- Baking Fundamentals Lesson #2: Basic Baking Equipment and their Proper Uses
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Essential Baking Equipment Lesson Overview:
Over the years I have gone through stages with my baking tools. At one time my kitchen was filled with every kind of baking gadget and tool you could ever think of. Then at some point I went through a big purging stage and scaled back to the essentials. The truth is, there really are only a few tools that are absolutely essential for baking.
In this lesson, I want to review the absolute essential baking equipment your kitchen needs. I also want to review their proper uses, because believe it or not, a whisk is not an all purpose mixing tool.
The following is all of the baking equipment you will need for every course you will take in Baking School. Each individual course will also have some additional specialty equipment that might be needed for that specific topic.
Watch the Video Lesson
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- What I Recommend: I have an unbranded kitchen scale that I bought many years ago, but professionally I have used and can recommend the Maier Digital Weight Touch Sensitive Kitchen Scale
- Uses for a Kitchen Scale: Accurately measuring out ingredients by weight instead of by volume, Dividing a dough into equal parts
Why It’s Essential: As you go through the courses here in Baking School, I will reiterate over and over again how much I want you to start measuring your ingredients by weight instead of by volume. Measuring by weight is a much more accurate way of measuring and since baking is an exact science, it really is important.
A kitchen scale is a relatively small investment and truly invaluable in a baker’s kitchen. I’ve had my kitchen scale for years and have truly grown to love measuring this way. Especially if you are following the steps in our previous lesson, mise en place, and measuring out all of you ingredients before you bake! This eliminates the need to dirty up all of your measuring cups!
Measuring Cups & Spoons
- What I Have: Pyrex Liquid Measuring Cups & Accmor Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Uses for Measuring Cups: Measuring ingredients by volume
Why It’s Essential: While I fully advocate for measuring ingredients by weight instead of by volume whenever possible, measuring cups do still have their uses. Many baking recipes are not written in weight measurements. I will also fully admit that there are some quick throw together recipes (ahem, late night cookies) where I use my measuring cups instead of a scale as well. Spices and extracts are also typically measured with measuring spoons instead of by weight.
You will want to have two kinds of measuring cups: liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups, in addition to measuring spoons. While these two styles of cups do measure the same amount by volume, they are designed to function differently. And if you are going to measure by volume you will do it most accurately by using the proper cups.
Note: We will review how to properly measure by volume in lesson #5.
Mixer (Hand or Stand)
- What I Have: Oster Hand Mixer & Kitchenaid Professional Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer
- Uses for a Mixer: Whipping cream, Whipping egg whites, Creaming butter, Mixing cake batter, Mixing cookie dough, Making buttercream, Many other uses…
Why It’s Essential: A hand mixer is a fairly inexpensive investment and will get you by with most all baking uses where a mixer is called for. A stand mixer is very nice to have, especially if you are an avid baker, but it is not essential.
I’m all about making it work in the kitchen and have whipped many egg whites by hand, however there are just some baking applications where a mixer truly is needed. You will never be able to cream butter properly without a mixer. Stock your kitchen with either a hand mixer or a stand mixer. You really don’t need both.
Note: If your mixer has different attachments, they are used for different kinds of mixing.
A whisk attachment is only used when you are wanting to incorporate air and volume into your ingredients. Whisk attachments are used when recipes state things like: “whip” or “whisk”.
A paddle attachment is an all purpose mixing attachment. It is used to cream together butter and sugar and for general mixing purposes. It should be used when recipes state things like: “beat,” “combine,” or “mix together.”
A dough hook attachment is used when kneading dough with your mixer.
- What I Have: Set of 3 Stainless Steel Whisks
- Uses for Whisks : Whipping air into eggs and heavy cream, Thoroughly combining dry ingredients, Aerating flour in lieu of sifting
Why It’s Essential: While a whisk is an essential baking tool it is not an all-purpose mixing tool. Whisks work well to create a smooth texture but they also beat air into ingredients. This is desirable at times, but there are also many instances where this is not desirable.
Use a whisk to mix eggs to make them smooth, to whip air into egg whites or heavy cream, to create emulsions like when making ganache or hollandaise, to thoroughly combine dry ingredients, and to aerate flour in lieu of sifting it.
In general, do not use a whisk for mixing wet and dry ingredients together for delicate baked goods or when you are folding egg foams into a batter. We will go over this in more depth as the instances come up in the other sections of Baking School.
