I have been baking since I was five. My mom would buy Jiffy cake mixes for a dime and I would bake them in my Suzy Homemaker oven. I then progressed to the real oven in the kitchen. From there, on to “real” cake mixes, cookies, bread baked in a coffee can, a cake decorating class in junior high and my current 700+ Christmas cookie extravaganza (post on that closer to Christmas I promise).
I've learned that successful baking is a combination of good tools, good ingredients and a few other good tips. I’ll tackle the tools in this post and the other two topics in subsequent posts.
Here are my tips for good baking tools:
· Silpats. I love silpats. When you use them, you don’t need to grease your baking sheets and things don’t stick. I pull cookies out of the oven and let them sit on the silpat covered baking sheet for a minute or two before I move them to the cooling rack. You will break fewer cookies this way. Bonus – if you need to transport a dish of something and it seems like it might slip around a bit, just plop it onto a silpat covered baking sheet and you are good to go.
· Heavy, rimmed baking sheets. If you have not gotten new baking sheets lately, you may want to think about upgrading. I like the heavy ones from Sur la Table with the sides on them (often called a jelly roll pan). Having sides on your baking sheets means they are more useful and your cookies won’t slide off the pan. And make sure you have enough baking sheets. If you bake often, four is the minimum number you will need. Six or eight is even better. And while you are at it, buy a Silpat for every baking sheet.
· Big cooling racks. I am not sure what the point is of those little cooling racks that are about the size of a dinner plate. Buy the biggest cooling rack that your counter will accommodate and make sure you have several so that you make several batches of cookies back-to-back.
· Kitchen Aid mixer. I know, I know, a Kitchen Aid mixer takes up a lot of counter space. That was my argument against it for a lot of years. But, then I got one … and, wow. I could not believe how much better it worked than my old hand-held mixer. The first time I used it with my old faithful chocolate mousse recipe I could not believe how light and fluffy the mousse was. And beating up egg whites was so much quicker and better. It allowed me to make things like marshmallows which require at least 10 minutes of mixing time. Plus, many of the baking cook books that are on the market today assume you have one and are written for it. It’s a must-have if you bake a lot.
· Extra measuring cups and spoons. Measuring cups and spoons are not expensive and it’s great to have extras on hand so you don’t have to continually wash them if you are baking several things at once. And while we are on the topic, there are measuring cups for liquid ingredients and those for dry ingredients. They are different things, and they are not interchangeable so you need both.