Many of the following tools are basic baker’s tools, along with specialized baking tools, and as your love of baking grows you may find yourself shopping for those less-used, but fun-to-have, or can’t-live-without items to add to your collection. Like a kid in a candy store, I have always loved shopping for baking pans, tools, and gadgets. Baking tools are fun to have but beware, as your love of baking grow, shopping for baking tools and equipment can be addicting.
You don’t need to buy a whole kitchen full of professional baking equipment to bake well, but do choose each piece carefully.
If you purchase quality baking pans and tools they will increase the quality of your breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries, save you money in the long term, provide years of use, and make your time spent baking a
Cookie, Cake, and Bread Pans
The most fundamental components of a baker’s kitchen are good quality baking sheets and baking pans. Invest in good-quality commercial-type pans which are heavier and retain heat better than lighter pans, and won’t warp or buckle. Most cookie, bread, and cake pans are
made from light-colored aluminum, providing quick steady heat to allow the ingredients to rise evenly and produce tender, delicate crusts.
Cookie and Baking Sheets: Cookie sheets are rimless, flat metal sheets, perfectly designed for placing rows of cookies. They normally have a small rim on the short sides for easy gripping. The long flat edges allow you to slide cookies off the sheet after baking.
Baking sheets have raised edges all around, and are normally the choice for professional bakers. They are a good, all-purpose pan and can be used for everything from baking cookies to toasting nuts.
You normally want to have a set of 2 cookie sheets or 2 baking sheets, or both. When baking cookies, the second sheet can be waiting to go into the oven while the first one is baking.
If you’re buying new, invest in good quality, heavy duty cookie and baking sheets. Heavy duty baking sheets retain heat better, won’t warp or buckle when heated, and should last a lifetime.
Choose cookie and baking sheets made of shiny, light colored metals, such as heavy-duty aluminum. The light color encourages even baking and are less likely to burn. Dark metals sheets and nonstick tend to brown baked goods faster; you may need to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and reduce the baking time slightly.
Insulated pans have a layer of air trapped between the layers of metal, which help prevent cookies from burning. However, since these pans are poor heat conductors, cookies may not tend to bake and brown as well, and you may over bake the cookies waiting for them to brown.
Jelly Roll Pans: Jelly Roll pans are the same as a baking sheet. They have a raised edge all around, usually ½ to 1 inch high. The most all-purpose size to have is a 12½ x 17½ by 1 inch Jelly Roll Pan. Jelly roll pans are most often used to make bar cookies, shortbread, sponge cakes, sheet cakes, focaccia breads, and more. A jelly roll pan is also good to place under a fruit pie as it is baking to catch overflowing juices, and to hold springform and tart pans with removable bottoms while baking.
Layer Cake Pans: Many basic cake recipes use traditional round layer cake pans that are either 8 or 9 inches in diameter. The pans should be at least 2 or 2½ inches deep so that the batter doesn’t overflow. You’ll want to have a set of at least two round layer cake pans; however a set of three pans is best as many cake recipes are made with 3 layers. Choose pans with no seams on the inside and a good, heavy feel to them.
Loaf Pans: Loaf pans are used for most quick bread recipes, such as banana bread and zucchini bread. Metal, stone, glass, and ceramic loaf pans all work well for quick breads. Loaf pans can also be used for yeast breads. The most useful sizes are a 9¼ x 5¼ x 2½ inch loaf pans for larger loaves and 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans for smaller loaves. Darker loaf pans are good for crusty yeast breads; however light aluminum is best for sweet and quick breads so they don’t over-darken.
Cupcake/Muffin Pans and Baking Cups: Cupcake and Muffin pans are a rectangular metal baking pan with six or twelve cup, used to bake both muffins and cupcakes. Muffin pan sizes are typically mini, standard, and jumbo sized. Each cup is normally lined with paper baking cups, and then filled with muffin or cake batter. Muffin pans can also be used to bake dinner rolls or individual brownies.A standard muffin pan has 12 cups, each measuring about 2¾ inches at the top and 1-3/8 inches deep. Mini muffin pans normally have either 12 or 24 cups and measure about 1¾ inch across the top and ¾ inch deep. Jumbo muffin pans normally have 6 cups, and measure 3-3/8 inches across the top and 1¾ inches deep.
Muffin pans are traditionally made of metal; most common are aluminum pans; however flexible silicone pans are now available.
Baking cups are paper or foil cups used to line muffin or cupcake pans. The baking cups hold the batter making it easy to release the baked cakes from the pan. Baking cups are also available in reusable silicone. Paper cups come in a variety of fun and seasonal designs and colors.
Sheet Cake Pans: A single layer sheet cake is most often baked in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch Rectangular Pan, replacing a typical two-layer cake. The pan should be at least 2 inches deep, and for ease in cleaning, look for pans that have slightly rounded inside corners. Square corners can trap crumbs in the crevices.
Springform Pans: Springform pans are used for cheesecakes, streusel-topped cake, delicate tortes, and other cakes that would be damaged by turning them upside down to remove them from the pan. Springform pans are normally round, with expandable sides that are secured with a clamp and have a removable bottom. When the clamp is opened, the sides of the pan expand and release the bottom. When purchasing a springform pan, examine how tightly the side locks onto the pan bottom when clamped into position. Less expensive springform pans may be prone to leaking and will bend or warp easily.
