Baking has always been a pastime of mine. It started young when my mother would let me sit on the counter and add ingredients to the cake batter or stir the homemade cream pies. My love for baking, and baked goods, grew through the years as my grandmother taught me how to bake from scratch and often with ingredients from her backyard garden. When I moved out on my own and married, I started to come up with my own versions of cakes and cookies and still do to this day.
There are thousands of baking utensils and gadgets on the market, but after over three decades of baking, I have compiled a list of the 5 most important baking essentials that are necessary in my kitchen.
I was gifted a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer at my first wedding in 1998 and fell instantly in love. I would purposely make meals that allowed me to use my new stand mixer. It made mixing batters, whipping frostings, and adding ingredients while mixing a breeze. Unfortunately, the mixer and I parted ways when the relationship ended and I desired a replacement for years. In 2006, I was gifted a red Kenmore Stand Mixer, and I shed a tear. I had a new stand mixer back in my life. Once again I was whipping up glazes, meringues, and using the pasta attachment for homemade raviolis. The only difference I see between the two brands (other than price) is that my Kenmore uses bowls that sometimes catch fallen dry ingredients in the ridge around the bottom. Nothing a silicone scrapper can’t fix.
I was first introduced to stoneware baking sheets through Pampered Chef when a friend hosted a party. Everyone in attendance boasted about how wonderful they were and I tasted a pizza made on the large bar pan during the demonstration. The crust was flakey and delicious and I was sold. I purchased the large bar pan as well as the round pizza stone and have never looked back. More than 5 years later, my large bar pan is black from use and still producing the best baked cookies. The bottoms never burn to the bottom and I have not had a need to parchment paper either. The stone heats up evenly so you never end up with a few cookies with burnt bottoms and a few with soggy middles. The only downside is that the pan must be hand washed without soap, but the little bit of extra work is worth it.
I was unsure of this handy utensil when I first saw them. I was conducting a secret shopper survey for Le Creuset at Colorado Mills Mall in Denver, Colorado. I decided to give them a try as they were on special and the sales lady raved about them. I have never looked back. The large scrapper made quick work of removing batter from the metal bowl of my stand mixer. The medium scrapper worked wonders when removing the last bit of peanut butter from the jar, and the tiny scrapper iced cupcakes with ease. The wooden handles are removable and the silicone can be washed in the dishwasher. The silicone can stand heats up to 500 degrees which makes them useful for scrapping the sides of a pan of barbeque chicken. I have tried other brands including Pampered Chef and generic grocery store brands, but I always go back to Le Creuset.
Silicone Hot pads
Family and friends know about my love of baking and cooking as I receive another kitchen themed gift in 2008 that included silicone hot pads. I was very wary of these at first. A thin slice of silicone that could stand heat up to 500 degrees didn’t seem plausible to me. I first tried them out by using them as trivets on my cooktop. I then placed them on the counter and set a hot cake pan on them and my counters were unscathed. So I held on in my hand and lifted the hot cake pan. I didn’t feel heat and my hands remained unburned. They become my favorite hot pads and eventually replaced my oven mitts as well. It is now six years later and I still have and use the original pair almost daily. They have held up to the heat and remain in excellent condition.
Another one of my Pampered Chef discoveries was the offset spatula (called the small spreader ). It looks like a small non-serrated butter knife that is angled out of a small handle. It was introduced to me as a great way ice cupcakes and to remove baked bars out of a small casserole dish. I only recently learned from the chef in the house that it is called an offset spatula and it is an essential in my kitchen. Besides frosting cupcakes, I use it to flip small pancakes on the griddle, remove hot bacon from the grease, and to even the cake batter before baking. The cost is minimal for all the use you will get out of it.