Here is my list of necessary baking equipment and tools, to acquire if you are starting out to bake. A must-have for all bakers!
1. A good oven: Convection ovens without microwaves are recommended. These bake faster than standard baking (OTG) ovens, and because most of them have an inbuilt fan, they give an even bake and color to your end product.
The criteria to select your oven should be based on the following:
– Space allocation: Area where the oven will be placed. Choose an oven size as per the available space.
– Frequency of use: Are you baking daily or in large batches? If you bake for orders then you need an oven that will accommodate larger cake tins or cookie trays.
– The budget: Frankly, there is an array of the types of ovens you can acquire; from simple OTGs to convections and fast baking ovens. Select the best oven within your price range and look out for brands that offer efficient after-sales service, give trial demonstrations and have a reasonable warranty time limit.
– Features: Check out the features of the oven you are selecting, go to the showroom and test it out before you decide on the oven you want. Select a model that offers top and bottom heating. Many modern OTGs have fans too and are quite consistent in their baking results.
2. Electric hand mixer or table top stand mixer: This is an essential piece of equipment, if you are planning to bake regularly. Hand mixers should have high wattage so that they can work for a longer span of time without heating or getting damaged.
Table top or stand mixers are a boon for an avid baker, though priced at the higher end, these are a baker’s collector’s item! I advise you to go for these if you bake regularly. They do the mixing evenly and beautifully for cakes and cookies and even combine a perfect bread or pie dough. The upside is that they mix in larger batches of baked goods, and while you work on these you can look at other prep or alternative work as the mixer churns by itself.
3. Weighing scale: Digital ingredient weighing scales are a must for consistent baking with accurate results. Measuring all your tried and tested recipes with the metric system is the best habit you can develop as you move towards becoming a savvy and professional baker.
4. Grinder or blender; mini food processor: To quickly chop and shred chocolate and fruits. Handy to make nut pastes and spice powders.
5. Measuring cups, spoons and jug: These are necessary not only to dispense the ingredients but also when you are about to any test a recipe with volumetric (cups) measurements. Personally, I always measure the smaller quantities (like extracts, baking powder, salt, cinnamon powder and more) by the measuring spoons and make a note of their weight in grams too. A measuring jug helps in dispensing the perfect amount of liquids in ml or liters.
6. Whisk, palette knife and spatula: A sturdy stainless steel hand whisk is a baker’s handy tool to remove lumps, evenly and quickly blend in brownies or tea cakes. A flat palette knife is useful for not only frosting or finishing perfectly iced cakes but also lifting of baked cookies and loosening the sides of cakes and brownies form the edges of the tin. Oh, the spatula! What will we do without this super handy and malleable tool that helps cut and fold cake batters and also mix in all your additional ingredients. Keep a couple of these in your baking pantry, one with a soft silicon tip blade and another non-bending plastic kind. The best work a soft bladed silicone spatula does is to clean your bowls completely when you over turn the batter from it, into a baking tin.
7. Sieve or flour sifter: Make it a habit to sift your flours and powders before you use them. This helps remove any lumps or foreign particles and also aerates the flours to give an efficient bake. Find a large stainless steel sieve with a finer mesh size.
8. Mixing bowls: Keep your baking bowls separate from the cooking utensils. A set of different sized bowls is very handy. Choose any kind; stainless steel, food grade plastic or silicone bowls.
9. A range of cutlery: Small knife for paring or slicing fruit, larger sharp knife to cut chocolate and dry fruits, a large cleaver is helpful too. Spoons and ladles to taste and add ingredients. A fork to mark indentations in pie dough and cookies; or make grooves in your frostings. A long serrated knife or a bread knife to slice layers of cakes and crusty freshly baked bread.
10. A metal skewer: Find one and keep as your best companion to test all your cakes and baked goods for doneness.
11. Baking tins and trays: These are the must-have baking tin sizes: 6- inch round tin, 8- inch round and square tin, 9- inch pie tin with a loose bottom, 12 cupcake tins or muffin tins of medium size, bread tin and a cookie tray if you have not got one with your oven. Choose metal tins or black anodized tins but remember to grease and line any tin you use for effective release of your baked product. Remember, even silicon molds have to be lightly sprayed or greased with baking fat.
12. Baking parchment or butter paper and cupcake liners: A golden rule is to line every cake tin with baking paper along with light application of grease, for foolproof release of the baked cake. Make your own icing cones with stand-by supply of butter paper.
Always line your cupcake tins with a bit of grease and then tuck in a cupcake paper liner. Cupcake liners are often separate from designed or themed cupcake wrappers which are used to place the iced cupcake before serving.
13. Icing bags and nozzles: Keep a range of icing nozzles and disposable icing bags if you ice and decorate cakes.
14. Miscellaneous tools: Kitchen scissors, pizza cutter, dough scraper, cake comb, cake slice lifter, turntable for icing cakes, can or tin opener, grater and vegetable peeler are a few tools that are helpful in a baker’s kitchen. An ice cream scoop to get even sized cookie dough balls. Pastry brush to smear a glaze or egg wash on cakes and pies. Small strainer to dust icing sugar and cocoa, as well as to strain juice.
15. Cooling rack or tray: Essential to evenly cool your hot and freshly baked product, to prevent sogginess from the bottom.
16. A metal measuring scale/ruler: To evenly mark out and cut brownies and cake slices.
17. Syrup dispenser: Use a plastic bottle that dispenses ketchup or sauces to soak your cakes and puddings evenly.