Square Baking Pans: Many bar cookie and brownie recipes, and some small cakes, use a square baking pan that is either 8 or 9 inches. The pans should be at least 2 or 2½ inches deep so that the batter doesn’t overflow. Choose pans with no seams on the inside and a good, heavy feel to them. Aluminum pans are the best for cookies and brownies, and a glass pan is best for fruit desserts, baked custards, and bread puddings.
Tube Pans: The tube is used to conduct heat through the center of a cake, ensuring that the cake bakes evenly. Tube pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with Angel Food Cake Pans and Bundt Pans being the most common. Except for Angel Food Cake, fluted pans should be generously coated with butter or shortening, then dusted with flour for easy removal from the pan.
Angel Food Cake Pans: Angel Food Cake is baked in a tube shaped pan that is ungreased, allowing the cake to raise high by clinging to the sides of the pan, and then turned upside down after baking so the cake does not collapse while cooling. An Angel food cake pan should not be non-stick, allowing the cake to raise by clinging to the sides of the pan and almost doubling in size during baking; and it should include either “feet” that the pan sits on when turned upside down, or a tube that is wide enough to fit over the top of a glass bottle or wine bottle. A pan with a removable bottom makes removing the cooled cake from the pan, and clean-up easier.
Bundt Pans: Bundt is pronounced “bunt” with the “d” being silent. A Bundt cake is baked in a special pan called a Bundt pan, a ring shaped pan with fluted sided,originally created to prepare German Kugelhopf cake. National Bundt Pan Day is November 15th. The modern Bundt pan was developed by the Nordic Ware company in 1950, and its fame rose after a Pillsbury-sponsored baking contest in 1966. The 9 x 4½ inch Nordic Ware Bundt Pan is my favorite, and can be used for many cake recipes.
Fluted Tube Pans: These pans are fun to use, producing a fancier cake than a basic layer cake.Pans such as Bavaria shape, castle shape, chrysanthemum shape, star shape, heart shape are just a few of the fun shapes to choose from.
Kugelhopf Pans: Kugelhopf pans are for baking Kugelhopf, A European cake baked in a special Kugelhopf pan which is a deep, round, tube pan with ornate fluting, and a narrow center tube. The cake is a sweet yeast cake studded with raisins, nuts, and candied fruits, and has a round pyramid shape when the cake in un-molded.
Pie and Tart Pans
Pie pans are available is various sizes and depths. The amount of pie filling will normally determine the type of pie pan to use.
Most pie recipes are written for a 9 inch pie, and the pie pastry and ingredients will normally fit in a 9 x 1½ inch Pie Pan, such as a Pyrex pan with ovenproof glass.
Glass Pie Pans: Ovenproof glass pie pans are about the best for baking pies as they are an excellent heat conductor, they allow the bottom crust to brown well, the transparency of the glass allows you to see how the crust is browning, the surface is not marred when cutting with a knife, and they are easy to clean.
Ceramic Pie Pans: Ceramic and stoneware pie pans are beautiful to use and serve from, and the many colors available make them fun to use for holidays and attractive when serving guests.
Metal Pie Pans: If using a metal pan, aluminum with a dull satin finish is the best for conducting heat. These pans are not as pretty; however they will not break if dropped. Dark metals can cause the crusts to over-brown and their coated surface can be marred with a knife.
Disposable aluminum pans are inexpensive and handy for freezing and gift-giving, but the thin construction makes these pans a poor heat conductor.
Deep Dish Pie Pans: Many ceramic and stoneware pans are available in deep dish, and are used when you have a larger quantity of pie filling. The fluted tops enable you to create a beautiful edge with minimal effort.
Flan Rings: A flan ring is a metal ring with no fluting around the sides, and no bottom. The ring is set on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat, and then filled. The baking sheet serves as the bottom of the pan. Flan rings are used to shape open-faced tarts, pastry shells, and some candies.
Tart Pans: Tart pans normally have a fluted edge and may come in round, square, or rectangular shapes. They often have a removable bottom which makes is easy to remove the tart without damaging the delicate crust. Since tart pans are normally shallow, about 1 inch deep, the tart crust stars equally along with the filling.
Tartlette Pans: Small tartlette pans are designed as a one-serving size, perfect for buffets or teas. Six 4 or 4½ Tartlette pans will normally replace one large 9 inch tart recipe. Tartlette pans can also be used to make individual cakes and muffins.
Tarte Tatin Pan: A classic Tarte Tatin pan is 9½ inch diameter copper, lined with tin or stainless steel, with handles on the sides to make un-molding easy. Tarte Tatin is a caramelized upside-down apple tart, a classic French dessert. The pastry is placed over the caramelized apples before baking, and then after baking, the tart is turned out of the pan so the pastry is on the bottom.