- What I Have: Vollrath Softspoon Rubber Spatulas
- Uses for Rubber Spatulas: Scraping the bottom of the mixing bowl while making batter or dough, Spooning batter into a baking pan, Smoothing out batter in the pan, Scraping the mixing bowl out clean, and many other uses…
Why It’s Essential: In contrast to the whisk, a rubber spatula really is an all-purpose baking tool. I’m not sure I can think of a single thing I bake where I don’t use my rubber spatula at least once.
I prefer the rubber spatulas with the rounded heads that are almost spoon like. But as long as your kitchen includes at least one rubber spatula, you are good to go!
Half Sheet Pans or Cooking Sheets
- What I Own: Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet
- Uses for Sheet Pans: Cookies, Biscuits, Scones, True sheet cakes, Jelly Roll Cakes, Layer under another pan to catch spills and for ease of transfer to and from the oven, Numerous savory uses
Why It’s Essential: Half sheet pans (aka rimmed baking sheets) are my number one must have kitchen item both for baking and savory cooking. I use my sheet pans for absolutely everything and they truly last forever.
I am not a fan of the flimsy cookie sheets you can buy at target or grocery stores and I truly don’t even own one. That said, if you already have some baking sheets that you use and love, those will do just fine! You just need a couple of baking sheets, and if you need to buy new ones I highly suggest getting the sheet pans.
Half sheet pans conduct heat evenly and the lip around the pan makes it easy to grab and pull from the oven without slipping out of your hand. These pans also work well to set a cake pan or loaf pan on that you are putting into the oven. This ensures that the sheet pan will catch any possible overflow and also makes it easier to pull the baked good from the oven.
- What I Have: Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set & Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowls
- Uses for Mixing Bowls: Mixing EVERYTHING, Measuring out ingredients for your mise en place
Why They’re Essential: For every course you will take in Baking School you are going to need several mixing bowls. I recommend investing in a set that comes with various sizes. I love this stainless steel mixing bowl set because it is inexpensive and comes with a wide variety of sizes.
Sieve or Sifter
- What I Have: Cuisinart Fine Mesh Sieve & MaMix Hand Crank Sifter
- Uses for Sieve & Sifter : Sifting flour & dry ingredients, Straining custards
Why It’s Essential: There will be recipes in every section of baking school that will call either for ingredients to be sifted or for them to be strained through a sieve. If you don’t have either of these tools, I highly suggest investing in the sieve over the sifter because it can be used for both wet and dry ingredients.
- What I Have: Winco Oven Thermometer with Hook
- Uses for Oven Thermometer: To test the temperature of your oven
Why It’s Essential: Every oven varies and very commonly ovens are not calibrated properly. An oven thermometer is the best way to test if your oven is heating to the set temperature, or is running too hot or cold.
Baking temperatures can make or break a recipe. For instance, I know I need to set my oven temperature about 10 degrees F higher than a recipe states because it doesn’t get quite hot enough. An oven thermometer is essential for successful baking.
Other Equipment That is Nice to Have
The following equipment is not essential for every course in baking school but will be helpful in many of the courses. Each course course will come with a list of recommended equipment utilized for the subject.
- 9 x 13″ Baking Pan (for brownies, sheet cakes, coffee cakes, cookie bars, breakfast casseroles, etc…)
- Ramekins (measuring out ingredients, individual souffles, parfaits, mousses, creme brulee, etc…)
- Pastry Blender (cutting in fat for biscuits, scones, pie & pastry crusts)
- Bench Scraper (This is one of my favorite baking tools! Once I got one, I used it ALL THE TIME! I use it for: transferring pastries & bread to baking sheet/dish, scraping bowl clean, scraping counter clean, smoothing out cake icing)
- Cooling Rack (cooling cakes, muffins, cookies, pastries, etc…)
Homework for this Lesson:
As always, the homework is optional but is a good way to practice. In addition to making sure you have all of the essential baking equipment before the next course launches, start thinking about: What is your favorite baking tool? Is it a favorite pan, favorite whisk, or maybe a favorite cookbook? I’d love to know what your “Can’t live without” baking tool is!
My absolute favorite baking tool is my half sheet pans! I once owned an online cookie company and I bought those pans when I first launched. I baked literally thousands of cookies on those pans and every time I use them it reminds me of where I started from! What is your favorite item?