Saturday, November 17, 2012

Essentials and Gifts for Bakers


Around this time each year I begin to get emails from readers asking about my favorite kitchen essentials. Instead of trying to reply individually, I'm going public with my favorites! I use all of these items in my own kitchen. You may even recognize some of them from previous posts on this blog. This is a short list of things that work for me, the "Necessities" keep me functioning and the things "For Fun" keep me inspired.

This is a bit of a departure from my normal posting, but I feel it could be helpful if you've got a special baker on your Christmas list.


Necessities!
This highlights some of my favorite essentials, but is by no means a complete list.  If you're interested in a full list of basics I have one in the front of the SprinkleBakes book.

Rubber spatulas: What would we do without these?!  Super important.  I have about 10 in constant rotation. There's nothing remarkable about the set I own, but they have lasted a good four years without the head coming off the handle. Some of the more expensive versions I've used are already garbage. These seem to be pretty durable.
Cook's Corner 4-Piece Spatula Set - Assorted Colors


Nesting bowls: glass heatproof bowls (like the one pictured above) are an absolute essential and they are easy to store. They are not porous like plastic bowls so meringue always whips perfectly and they will not retain odors. I received this set as a wedding gift 9 years ago, and I reach for them every time I bake. They are a little scratched up these days but I don't plan on replacing them unless they break.
Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set, Clear

Heat-proof 4-cup measure: I use the heck out of this.  Measures liquids accurately and it is heat proof. I love using it to make hard candy in the microwave.
Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup, Clear with Red Measurements

Electric hand mixer:  Hand mixers are affordable and convenient to use.  I have two: a 5 speed KitchenAid and a 7 speed Cuisinart. I reach for the latter most because I like the digital controls and it is a little more powerful.  It's adorably pink and retro, plus it comes with a whip attachment that I love to use when beating egg whites and heavy cream. It is a little noisy, but performs great. You can see me using it in this video with the whip attachment.
Cuisinart CHM-7PK PowerSelect 7-Speed Hand Mixer, Pink



Off-set spatulas: I have several, and you need these to smoothly apply frosting to confections. I own a large 13-inch spatula (though the handle is badly melted from falling on the dishwasher's heating element) and use it most often. I also use a 9-inch for smaller jobs, like frosting cupcakes when I don't feel like fooling with the piping bags.
Wilton 13 Inch Angled Spatula With Black Handle
Wilton 9 Inch Angled Spatula, With Black Handle

Standing mixer:  I use a KitchenAid Artisan 5 quart tilt-head stand mixer. I don't have many complaints about it besides the little bump at the bottom of the bowl (dry ingredients tend to congregate there) - but I'm just being nitpicky.

This is THE gift for serious bakers and a great upgrade for those with only a hand mixer.
KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer



Rolling pin:  I prefer a no-handle French rolling pin. I just do. It's a control thing. I own this rolling pin by Ateco. You could probably also use it as a weapon, as it is very, very sturdy.
Ateco 20 Inch Maple Wood Rolling Pin

Candy thermometer: Okay, pet peeve time. I do not like mercury clip candy thermometers. I'm all for a digital read-out because I can't see the incremental markings on the sides of a mercury thermometer. Even with my glasses on I somehow end up with burned candy.  I like this one.
Taylor 1470 Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer
It's not technically a candy thermometer but it gets the job done every time. It has a metal probe that can be used to test the doneness of meat, but you can also use it on cakes or pies that need to reach a certain internal temperature. The temperature also registers low enough to be a good chocolate thermometer. I really love it MOST for making hard candy because it has an alarm function. Goodbye burned candy!

Springform pans: If I could only choose one type of pan for cakes, I'd choose springform pans because they are multi-functional. They have straight sides and the collar detaches for easy removal. You can use them for regular cake batters, cheesecakes and other molded desserts.  The 9-inch size is most commonly indicated for use in standard cake recipes. I use Nordic Ware springforms in all sizes, but I have three of these and use them often.
Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan, 10 Cup, 9 Inch

I also mention here how much I love my little 7-inch springforms. I love them, I do.  They make cakes look a bit more petite, a bit taller and a little more special all around.  They'll hold batter for a standard 9-inch cake, you just have to bake it slightly longer. Consider them if you have the cabinet space to spare.
 Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan, 7 Inch



