Top Baking Must Haves

Last week I shared with you my top ten kitchen essentials. Now Im going to delve into the baking side of things. What does one really need to bake well?

An oven. Just kidding. Well you DO need one, but anywho

1. A set of good baking sheets. And when I say good, I dont mean top of the line the best you can get. I mean STURDY, made out of good material (nothing too shiny- youll burn your cookies) and built to last. These are my baking sheets. Theyre hand-me-downs, likely older than I am and theyve been put through a lot. But you know what? They do the job! Better than some newer pans Ive had, too. Its not the outside that counts

2. Silpat mat and/or parchment paper. This is absolutely essential for making sure your cookies, loafs and brownies dont stick! And you dont need any icky cooking spray. I always have parchment on hand for smaller pans, but use the silpat for my large baking sheets.

3. Measuring cups and spoons. HERE is where they are super important. You need three types: 1) Dry cups 2) Liquid cup 3) Spoons. The dry cup are your standard 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4-cups. Use these for FLOUR, SUGAR, etc. The dry stuff. Your liquid cup will be used for MILK, WATER, JUICE, etc. The liquid stuff. You dig? And the spoons can and will be used for anything less than 1/4 cup- tablespoons, teaspoons, etc dont have to be liquid/dry specific.

4. Seive or Sifter. This one is important, and I think essential. Because who wants lumpy baked goods? You can get a sifter or seive at the dollar store for next-to-nothing and it will do you well sifting flours and creating that perfect fluffy texture in your baked goods.

5. Six pans: 88, 913, pie, cake (2), loaf, muffin/cupcake.

The 88 will be perfect for small bars and brownies and mini crumbles. The 913 will work well when you want to make more of these. A loaf pan is self-explanatory; perfect for quickbreads and loafs. Cake pans- for cakes, muffin pans for muffins and pie for pies. Pretty simple. You dont need ten-thousand different pans for this and that, you just need what youll use. Dont have a tart pan? Thats cool, use a pie dish- you can also use it for quiche and other savory bakes as well. Most of these are multi-purpose in the kitchen as well.

6. A scale. Not for you, silly! I know, youre still groaning. Do I have to weigh my ingredients? Nope, not if you ingredients come in cups and ounces. But if theyre in grams, youll probably need a scale! If youre really looking to be the best baker there is, youve gotta have a scale and you NEED to measure. Baking is a science!

7. A timer. I usually use my watch. But whatever kind of timer you have works- you just need one, and sometimes two! So have one in addition to your oven timer.

8. Dough scraper. This little handy device costs about $5 and is super important when youre making doughs: I use it mostly for pies and pizza crusts. You need to scrape up the dough that sticks to the counter and incorporate it into the pile. Otherwise youll end up with no dough!

9. Pastry bag & tips. Another that could be debatable, but I find them really, really useful- you can even use them to pipe muffin batter into tins, but using them for decoration (and much easier frosting!) is what I use them for most.

10. Patience. This is the #1 tool youll need. As I said before, baking is a science- things need to be exact. So its ok to check on your baked good after its been in for a reasonable time, and then throw it back in for a few more- but dont check in every five minutes. Youll mess it up! It will throw the oven temperature off and either make your baked goods take longer (and if youre developing a recipe, possibly burn the items for your more-patient followers) or change the consistency of the final product. Neither of which you want!

Note that I didnt add KitchenAid Stand Mixer to the list. Thats for one because I dont have one, and two because I dont think you need one! A hand mixer I got for $50 at a kitchen supply store works well for me, and I think everyone should have one WHEN THEY CAN. However, I dont think its necessary! With a good whisk and a lot of arm power, I am confident the job can be done without a mixer at all!

Other kitchen tools that are essential while baking:

Mixing bowls
Heat-proof spatula
Rolling pin
Oven mitts!