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Here we are tuning in for part 3 of the well-stocked kitchen, a series in which we take a walk through our kitchens and name off what we consider some of our favorite and essential items for cooking and baking.
the well-stocked kitchen
part 3: baking essentials
kitchen aid mixer: I don’t care if you think you’re “not a baker,” you need one of these in your kitchen! Someday you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it. Kitchen Aid Mixers aren’t just useful for making cookies, cakes and frosting, they also make kneading dough and shaping pasta so much more convenient, and therefore fresh bread and pasta that much more attainable. If you are a more serious baker, you’ll want to pay more attention to the model, capacity and style (tilt head or bowl lift) of the Kitchen Aid mixer you select. Many stores carry what appear to be “economy” lines of the Kitchen Aid, which are cheaper and more cheaply made. As for style, I prefer the bowl lift over the head tilt, because it seems more sturdy and heavy-duty. Likewise, I prefer the larger 6 or 7 quart capacity, but it’s a beast of a machine. The classic model (pictured) is a great machine and will serve you well.
commercial aluminum half sheets: Don’t waste your time with nonstick or silicone or anything else cookie sheets. Opt for the classic all-purpose commercial aluminum half sheet. Pair with the Silpat (below) or parchment paper for easy clean up.
Silpat: Of French Design, the Silpat is a reusable nonstick silicone baking mat. It is amazing for cookies and baked goods, but also works well for roasting (just clean carefully or separate them for sweet/savory use…you don’t want garlic flavor on your sugar cookies!). (Note: some people have trouble finding ways of storing these, especially after they’ve been “seasoned”; I like to roll mine and secure them with a rubber band.)
pizza stone: till this day, the pizza stone lives in the oven at my parents’ home, always ready for delivering up crusty loaves of fresh baked bread. Obviously also great for pizza and flatbread, pizza stones work well for breads, reheating foods, and delivering crisp crusts on pastries. The Pampered Chef pizza stone was a beloved of our family for many years. Now I use the highly rated Old Stone Oven round stone.
pyrex glass liquid measuring cups: YES there is a difference between liquid and dry measuring cups!!! Please make sure you have both. Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups work so reliably handling freezing and boiling temperatures. It is also helpful having a variety of sizes, but if you have to choose only one to own, then go for the 2-cup.
dry measuring cups: I started off my marriage with a set very similar to this one, and absolutely loved having cups and spoons for nearly every single option of measurement (1 3/4 cup! 1/2 tablespoon!) Eventually, the handles started snapping off…but to be fair, I basically used them to death for several years. Now I have a sturdy metal set from World Market and they are just great. I caution against using any measuring cups that look more pretty than functional, because they probably are.
measuring spoons: it doesn’t matter much which brand you have, so long as you have them. As above, I caution against overtly decorative designs, which probably sacrifice accuracy or efficiency.
glass prep bowls with lids: prep bowls are so useful for, well, food prep, but also for storing small items (like half-cut limes) in the fridge, for serving smaller toppings and sauces, or for eating small portions of things, like ice cream. :) We had a great set of Pampered Chef prep bowls growing up. Now, I like to use these Libby prep bowls with lids.
mixing bowls with lids: in the kitchen, I nearly always gravitate towards function over form. There are many many mixing bowls out there that are just darling, but I can’t be worrying about breaking something so pretty. I have two nesting sets, one that is metal, and one that is pyrex glass, and both sets have lids for convenient storage.
8-inch round baking pans (2): 9-inch round baking pans used to be the standard for cakes, but since taller cakes have been the norm for some time now, I bake nearly all my 9-inch recipes in 8-inch pans. So if you’re only going to get one set of baking pans, I’d recommend getting two aluminum 8-inch round pans with 2-inch sides (Fat Daddio is a favorite brand; Wilton’s are good too). Ideally you’d have both 8-inch and 9-inch round pans, and really three of each size—that would really be “well-stocked”!
springform pan: great for cheesecake, tortes and the like, a springform pan has removable spring-closure sides. A 9-inch size is a good place to start. Fat Daddio, Wilton, and Nordic are all very reliable brands.
square baking pan (8x8 or 9x9): most recipes easily accommodate to either the 8” or 9” square size. I am partial to Wilton’s baking pans with lids, which allow for easy air-tight storage and stacking in the fridge.
13x9 rectangular baking pan: you will, of course, want a 13x9 inch pan in your kitchen for all those brownies and bars and sheet cakes you’ll be baking. Once again, I’m partial to Wilton’s baking pans with lids.
cupcake pan: don’t leave out the humble cupcake pan, which comes in clutch when you’re baking cupcakes for that first birthday party or bringing muffins to mom’s group. Once again, Wilton, Nordic and Fat Daddio are all great brands to choose from. I like my Farberware non-stick. It’s a good idea to have a two of these on hand, because cupcake recipes rarely only produce 12 cupcakes. Or I like to have a mini-muffin pan around to bake up minis with those small amounts of leftover batter.
loaf pan: Standard loaf pans come in different sizes, and recipes sometimes specify which size you should use. You can use varying sized pans interchangeably, but typically have to adjust the cooking time up for the smaller pans. Smaller pans are often about 8x4 inches, while larger ones run closer to about 9x5. A smaller pan, like this Pyrex glass one, will yield a small tall loaf, while a larger pan, like this Farberware one, will yield a longer often flatter loaf. I will say that it helps to have two matching sizes for those times when a recipe makes two loaves or for when you are doubling that banana bread.
bundt pan: you may not think you need this specialty pan, but you’ll be kicking yourself for not having it when you need it! (Helloooo rum cake.) Nordic Ware offers many of those jaw-dropping designs you see on the Great British Bake Off.
stay tuned for more posts in the well-stocked kitchen series!