Specialty Pans, Molds, and Dishes
Baba Molds: Baba molds are tall straight-sided, cylindrical shaped molds about 1½ to 3 inches in diameter, and 1½ to 4 inches in height. They are specifically designed for the classic yeast-raised sweet cakes called Babas. These same molds can be used for individual parfaits, mousses, and ice cream desserts.
Brioche Molds: A brioche mold is a deep, beautifully fluted round mold, made of tinned steel. They are specifically made for baking the traditional French knot-shaped brioche loaf. A small brioche mold can also be used for baking small cakes, muffins, and individual sweet breads. A large brioche mold can be used for larger cakes and sweet breads.
Ceramic Baking Dishes: Ceramic dishes come is round, oval, and rectangular shapes, and a variety of colors. They are perfect for baking crust-less fruit desserts such as fruit crisps, cobblers, crumbles, and bread puddings, allowing your dessert to go from the oven to your table.
Charlotte Molds: A classic French Charlotte mold is a round, tinned steel mold shaped like a straight-sided bucket, and a handle on each side. A Charlotte is lined with ladyfingers, Madeleines, cake, or occasionally bread, and then filled with mousse, custard, cream, or fruit.
Custard Cups: These are 6 ounce cups for baking custards. Their small size are also good for holding cooked puddings or other desserts, and are also useful for holding pre-measured ingredients when prepping ingredients for cookies or cakes.
Double Boiler: A double boiler is a set of two pans nested together, with enough room in the bottom pan for 1 or 2 inches of water. Double boilers are used to cook or heat foods that need gentle heat, such as melting chocolate. The water in the bottom pan is brought to a simmer, and the second pan is set on top.
Popover Pans: Popover pans have deep, narrow cups, which force the popover batter to rise up and out, producing the typical tall popover shape. Popover pans made of a dark metal produce the best crust with a golden brown color. A muffin pan may be substituted; however the finished popovers will not be as tall.
Savarin Mold: A savarin mold is a ring mold with an extra-large hole in its center. A savarin mold is made specifically for the classic French Savarin dessert which is a light, yeast-risen sweet cake soaked with liqueur syrup. However a Savarin mold can also be used for other cake and quick bread batters, ice creams and mousses.
Steamed Pudding Molds: A pudding steamer is used for steaming some puddings and breads. These pans are typically molded of aluminum or tinned steel with a tube in the middle and a clip-on watertight lid to keep the bread or pudding moist while baking. Breads, such as Boston Brown Bread, and puddings such as a traditional Christmas pudding are best when baked in a pudding steamer. After placing the batter in the steamer, the lid is clamped on and the pan is set on a rack in a kettle of 1 or 2 inches of simmering water. The bread or pudding is steamed on the stove top or in the oven for 1 to 3 hours until cooked through, resulting in a dessert that is dense, moist, chewy, and beautifully shaped when it is turned out.
Madeleine Pans: Madeleine’s are a small and tender French cake that is baked in a special pan called a Madeleine pan with shell-shaped imprints. The Madeleine pan, also known as a Madeleine plaque, must be generously greased and floured to prevent the delicate cakes from sticking to the pan. Madeleine’s are sometimes thought of as a cookie, but are actually little buttery spongy cakes, sometimes delicately flavored with lemon, orange, or almond. Madeleine pans usually have 8 or 12 shallow shell-shaped imprints, and come in tinned steel, metal with a nonstick finish, and pliable silicone. A Madeleine pan can also be used to make other formed cookies, such as shortbread, tiny muffins, and petits fours.
Panettone Molds: Panettone is normally baked in a paper panettone mold. It is the perfect way to bake, serve, and give as a gift all in one. Panettone is sweet, yeast-risen bread, filled with raisins and candied peels that are a Christmas specialty of Milan, Italy. It has a tall cylindrical shape with a domed top, and is eaten as a breakfast bread, afternoon tea, or dessert.
Soufflé Dishes: Soufflé dishes are round, with deep, straight sides and decorative ridges on the outside. They range in size from ¼ cup up to 8 cups. Smaller soufflé dishes, also called ramekins, can also be used to bake individual soufflés, custards, bread puddings or crisps or cobblers. The smaller sizes are also useful for holding pre-measured ingredients when prepping ingredients for cookies or cakes.
A good set of mixing bowls will be your constant companion while baking, used for mixing, whipping creams or egg whites, preparing ingredients, raising breads, or just storing food in the refrigerator.
Glass Bowls: A set of clear glass nesting bowls are a popular choice, providing several sizes to choose from depending on the task at hand, and with several bowls you don’t have to wash and reuse the same bowl as often. Glass bowls are also microwave safe and can be used on top of a double boiler. Have at least one small, one medium, and one large mixing bowl, and having two of each is even better. Having one extra-small and one extra-large bowls are also useful to have.
Stainless Steel Bowls: Stainless steel bowls are another good all-around choice; they are lightweight, durable, and can be heated, but can tend to dent easily and are not microwave safe.
Crockery Bowls: Crockery bowls are very attractive, and normally oven-safe, however they are heavier and can chip if you’re not careful with them.
Copper Bowls: Copper bowls are beautiful and expensive. However no bowl is better for beating egg whites into meringue. A chemical reaction occurs between the egg protein and the copper, giving the egg whites greater volume and stability than when they are beaten in a stainless steel or other bowl. Copper is often used when making candy and sugars since it is an excellent conductor of heat.