Pastry rings: Okay, I waffled a bit calling these "necessities" but they truly are multi-purpose.  I have eight 3-inch diameter rings, which can turn a standard pie recipe into 8 individual serving pies. Tuiles can be shaped over them and they also perfectly double as cookie cutters. Ateco Stainless Steel Round Forms


For FUN!
Kitchen torch/brulee torch:  This isn't something I use very day, but it's a lot of fun when making meringue or toasting marshmallow toppings. I own this one - very basic and has a hands-free setting.  Makes banana pudding look like a work of art.  Super, super, fiery fun.
BonJour Creme Brulee Chef's Culinary Torch with Fuel Gauge, Brushed Aluminum

My torch in action!
Fancy decorator piping tip set:  this is almost an essential in my book, but a zip-top bag with the corner snipped can work in a pinch.  I use this set from Ateco.
Ateco 55-Piece Stainless Steel Decorating Tube Set with Hinged Storage Box



I also own a decorator's essential tool box from Wilton which has lots of useful piping tips and much more inside. I'm including a link to Amazon, but those in the US should look for those "50% off one regular priced item" coupons in the craft store circulars to buy this item. These toolboxes are rarely included in ongoing discounts and using the coupon takes about $50 off!

Rolling pin guide bands: Makes dough uniform. Cookies bake up evenly and look perfect. I use these all the time!

Silicone dessert molds:  I love using molds to give desserts a unique or modern-look. Use it to shape cakes and mold mousse. I have this pyramid mold and use it about three times a year.  Definitely not a necessity, but so much fun. Consider one if you have the cabinet space.
Freshware 6-Cavity Pyramid Silicone Mold and Baking Pan
Pastry comb: You can easily give iced cakes a pretty pattern by using a pastry comb. I own this multi-sided one because you can get multiple effects from one comb.
Ateco Decorating Comb & Icing Smoother



Fun ingredients:
Matcha tea: Certain brands of matcha can get expensive, so I really like Maeda-En baker's grade matcha tea. A little goes a long way!
Maeda-En Matcha - Culinary Quality, 1-Ounce

My favorite sea-salted matcha shortbread
Vanilla bean paste: I love seeing those little flecks of vanilla seeds in my baked goods. This paste is jam-packed with them and I don't have to worry about the freshness and storage of vanilla beans.
Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste - 4 oz.

Valrhona chocolate: This is my favorite chocolate of all time. In all the land. Of ever.
It completely changes the texture of chocolate cakes (for the better), and I always try to have it on hand. An 8 oz. block will usually cover whatever chocolate project I've got up my sleeve.



Valrhona also makes the best little chocolate pearls.  They make a great topping and have a slight crunch because there's a tiny biscuit inside.  I use them here and my pal Darla uses them in this knockout recipe.
Valrhona Chocolate Pearls Dark Chocolate 55% Cacao 12 oz




Sprinkles: I love sprinkles (this is news?) and I love to find a colorful bottle of them in my Christmas stocking.  I always have these two extra special varieties on hand. They make me extra happy.
Wilton(R) Jumbo Rainbow Nonpareils Sprinkles
Wilton Edible Glitter, Gold Stars



Edible gold leaf:  So, this one is a little expensive, and I accidentally bought more than I needed but I'm kinda glad I did.  A little goes a long way and I absolutely love how special it makes desserts look. I'll surely understand if you'd rather spend $50 on a nice gold pendant for your baker friend, but if he/she's a sucker for aesthetically pleasing desserts he/she may prefer the former. Yes, it's a huge splurge (in my book), but I'm seriously set for life with this much gold leaf.


And just for fun...
What I'm asking for this year!

Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, Completely Revised and Updated
So. This has been on my list for a while and so many hold it in high esteem.  I'm looking forward to having this "Best cooking encyclopedia" (Ina Garten), "Bible of cooking" (Anthony Bourdain), "Invaluable tool" (Thomas Keller) on my shelf.

Bodum Bistro Electric 5 Speed Hand Mixer
Like I need another hand mixer. The reviews are a little mixed, but I want to try it for myself.  Hopefully it won't be a return.
It sure does look slick!




Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links.  
Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

28 comments:

La Table De Nana said...

I guess I am a lucky girl..My kitchen..has many..almost all of..these items..not identical of course..
And not that Bodum.
This is a great idea..to post the list:-)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great gift ideas!

Cheers,

Rosa

Tara Oh said...

What a great post! I agree 100%. Where can the Valrhona chocolate be sourced offline? I've never tried this brand and would love to. Thank you!

Sarah said...

