Ideas & Inspiration
Everything You Need to Bake Like a Pro
Filling your home with the aroma of freshly baked cookies, treating loved ones to ornate cakes, enjoying a sandwich served on slices from a homemade loaf – what’s not to love? Baking is a true science; one that requires precision and consistency. The trick to perfecting each pie, bread or bar is not only to use a great recipe, but to keep a set of tools on hand that will make any bake a breeze. This guide will walk you through every gadget and piece of bakeware you need in your kitchen to bake like a pro.
A stand mixer does take up considerable counter space, so sometimes it’s not at the top of every home cook’s must-have list. However, if you are an avid baker, you should own one. Stand mixers make doughy projects more doable, so you’ll be able to make pizza dough, cookies, cakes and breads day in and out. Bowl sizes generally range from 3.5 to 8-quarts. For most home bakers, we recommend a 5-quart size.
Mixing bowls are essentials for any home cook. Metal mixing bowls are lighter than glass bowls and aren’t at all breakable. You can fill them, mix with vigor and get the right angle when you’re working on creating stiff peaks and evenly folded batter. They’ll help when you’re making a plentiful salad, marinating a piece of meat and prepping a stir fry. Though large metal bowls deftly take on all of these tasks, they are especially helpful when it comes to baking.
Every baking recipe will call for wet and dry ingredients. Often, you’re instructed to measure them carefully before mixing together. You’ll need measuring cups, and you should be using one set for wet ingredients and another set for dry.
- Wet ingredient measuring cups should be clear, either glass or plastic. They will have markings on the side to allow you to assess volume while you pour.
- Dry ingredient measuring cups are used to measure things like flour and sugar. You’re meant to scoop or carefully spoon dry ingredients into these measuring cups, filling them all the way to the top. Get a set that includes 1cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup.
- Just as important as your dry and wet ingredient measuring cups is a reliable set of measuring spoons. These will help you get accurate measurements of ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, spices and seasoning.
Measuring cups and spoons work for most baking projects, since many recipes call for portioning using volume (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons). However, a great number of pro bakers prefer to measure their ingredients by weight using a digital scale. This is the most accurate way to assess portion. If you find yourself using recipes that measure in grams, you’ll definitely want a digital scale around.
TIP: Bread baking is a precise science that involves few ingredients, so a digital scale is a must-have for exact measurements.
- A kitchen classic that goes far beyond baking, the wooden spoon is a tried and true utensil. It mixes wet and dry goods efficiently and thoroughly, and is non-reactive, so you’ll be able to rest assured that you aren’t altering your baked goods’ chemical balance.
- A 10-inch offset spatula works well for frosting cakes, while a smaller-sized one will help you with other day-to-day tasks like spreading condiments, loosening foods from pans and supporting slices of things like quiche or casserole.
- If you’re looking to bake like a pro, you can’t do without a whisk. They help mix dry ingredients thoroughly and support aeration when you’re combining dry and wet ingredients. Thanks to their slotted quality, whisks are efficient in mixing together every last speck within a batter, and they are surprisingly handy for breaking up eggs.
- A true baking pro will have two spatulas in their arsenal. One should be a traditional spatula, ideally a silicone material with ample flexibility. This will be your go-to for cleaning out bowls and getting every drop of batter or dough into the pan.
- The second sort of spatula you ought to have is an offset, or small angled spatula. These are effectively over-sized butter knives and are the key to spreading icing onto a cake. They’re also helpful when you’re trying to loosen a baked good from a tin or lift a sticking cookie from a baking sheet.
If you’re trying to bake like a pro, you’ll need a digital candy/sugar thermometer. These can handle heat levels that are more extreme than those a meat thermometer can take on, which is essential when you’re working with sugars. Whether you’re making a caramel, a brittle sugar candy, an Itailan buttercream or an eggy cream sauce, you’ll need to be able to monitor the temperature. Baking can be extremely technical, so this tool is a must to get things just right.
Tip: Because it can handle the highest of temperatures, a digital candy/sugar thermometer can help you out on meat projects, too. No need to keep multiple thermometers in your kitchen drawer.
If you like to bake cookies or scones regularly, you’ll know how annoying it can be when your finished baked good sticks to the tray – your baked good is damaged and you’re left with crumbles to clean up.
- Silicone baking mats clear up fears of sticking, make cleanup much easier an help with uniform baking. Some pans have hot spots, or regions that heat faster than others, that lead to inconsistent baking and can cause treats to stick to the pan. Silicone baking mats help regulate and even out heat distribution resolving these issues.
- Parchment paper helps prevent sticking. Parchment paper also has many other benefits. Use it for lining the sides of cake pans and muffin tins, creating a DIY funnel and covering doughs when rolling them out to help avoid sticking or cooking fish or vegetables “en papilotte” (a method where food steams inside of the paper).
- Cooling racks are a no-brainer for baking. Use them to ensure your baked goods cool evenly and maintain the perfect texture. They’re an essential tool if you’re glazing and frosting cookies and small cakes. Cooling racks also drain fried foods and are great for cooking anything that needs to get crispy in the oven.
TIP: Whether you opt for a silicone mat or parchment paper, these tools are a great help for making baked goods, roasting vegetables or toasting seasoned nuts.
Cake pans and brownie pans cook anything that has a bit of height to it. Ideally, your kitchen will house both an 8-inch and 9-inch pan. They come in square, rectangular and round shapes. If storage space is a concern, a square shape should have you covered, but keeping a few options around will expand your baking repertoire.
- Large baking pans are a size up from the cake and brownie pan. 9 inch x 13 inch baking pans are great for large batches of brownies, sheet cakes and casseroles.
- Loaf pans come in a variety of materials including glass, ceramic and metal. Use these to make banana bread, olive oil loaves and many sorts of savory breads (both quick breads and yeasted ones).
- Springform cake pans are a gamechanger for any baker. A springboard cake pan boasts a sturdy metal plate base and walls that consist of a ring with a spring that can be loosened to release. You can confidently spring the cake’s base from the pan with no worries of sticking. For delicate cakes that tend to cling to the walls of a pan, you need this tool. They’re absolutely required for making cheesecake.
- A Bundt pan makes a cake that has a specific shape – round with a whole in the middle. There are many Bundt cake recipes out there varying in looks, texture and flavor. They range from angel food cake to dense loaves. Most of these recipes can be made in a baking pan as well, but for a baker who wants all the options at their fingertips, these pans are a must.
- Half sheet pans are extremely versatile. Also known as jellyroll pans, these “pans,” are truly baking sheets, generally 12 inches x 16 inches in size with a slight rim. Use them for baking cookies, making bars, thin cakes and, of course, jellyrolls.
- Though you can make cookies on a half sheet pan, you really should have at least one large cookie sheet in your kitchen. Their rimless quality is designed to slide cookies right off the pan, and they are generally wider than other pans, meaning you can make large batches of cookies at once.
- You need at least two sets of muffin tins to bake muffins, cupcakes and so much more.
- No baker can survive without at least one or two great pie dishes or tart pans. Use glass ones to make pie and take advantage of seeing how done the crust is. Use charming designed ones when presentation is key.