Acrylic Bowls: Acrylic bowls come in fun colors, and are lightweight, but may not be micro-wave safe.
Plastic Bowls and Aluminum Bowls: These are the least desirable. Plastic will absorb odors and fat which can transfer into your ingredients. Aluminum bowls will react to acidic foods to impart a metal taste.
Good quality measuring spoons and cups or a scale is a must for baking. Baking is a precise science and all measuring should be precise to ensure successful baking.
Measuring Spoons: Basic measuring spoon sets include measures for 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon. Larger measuring spoon sets may also include 1/8 teaspoon, 3/4 teaspoon, and 1/2 tablespoon. My favorite measuring spoons are stainless steel as they have sharp precise edges and provide the most accurate measuring.
Measuring spoons are used for measuring small amounts of ingredients such as spices, leaveners, and extracts, and very small amounts of liquids. Pour liquids, such as vanilla extract, to the rim of the spoon; level dry ingredients, such as salt or baking soda with a straightedge. It’s helpful to have two sets of measuring spoons so you don’t have to wash and dry the spoons to measure multiple ingredients.
Dry Measuring Cups: Basic dry measuring cups are purchased in a set that includes 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, and 1 cup. Larger measuring cup sets may also include 1/8 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup and 1½ cup measures. A dry measuring cup does not have a pouring spout; instead they should have a straight edge to allow for easy leveling. Dry measuring cups are used to measure all dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, and oats, also for semisolid ingredients such as jam, shortening, sour cream, and peanut butter.
When measuring, add the ingredient into the measuring cup so that it is mounded and overfull, and then level it off by sweeping a straight edge, such as a metal ruler or knife, across the top of the measuring cup, leveling off the ingredient. My favorite measuring cups are stainless steel as they are the most durable and have the best edges; however you may also find acrylic cups you prefer. It’s helpful to have two sets of measuring cups so you don’t have to wash and dry the cups to measure multiple ingredients.
Liquid Measuring Cups: All liquid ingredients, such as water, milk, or juice are measured in a liquid measuring cup. Liquid measuring cups should be made of clear glass or plastic, have a pouring spout, and have clear measurement markings on the side. It is handy to have a 1 cup measure, along with a 2 cup and 4 cup measure for most baking projects. Liquid measuring cups are also handy for warming milk or melting butter in the microwave. To accurately measure, place the measuring cup on a flat surface and pour the liquid in up to the marking for the amount you need. Let the liquid stop swishing around to determine the level it is at.
Ruler: An everyday 18 inch clear plastic, metal, or wood ruler is a helpful tool for measuring pans, measuring rolled pastry dough, cutting bar cookies into uniform sizes, as a guide when splitting cakes into equal layers, or measuring 1 inch cuts for cinnamon rolls. The ruler also provides a neat, straight cutting edge and is easy to wash.
Scales: Professional bakers use scales to weigh ingredients instead of using measuring cups to measure by volume, for the simple reason that weight measurements are more precise and accurate. Scales are used to measure dry ingredients, along with nuts, dried and fresh fruits, and chocolate, and to measure out portions of dough. The scale is also helpful to determine if multiple cake pans have the same amount of batter.
There are two types of scales, digital and mechanical, with digital scales being the most accurate. A thin, battery powered digital scale with a flat platform for weighing is affordable and is the easiest to use for most home bakers. Look for a scale that measures up to about 10 pounds, has an automatic shut-off that will remain on for at least 5 minutes, has a “tare” button to reset the scale to zero in order to measure the next ingredient, and the ability to change from pounds and ounces to metric. In addition, all the buttons and controls should be on the front of the scale, not the bottom or the back of the scale.
Stirring and Whisking Tools
Rubber or Silicone Spatulas: Rubber or Silicone spatulas are one of the most versatile and important tools in a baking kitchen. Rubber spatulas have mostly been replaced with silicone spatulas which are easier to clean and have a higher heat resistance. Spatulas have many uses including scraping batters down from the sides and bottom of a mixing bowl, spreading fillings, stirring stove top custards and chocolate while heating, folding lighter ingredients into heavy batters, scrambling eggs, and more.
Spatulas come in a variety of sizes and may be made of a solid piece of silicone or have a silicone blade attached to a wooden, plastic or stainless steel handle. A small 1 inch spatula is handy for scraping out the inside of measuring cups and containers. A 2 inch spatula is good for stirring, blending, and scraping the sides and bottom of a mixing bowl. A larger 3 inch spatula is best for folding ingredients together.
Wire Whisks: A wire whisk is another versatile baking tool, used to whisk or stir wet or dry ingredients together, beating egg whites or cream, stirring ingredients as they heat in a saucepan and folding ingredients together. Whisks come in various sizes and strength of wire. The stronger the wire, the heavier the task the whisk can perform. A sauce whisk is long and narrow, designed to blend mixtures, reach into the corners of a saucepan, and whisk out any lumps without incorporating a lot of air into the mixture. A round, fat balloon whisk is designed to add air to mixtures and is the best choice for whipping egg whites and heavy cream. A small mini whisk is also helpful for small jobs such as beating eggs or egg yolks.
