Baking is a science and every scientist needs the right tools for the job. Here are ten basics that will take your baking game to the next level.
1. Sturdy Measuring Cups and Spoons
Precise measurements are the foundation of successful baking. I prefer metal for my dry measuring cups and spoons because it's nearly unbreakable and won't melt if you leave your set a little too close to your oven vent. Oops! Liquid measuring cups come in both glass and plastic, but I prefer glass because it resists staining and doesn't absorb odors and flavors.
2. Offset Spatulas
Offset spatulas are a great all-purpose tool for the pastry chef. They can lift fragile cookies from a baking sheet, perfectly smooth cake batter in a large pan, and delicately dollop frosting onto your favorite birthday cake.
3. Portion Scoops
It's impossible to perfectly bake treats when they're all different sizes! Perfectly portioned cookies, cupcakes and muffins are more than just pretty, they're a must!
We use bench scrapers all the time in our cooking classes at The Chopping Block. They're a safe way to move food around the kitchen, clean your work surface, and make it easy to divide doughs. Bowl scrapers help you eek every last bit of batter out of your mixing bowl - no cookies left behind!
5. Flavor Enhancers - Juicer and Microplane
There is no substitute for fresh citrus juice in a recipe, and a lemon squeezer is the easiest way to get it. I used a citrus reamer for years, but have been totally won over by the squeezer. It's mechanical set-up makes it a lot easier to extract juice from really firm citrus fruits without resorting to rolling it on the counter or zapping it in the microwave. The Microplane allows you to add lots of citrus flavor to recipes where juice isn't an option. By removing just the oily, thin outer skin of the fruit it adds a ton of flavor without a lot of acid or moisture.
6. Pastry Blender
I like to use a food processor to make our Perfect Pie Crust (for our Famous Apple Pie) but if you don't have one you will need a pastry blender for all of those beautiful summer pies on your Pinterest page. The thin metal blades are perfect for cutting fat into flour for fabulously flaky crusts.
7. Straight Rolling Pin
A rolling pin is a staple for most home bakers, but not many are familiar with this simple version loved by professionals. Because this pin has no handles, it has a much wider rolling surface (great for covering large cakes with fondant!) and gives you a lot more control because your hands are directly on the rolling surface.
8. Pie Weights
A lot of pie and tart recipes call for "blind baking" an empty bottom crust, but it's hard to keep a good crust down! Crust alone will rise up and create an uneven bottom and take up valuable space that should be occupied by tasty filling. Keep things under control with pie weights, these metal or ceramic beads provide just enough weight to keep your bottom crust where it belongs and can be reused over and over again.
9. Circle Cutters
These cutters can be used on everything - cake, cookie dough, fondant, gum paste, and to make almost anything. Get a set with a wide variety of sizes and you'll be making petits fours and mini quiches in no time.
10. Piping Tips
The only thing better than a sweet treat is a sweet treat covered in frosting! While there are hundreds of specialized piping tips out there, you can do miracles with two simple graduated sets: star and plain round. These two basic shapes in various sizes will go far.
Have questions about any of these great tools or how to use them? Stop in at either one of our locations and talk to us. Even better, come check our our All American Pie Workshop on July 10th at Lincoln Square and try them out yourself! Our Pie & Tart Boot Camp and Baking Boot Campreturn in the fall, so register now for an early spot.