If you’re ready to do a little baking, you’ll be pleased at how few tools are really needed to prepare delicious cookies, cakes, and other treats. You may already have some of what’s needed if you also cook. Baking relies more on careful measurement of ingredients and control of baking times and temperatures than cooking does.
But most baking involves mixing a few dry ingredients together in a bowl, adding liquid to make a batter, and then pouring the batter into a pan. The oven does the rest. All that’s needed at the end is some decorating. A few baked goods don’t even have to come out of the pan until serving time. Somewhat fancier approaches to baking, like making pies and cookies, rely on a similar approach, except the batter is dry enough to be a dough, the dough is cut into shapes, and then either filled with a fruit mixture or decorated before or after cooking.
For a very simple approach to baking, all that’s really needed are some spoons and cups to measure out ingredients, a bowl to mix the ingredients in, and some kind of pan to hold the final mixture in while it’s baking.
If you have teaspoons and soup spoons and regular 8-ounce coffee cups, you don’t need anything else for measuring if you can estimate amounts like half a cup. Almost all recipes use standard measurements of volume: teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups.
Most silverware comes in a standard size, so a serving teaspoon holds the same amount as a standard measuring teaspoon used for baking. Similarly, a soup spoon holds the same amount as a measuring tablespoon. A standard measuring cup holds exactly 8 ounces.
Metal or glass bowls are perfect for mixing, though plastic can also be used. A regular serving tablespoon, if it’s sturdy, or a metal or wooden kitchen spoon ordinarily used for cooking will work well for mixing most ingredients together. If you like, a rubber or plastic spatula can help get every bit of batter out of the mixing bowl and into a cake pan. Some batters are thick enough that an electric mixer will be appreciated. Similarly, it’s very tiring to beat egg whites or whipping cream until they are stiff, even with a whisk that’s designed for that purpose. But a lot of baked goods require only a good mixing with a spoon, and doughs for pie crusts and bread need to be mixed by hand anyway before being rolled out or shaped.
Two of the best all-around pans to own for baking are one for cakes and one for cookies. But if necessary, you can even bake cookies and even pies in a cake pan. If you want to make larger or two-layer cakes, or cook a larger batch of cookies at one time, having more baking pans and cookie sheets will allow you to use your time more efficiently. Baking pans need to be cooled, cleaned, dried and greased before using again. Cookie sheets sometimes only need to be cooled slightly and scraped with a heat-resistant spatula to remove crumbs before baking another batch.
Metal is a good choice for cookie sheets and cake pans. Aluminum reflects heat well, so cakes cook evenly. Nonstick pans are more easily damaged but may be a good investment. You can also use Pyrex (heat-resistant glass) baking pans, or even a casserole dish without the lid on for baking. To start, a very versatile cake pan is one that is 8 or 9 inches wide, either square or round. An 8 by 12 inch rectangular pan is also a useful size. Later, you can pick more sizes and shapes that seem useful.
If your baking plans include making muffins or cupcakes, a muffin tin or two will allow you to do that. These tins are also useful to make mini tarts, baked custards, and even poached eggs. Pie tins are of course designed for baking pies or just the pie crusts for refrigerated pies.
Bread pans are designed to bake loaf breads, including sandwich breads, banana bread, cranberry bread, zucchini bread, and pumpkin bread. To make French bread rolls or loaves, all you need is a cookie sheet.
When you’re ready to get really fancy, all kinds of wonderful baking and decorating tools can be added to your collection. But most of these really amount to icing on the cake!
The Bare Minimum
- Mixing bowls, small and large
- Paring or other small knife
- Cutting board (preferably one that can double as a rolling board)
- Cookie sheet
- Baking pan (cake pan)
- Metal or Teflon (heat-resistant) spatula
- Potholders (2) or oven mitts
Other Useful Tools for Baking
- Another mixing bowl
- Standard set of measuring spoons
- Standard set of measuring cups
- Electric mixer
- Rubber or plastic spatula
- Rolling pin
- Cookie cutters
- Cooking brush, to layer oil or egg white on top of dough
- Other baking pans
- Another cookie sheet
- Muffin tins
- Pie tins
- Bread pan
- Wire cooling rack
- Cake decorating tubes and tips
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