Wooden Spoons: Nothing beats a good set of wooden spoons in the kitchen. Wooden spoons are strong and durable, withstand heat, won’t scratch nonstick pans, and perfect for stirring almost anything, including hot liquids on the stove top. Purchase spoons that are well made, strong, and made from a hard wood.
Pie and Pastry Tools
Bench Scraper: Also called a board scraper, or dough scraper; this is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Bench scrapers measure about 6 by 3 inches, have a straight edge, are normally marked with measurement markings, and have a plastic or wooden handle or curved edge for gripping.
Bench scrapers can be used for everything from cutting dough, to scraping flour or crumbs off a pastry board or counter, loosening dough from a work surface as you knead, scoring certain cookies such as shortbread, leveling a cup when measuring dry ingredients, transferring pastry or bread dough from one place to another, and transferring chopped nuts or chocolate from a cutting board into a bowl. My favorite tool to cut bar cookies is a stainless steel bench scraper; simply push the bench scraper straight down into the cookie for straight cuts.
Dough Scraper: Also known as a pastry scraper, a dough scraper is a small, flexible plastic scraper that is rounded on one edge and flat on the other. The rounded edge is used to get every last bit of batter, dough, or frosting out of a mixing bowl, or flour and dough bits off your rolling pin.The flat edge can be used to clean your work surface or spread and level batters in pans. A dough scraper is also good for cleaning stuck-on food from pans.
Flour Duster: Also known as a flour wand or flour shaker, this old-fashioned tool is used to dust a work surface with flour, allowing you to have just a light dusting instead of scattered handfuls of flour. The Flour duster has a ball of coiled metal that is filled with flour; when the handle is squeezed it lets out just a small amount of flour. The flour duster can also be used to lightly sprinkle confectioner’s sugar or cocoa on top of cakes.
Flour Sifter: Flour sifters are used when a recipe calls for sifted flour. The most common sifter is a canister type with either a single mesh screen, or triple mesh screen and a rotating blade that is controlled by a rotary or squeeze handle. Choose a sifter with at least a three-cup capacity. A sifter can sift any dry ingredient, including flour, cocoa powder, and confectioner’s sugar.
Metal Spatulas: Nothing works better for removing baked cookies from a cookie sheet than a thin metal spatula. Choose one that is wide enough to slip under the cookies, a 2½ or 3 inch width is a good size for most baking needs.
Non-Stick Baking Mat: Non-stick baking mats, normally made of silicon, are truly remarkable. The most widely known name brand is Silpat. No longer do you need to grease a cookie sheet, instead line the pan with a non-stick baking mat and your cookies will just slide off the mat and not stick. These mats are easy to clean in warm soapy water, and will last for years.
Parchment Paper: Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is a baker’s secret weapon. Parchment paper is used to line baking sheets before baking cookies, ensuring cookies that won’t stick to the pan, lining cake pans to allow cakes to slide right out of the pan, and for folding into cones for piping icing or chocolate. Use a sheet of parchment paper to cover your work surface to make cleanup easier. After using a piece of parchment paper, simply throw it away.
Parchment paper is coated with silicone, making it greaseproof, moisture resistant, and nonstick. It is reusable for some baking projects, especially when lining a baking pan and baking batches of cookies. Parchment paper is sold in sheets sized for half sheets 13 x 18 inch, and full sheets 18 x 26 inch, pre-cut triangle to make pastry cones or rolls so you can determine the size you want to tear off and use.
Pastry Bag and Decorating Tips: Pastry bags and pastry tips are used to pipe decorative borders of icing or chocolate onto cakes and cookies, or for pressing out small cookies or chocolate shapes.
Pastry bags are available in plastic lined canvas that is reusable, or disposable bags made of parchment or plastic. Icing is spooned into the bag, and then squeezed out through a decorative metal tip attached to the end of the bag. Reusable pastry bags should be washed in warm, soapy water and dried completely before storing. For very small amounts of frosting or chocolate, you can also use a small resealable plastic bag with a very small piece of the corner snipped off.
Pastry tips, also known as decorating tips, are available in a huge array of designs and sizes. They are made of stainless steel or chrome-plated, and placed in the small end of the pastry bag. When the icing is pushed through it forms the design of the tip. Use a coupler (a plastic ring) when you want to change to different tips using the same icing without first having to empty and clean the pastry bag. Pastry tips should be washed in warm, soapy water and dried completely before storing.
Pastry Blender: A pastry blender, also known as a dough blender, is used to cut butter or other fat into dry ingredients, such as when making pie crust, scones, or biscuits. A pastry blender has stainless steel wires shaped into a half-moon, with a stainless or wooden handle for gripping. In place of a pastry blender, two kitchen knives also work well for cutting the ingredients together.
