Home Baking 101
A lot of you reading this are probably already established home bakers, and you know the tools you need (and the ones you love!) to do what you do best. This post is geared toward those who might be wanting to start baking at home, but aren’t sure where to start. To our more seasoned readers, please feel free to chime in and comment with your favorites and the ones you can’t live without – different specialties require different tools, so all input is valuable here!
Without further ado, let’s get into it. Here’s the basics of what I believe make up a solid foundation to get yourself baking successfully:
- A good stand mixer.
- These can be pricey, but trust me here – do not skimp and buy a cheaper model. Just don’t. You will use your mixer for literally every single thing you make, so it needs to be quality enough that it will last for thousands of uses. Additionally, you want it to be able to power through your thick bakes (cookie dough, pizza crusts, bread bases, etc) so it needs to have some oomph to it. The cheaper brands just don’t offer the same level of mixing power. Finally, if you can, opt for a larger capacity model. While you might not think you need the extra quart or two of capacity, I promise you will thank me later.
- If you’re on a budget, I’d highly recommend buying one through somewhere like Costco or Sam’s Club. We’re a Costco household and they always have Kitchenaids in stock, and I’ve seen them go on sale frequently. If you can wait for a sale, you can get a great model for around $350. I have the 6 quart model and love it!
- Bakeware. Quality does make a difference here, but you can absolutely opt for cheaper versions to get started and utilize some of the common hacks to get successful bakes from them (we’ll do another post on that later). As you’re shopping to start your collection, make sure to get the items that correspond to the bakes you want to make most often. For me, that meant getting cake tins, cookie sheets, pie plates, and cupcake pans. For others, that might mean bread tins, bundt pans, or mini ramekins. This is the time to have fun imagining what you want to specialize in, and shop for that dream! A few notes about specific bakeware items:
- Cake tins – Like I said, you can opt for cheaper ones to get started and have success with them. Personally, I prefer the thicker/heavier cake tins as I feel they distribute heat more evenly and yield more consistent results. I also really love the ones with slightly textured bottoms as it helps the cakes release easier and results in fewer broken cake bottoms.
- Cupcake pans – this is one where you can absolutely opt for the cheapest version! Since you’ll be using cupcake liners and don’t need to worry about the cupcakes sticking to the pan, you have a lot more flexibility here.
- Cookie sheets – this is another one you can opt for cheaper versions without much issue. I recommend lining your cookie sheet with parchment paper before plopping your cookie dough on there, which prevents them sticking to the sheet. However, to save your sanity, I do suggest buying the larger cookie sheets as you can (obviously) fit a lot more cookies on each sheet and dramatically reduce the amount of time you’ll have to spend swapping sheets in and out of the oven. Yes, please.
- Pie plates – there’s a lot of really cute and fancy pie plates out there, but if you’re planning on selling and/or gifting your pies, I cannot stress enough that you need to buy disposable pie tins. You absolutely do not want to have to be chasing people down constantly to retrieve your favorite pie plate (ask me how I know). Use your favorite one(s) for entertaining or home use, and the disposable ones for all other occasions.
- Bread tins – I highly recommend the silicone options for bread tins. They release the bread SO much easier and I’ve never had to sit there and bang a silicone mold countless times to get it to let go of the loaf. I love them. You will too.
- Mixing bowls. You don’t have to get fancy here, but you do want to make sure you have several large mixing bowls, as you will utilize these frequently. My favorite ones have the rubber ring on the bottom so they don’t slide all over the counter. Melamine is a great option as it’s a bit quieter when you’re scraping the sides or whisking away, it washes easily, and it’s quite durable. I also love stainless steel mixing bowls for recipes that require refrigeration – I find the metal holds onto the chill a bit longer after taking it out of the fridge, which allows me more wiggle room if my schedule is nuts.
- Utensils. Make sure you have a variety of mixing spoons, spatulas, turners, etc. I like to have some wooden ones that can handle denser mixes without bending and breaking, and some silicone ones for things like frostings and thin batters. I got a really awesome set of silicone utensils from Costco awhile ago and use them heavily. My mom gifted me some bamboo utensils years ago that I also love as they’ve stood the test of time and are still going strong. Do make sure that your set includes a good whisk! I’d even suggest getting several different whisks – a silicone coated one and a metal one, for example. It’s good to have options depending on the recipe and the cookware you’re pairing your utensils with.
- Measuring cups and spoons. You probably already have some in your kitchen (I’d be very surprised if you didn’t). If you want to upgrade them so you don’t break the handles off every few months (guilty), I like metal ones with the measurements etched into the handles. That way you can easily tell at a glance what size cup/spoon you’re reaching for – no chance of it every wearing off like the paint on plastic ones can (and does). I’d also like to suggest purchasing multiple sets so you always have clean measuring options when you’re elbow-deep in flour and butter. Sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.
- A rolling pin. I recommend getting a good rolling pin, even if you’re not going to be making tons of pies or cutout cookies. Why? It’s got other uses, too! I use it to smash things like candy bars into smaller pieces (think candy cane pieces on top of brownies, chocolate bits to decorate the sides of cakes, etc). It’s basically the equivalent of a solid wood kitchen hammer. I also use mine to roll out fondant if I’m using it for a cake theme, although there are special fondant tools you could purchase if you choose.
- Lint-free kitchen towels, and lots of them.
- If you’re like me, you’re a messy baker. You’ll want to have lots of towels you can reach for as you’re working. All that fine flour and powdered sugar and cocoa just has a way of getting caught and carried on the slightest breeze, and landing itself on ALL THE SURFACES. Standard kitchen towels are great for everyday use, but they have a tendency to leave dust and teeny tiny cotton strands behind. That’s a hard pass if you’re planning on selling your baked goods. It’s all about cleanliness and quality control, people!
- Pro tip: use a fresh, clean lint-free towel to wipe down the plastic windows of your disposable pastry boxes. These boxes, no matter the brand, tend to have tiny bits of cardboard and dust that collect on the plastic windows as they’re jostled around during shipping, and you don’t want your customers to think you keep a messy kitchen! You work hard to keep your kitchen clean and sanitary – giving your box window a quick swipe with one of these towels will eliminate the dust and make your product that much more polished.
And that’s my list of basics! With these tools, you can get creative and make almost anything you can dream up. Let me know your thoughts and comments below!