I upgraded from a cheap stand mixer to the KitchenAid 6 quart Profesional series with bowl lift last year. I am so much happier now! I love that it can handle bread dough or anything else I throw at it. :)

Christina Cody said...

Absolutely wonderful blog for the holidays! Perfect ideas for family and friends who are devout bakers! Thanks Heather for sharing!

Anonymous said...

We get Valrhona from Trader Joe's or Sur la Table.

Patricia Wooten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Wooten said...

LOVE this list!!! Saved many of these things to my "wish list" on Amazon!! Even though I just got a new Kitchen Aid (makes 2) I am OBSESSED with all the colors and must have that chocolate one!!! :-)

regan said...

Thanks for so many great ideas and links! And, of course, had to go watch Nancy's video of Sugar Town! Then got sidetracked with her other videos.....sheesh! lol

Shannon said...

Awesome list and I totally agree with everything, so I'm just going to print your blog post out and hand it to my husband!!! :)

Hélène said...

Hello,

I just want to say that Bosch has a very silent hand mixer, this one : http://www.bosch-home.fr/nos-produits/preparation-culinaire/blender-batteurs-et-mini-hachoir/MFQ4070.html

(it is a french link but you'll have the references)

I like it very much !

Three Sheep Studio said...

I am so glad you did this post and took the time to include the links !
Perfect for the season.
Rose

EliFla said...

I got a lot of the essensialts you posted.... I'm waiting for a big red Kitchen Aid (but we have to wait next Summer when we are going to be in the new house) , hugs, Flavia

Sue said...

Okay, I need to put some Valrhona chocolate in my own stocking!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

These are fabulous!! I want everything!!

Monica said...

I really enjoyed reading through your list! I've been looking for a good, not-too-expensive brulee torch, among other things. Needless to say, I've found a couple of things to put on my wish list. Thanks! : )

Achu said...

Wow awesome I really enjoyed reading it ..I dont have stand mixer but i love it very much..::) Amazing worth reading :) :)

amanda said...

I scored a copy of Gastronomique at McKay (I'm in Knoxville, too) a year or two ago. At one point I thought, "You know, with the internet, isn't it a little goofy having that thing around?" But it's really not. I'm surprised at how often I grab it to clarify a curiosity. It's corrected more than one long-held oopsy on my part, too. It's handy on top of being a decorative piece.

Rituparna said...

I am gonna dream of the kitchen aid, again tonight. The candy thermometer is next in line. I love all the sprinkles that you use. Most of the rest I do have in one form or the other. :-)

Sarah said...

I agree the little bump at the bottom of my ice blue kitchen aid is a pain as well,I have heard that the glass bowl does not have this issue. It's on my list this year!

PS I made the pumpkin cheesecake yesterday and it was AMAZING!!!! Thank you!

Ambar said...

AH! Now you made me want all of these amazing gift ideas! my boyfriend is going to have to watch out because my list just got a bit longer lol!

Ambar

Annie Standing said...

Wow I'm lucky as I have pretty much everything on this list! But I think it's great to leave open in front of the other half so he might get some hints! :)

Kavi said...

Great ideas, just in time for the holidays. I received a KitchenAid mixer as a birthday gift years ago, and I just love it so much!

Lexy said...

Thanks for this post. I'm hoping if I have what you have I too will become an excellent decorator :-)

You used your silicone mold three time more than I did this past year. Could you share any posts in how you used them? Also the Wilton Edible Glitter, Gold Stars.....I can't figure out what they are on the blue picture you use to showcase them. I love them but not sure how I'd use them....any suggestions? Thanks for all you dol

katpilato said...

Let me know if you don't get that "Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia, Completely Revised and Updated
" I might have an older copy that you can have (or trade for a book of yours!) I have to double check. It is an older copy but that would add to its charm!

Ivana said...

This is such a perfect comprehensive and inspiring list! It will help me to compile my own Christmas wish list! Thank you for the inspiration!

xx Ivana
Macarons and Pearls

ibeeflower said...

I'm asking for Valrhona chocolate, a bunch of vanilla beans (for extract), and silver leaf. How do you use it though?

My mom doesn't seem to understand why I'm asking for baking stuff instead of normal gifts like jewelry. But I never wear the jewelry she gives me, and I would use all of this!

Unknown said...

Hello!
Will you be posting the Sea-salted Matcha shortbread cookie recipe? I didn't see it on your site anywhere.
Thanks so much and Happy New Year!

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