Pastry Brushes: Pastry brushes are used to brush liquid type ingredients onto pastries or breads. For example use a pastry brush to brush butter onto a hot loaf of bread, or an egg wash onto bagels, or milk onto a pie crust, or to wash down the sides of a saucepan when melting and caramelizing sugar. A pastry brush is even helpful for brushing excess flour from dough during rolling, and brushing up spilled flour on the kitchen counter. Choose a high quality brush with either natural bristles or silicone bristles that are securely attached to the handle. High quality pastry brushes are easy to clean with soap and water and should last for years.
Pastry Boards and Mats: Use a wooden pastry board to roll out perfectly shaped pie crusts, pizza crust, sugar cookies, or bread dough. Some boards are marked with measurements guides so you can roll out the exact dimension you need.
Marble is the best surface for rolling dough and pastry, as the marble keeps the dough cool. On hot days, you can quickly cool the marble down by placing a bag of ice on the surface for 15 minutes before working with your dough. Marble boards or slabs normally have small feet on the underside to protect your countertop from scratches. Marble is heavy and generally more expensive, but worth the investment for serious bakers.
Pastry mats are a non-stick surface that easily releases the dough. Pastry mats are thin, lightweight, and easy to clean and store.
Pastry Crimper: A pastry crimper is a small, stainless steel tweezer with serrated tips. It is used to seal the top and bottom crust of a pie together, or to decoratively finish the edge of a single-crust pie or tart pastry shell.
Pastry Cutters: Similar to cookie cutters, pastry cutter are normally very small, less than 2 inches in size, and are used to cut shapes such as leaves or fruits from pie crust to decorate the top of a pie. The cut-out shapes can be laid directly on the filling, or placed on the top crust, or around the edge of the pie.
Pastry Docker: A pastry docker is a cylinder, about 5 inches long, with sharp spikes at ½ inch intervals around the surface. It is used to poke holes in pastry doughs, such as pie dough or puff pastry. In place of a pastry docker a fork can also be used.
Pastry Wheel: A pastry wheel is used to cut strips of pastry, such as for making a lattice top pie crust, or pieces of dough for turnovers or ravioli. Pastry wheels may have a smooth blade or have a jagged or fluted edged blade.
Pie Birds: Pie birds are an old-fashioned way of venting a pie to allow the steam and bubbling juices to escape from the pie while baking. Pie birds are ceramic figurines placed in a cutout portion of the top pie pastry. Not really very practical, it is easier to just slash or cut vents in the pie pastry before baking to accomplish the same task.
Pie Weights: When making a blind baked pie crust, pie weights, which are small reusable ceramic balls about the size of marbles, are poured into the pastry lined pie pan before baking to prevent the pastry from puffing up and shrinking. In place of ceramic pie weights, you can also line the pastry with parchment paper and then fill with dried beans or uncooked rice.
A pie chain is a beaded chain that you coil onto the unbaked pastry. After baking, use tongs or a fork to list the hot chain out. A pie chain should be 6 or 10 feet long to completely cover the pastry.
Pie Crust Shield: The edges of a pie are the most susceptible to burning as a pie bakes. A pie crust shield is a lightweight aluminum ring that is placed around the edge of the pie to prevent the edges from over baking. In place of a pie crust shield, strips of aluminum foil work just as well.
A good rolling pin is essential for rolling pie pastry, sugar cookie dough, and bread dough. There are two basic styles of rolling pins, dowel and ball bearing. When deciding which to buy try it out on a flat surface and choose the one that is most comfortable for you to use. A rolling pin, if properly taken care of, should last a lifetime. Never submerge it in water or place in the dishwasher. To clean simply wipe it down with a warm damp cloth and allow to air dry.
A dowel rolling pin is a single piece of rounded wood, some have tapered ends, and some are long and straight. To roll, place your hands in the center of the pin and roll from the fingertips to the palm of your hand and back again. My favorite is a French tapered pin, perfect for rolling a circular pastry.
Ball bearing pins have a long barrel in the center, made of wood, marble, metal, or plastic, that moves separately from the handles. The handles are what bear your weight as you are rolling dough.
Rolling Pin Rings: Also called rolling pin spacers, these are rubber rings that slip onto opposite ends of your rolling pan, and are ideal for getting your dough to an even, uniform thickness. The rings raise the pin from the counter a precise distance according to the thickness of the rings being used. The thickness of the dough is determined by the space between the pin and the counter.
Rolling Pin Covers and Pastry Board Cloths: These cotton gauze cloths are designed to keep pastry dough from sticking to the rolling pin and pastry board. The rolling pin sleeve is a cylinder of gauze that fits over the pin; the cloth is a large square, normally canvas, that covers the pastry board or work area on which you are rolling. By rubbing flour into the weave of the cloth and rolling pin cover, you create a nonstick coating, enabling you to roll dough more easily, and allowing less flour to be absorbed into the dough. The pastry cloth also allows you to easily rotate the pastry as you are rolling.
Wire Cooling Racks: Wire cooling racks are a necessity for setting just-out-of-the-oven hot baking pans to cool. Hot pans placed on a flat surface can cause the baked item to become soggy, due to condensation that forms under the pan. Cooling racks are also helpful to use when drizzling icing or chocolate on top of cookies, cakes, or pastries as the icing drips thru the rack instead of forming a puddle.
