here, this one may be the MOST essential. How else can you scrape every bit of cookie dough goodness from the bowl? Accurately measure rapidly melting butter? Imagine tackling a recipe that calls for molasses without a quality spatula… impossible! To scrape down the sides of your mixer when combining wet and dry ingredients?
I digress. Here’s a set of spatulas from Amazon. I like them because they are sturdy, can hold up to being used to scrape glutinous dough, and flexible, meaning they’ll bend to the shape of the bowl, or other container. They come in a variety of sizes and fun colors. I wash mine in the utensil section of the dishwasher and haven’t had any problems.
Additionally, I recommend a set of adorable mini spatulas. These are prime for scraping small jars.
* * * * * *
With these eight indispensable baking tools in tow, you are ready to tackle any baking project the holiday may throw your way! Happy Holidays. Enjoy!