Cooling racks are sold in various sizes, including round, square, and rectangular shapes. They should have feet of at least ½ inch that raise them above the counter for good air circulation. Have at least one rack that is large enough to hold several batches of cookies.
Cake Comb: A cake comb is a fun tool to use to make thin, parallel lines around the outside edge of a layer cake for a professional finish. After the cake is frosted, the comb is placed against the side of the cake, and then the cake is turned, or spun around on a cake turntable to make the lines all around. A kitchen fork or serrated knife can do the same job.
Cake Leveler: A cake leveler is used to slice cakes into even, horizontal layers. It is a wide, low, U-shaped metal frame that sits on plastic feet, and a thin, sharp serrated cutting blade sits horizontally between the sides of the frame. The height of the blade is adjustable so that cakes of different heights can be cut. The cake is pushed against the cutting blade to cut the layers.
Cake Spreader: Also called an angel food cake cutter, this tool looks like a long-handled hair comb, made with thin, long, evenly spaced teeth made of metal. When it is lowered into an angel food cake like a knife, it severs each piece from the whole cake without crushing the delicate crumb.
Cake Strips: Cake strips are heat-resistant metallic fabric strips that is moistened, then wrapped around the outsides of a round cake pan before the cake is baked. They insulate the pan, keeping the edges of the cake pan from heating more rapidly than the center, to produce a more evenly baked, level cake. The strips come in several lengths and are reusable.
Cake Tester: A cake tester is a fun little tool to have if you bake lots of cakes, made of thin metal and a decorative top, and used to pierce a baked cake to test for doneness. Of course the age-old substitute for testing the doneness of cakes is a long toothpick, or long wooden skewer. In a pinch, you can still use the method of olden days and pull a straw out of the kitchen broom to test your cake (but don’t use this unless you’ve cleaned it first.)
Cake Turntable: A cake turntable, also known as a cake stand, makes frosting a cake, or more elaborate cake decorating easier. A cake turntable is like a lazy Susan; it should sit on a small pedestal and turn easily without wobbling.
Cardboard Cake Rounds: These are inexpensive corrugated paper rounds for frosting and decorating cakes or transporting cakes from one location to another. After frosting a cake, and to avoid damaging the sides, slip the tip of a paring knife under the cardboard, lift the cake slightly at an angle, and slip your hand underneath to finish lifting it. The finished cake can then be placed on a serving plate. Card board cake rounds are also useful for bringing cakes and other pastries to parties, since you don’t have to worry about retrieving your serving platter.
Decorating Stencils: Stencils are flat, round pieces of plastic, about 9 inches in diameter. Designs, such as hearts and flowers are cut out of the center of the stencil. The stencil is placed over the top of a cake, confectioner’s sugar or cocoa is dusted over the top, and then the stencil is removed leaving a beautiful design on the cake.
Offset Spatula: An offset spatula has a long narrow, flexible stainless steel blade that allows easy frosting of cakes. You can easily spread frosting or whipped cream around the sides of the cake with this spatula, and it is flexible enough to use to create fanciful frosting swirls on top. A small offset spatula is good for or cookies.
Biscuit Cutters: A Biscuit cutter, either plain or fluted, will help produce high-rising biscuits as the biscuit cutter has a sharp edge to produce a clean cut; cutters that have a dull edge will compact the dough and the biscuits will not rise as well when baking. Round biscuit cutters are normally made of tin or stainless steel, ranging in size from 1½ to 3 inches in diameter. The cutter should be at least 1 inch deep to cut through the thickest biscuit dough. A biscuit cutter can also double as a cookie and scone cutter or to cut small cake rounds to frost for individual servings or petite fours.
Cookie Cutters: Cutting sugar cookies with a beautifully shaped cookie cutter is a tradition in many families, especially during holidays. There are hundreds of cookie cutter shapes available ranging from Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day shapes, along with alphabets, numbers, animals, stars, and flowers. Whatever shape cookie you want to create, there is most likely a cookie cutter shape available. Most cookie cutters are made of tin, plastic, copper, or aluminum. Most work well, however the more flimsy ones will easily be bent out of shape. Purchase ones that seem sturdy, have a sharp cutting edge, and are at least ½ inch deep. The most beautiful, and typically the most expensive cutters are made from copper, and along with being quality cutters they are beautiful to display in your kitchen.
Cookie Molds: Many traditional European cookies, such as Scottish shortbread, and German Springerle cookies, are made with a cookie mold. Most cookie molds are made of wood or stoneware with a raised design. The cookie dough is pressed into the mold to acquire the design, and then baked. Depending on the mold the cookie may be baked directly in the mold, or turned out of the mold before baking.
Cookie Press: A cookie press is used to extrude cookies into various shapes. The cookie dough is loaded into the hollow tube of the press, and then the plunger is used to press the dough out through a decorative plate fitted into the end. Spritz cookies are a traditional cookie that uses a cookie press. An alternative to a cookie press is to use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
Cookie Scoop (ice cream scoop): A cookie scoop is ideal for making uniform-sized cookies. It gives you the ability to quickly scoop up the dough and deposit the dough on the cookie sheet. Purchase scoops that are easy to squeeze to keep your hand and wrist from tiring. If the dough sticks to the scoop, you can spray with a nonstick baking spray.
Cookie Stamps: Cookie stamps are often made of terra-cotta, and are used to stamp designs into the top of shortbread-type cookies. The dough is normally rolled into a ball, and then flattened with the stamp, creating an impression in the cookie which remains after the cookie is baked.
Springerle Rolling Pin: A Springerle rolling pin is normally very intricately carved,used for making traditional holiday German Springerle cookies.The anise flavored dough is rolled with the Springerle rolling pin, pressing the carved shapes into the dough. The dough is then normally left to dry overnight before baking. Springerle cookies can also be made in a cookie mold.
Baking Stone: This is a large, flat stone that is placed on the bottom of the oven, or the bottom shelf if your oven has an electric element on the bottom. Baking stones are used to bake free-form bread loaves, flatbreads, and pizza, and mimic the heat of a brick or stone oven. The baking stone creates a dry and crispy crust by drawing moisture away from the crust as it bakes. The stone should be the thickest you can find, at least ½ inch thick, to hold heat better, and needs to be preheated for up to 1 hour before baking.
Bannetons and Brotforms: European-style rustic breads are traditionally given their second rise in shaping baskets before being tuned out onto a baking stone to bake. The baskets are floured before the dough is added. A French banneton is a woven willow basket, lined with linen or canvas cloth. The cloth is dusted with flour to draw moisture from the dough as it rises, making the baked crust chewy. A German Brotform, made of wood, leaves circular marks on the dough, making an attractive loaf.
Baguette Pan: Is there any better treat than a piece of crusty French bread or baguette hot out of the oven, possibly slathered with sweet butter? Now you can replicate a bakery loaf right out of your home oven with a baguette pan. The long troughs hold the dough in shape whilethe perforations allow for even browning from top to bottom, creating that essential golden, crispy crust.
Couche: Artisan bread bakers use a canvas cloth, called a couche, to create crusty baguettes. Place shaped baguettes in the folds of the floured cloth; when risen, roll them onto a peel, then off the peel onto your hot baking stone.
Doughnut and Bagel Cutter: This is similar to a round biscuit cutter, but with a smaller round cutter in the center to make the doughnut or bagel hole.
Lame: A Bread Lame is a French tool with a curved razor blade set into a handle. A lame is used to slash the top of bread, such as baguettes, just before it goes into the oven. The slash allows the bread to expand fully to its proper shape as it bakes. A small, very sharp kitchen knife can also be used to slash the bread dough.
Peel: A bread peel is a wide, flat, usually long-handled wooden board, used to slide yeast breads, flatbreads, and pizza onto a baking stone in a hot oven.
Pizza Cutter: A pizza cutter, also known as a pizza wheel, is not only used to cut baked pizza, it is also a great tool for cutting bar cookies, cutting unbaked dough into smaller pieces, or thin strips of pastry for a lattice pie crust. A pizza cutter consists of a sharp metal disk attached to a handle, with a hand guard in-between to protect your fingers.
Rising Buckets: A lidded rising bucket is a 2 to 6 quart acrylic or plastic bucket with measurements on the side, making it easy to judge when the dough had doubled or tripled in size. An alternative is placing your dough in a large mixing bowl and covering with a small kitchen towel.
Cherry Pitter: A cherry pitter easily extracts the pits from fresh cherries, indispensable when fresh cherries are in season. Cherry pitters are normally available in stainless steel, aluminum or plastic, with a spring-loaded pitting mechanism. Simply place a cherry in the little metal cup and depress the plunger, pushing the pit out and leaving the fruit whole. A cherry pitter can also be used to pit olives.
Citrus Juicer and Reamers: There are many different types of juicers available, but my favorite is an old-fashioned glass reamer. It’s easy to use and easy to clean, and makes quick work of juicing a lemon or orange. If you like making large amounts of juice, an electric juicer is a good investment.
Citrus Zester: Citrus zesters are stainless steel strips with tiny razor-sharp edged holes. When you scrape a whole orange or lemon across the zester it removes the colored and flavorful part of the fruit (the zest), without including the bitter white pith underneath. This tool can also be used to finely grate chocolate, hard cheeses, whole nutmeg, and fresh ginger.
Melon Baller: Melon ballers come in a variety of sizes, used for creating melon balls for fruit salads. However this little tool doesn’t stop there. It is also great for coring apples and pears, forming small chocolate candies such as truffles, and shaping small balls of cookie dough.
Strawberry Huller: This tool is a small, V-shaped piece of metal or plastic with serrated ends to remove the green hull from the top of the strawberry. An alternative is to use a small sharp paring knife.
Cheesecloth: Cheesecloth is light cotton gauze, normally used to separate ingredients from the rest of the mixture. For example, use cheesecloth to bundle small whole spices together while poaching fruit or making spiced apple cider, or bundle small amounts of confectioner’s sugar into cheesecloth to sprinkle over baked goods. Cheesecloth is also perfect for wrapping and soaking fruitcakes with liqueur to put aside for aging.
Kitchen Timer: A kitchen timer is essential for baking, you don’t want to remember or guess how long a batch of cookies have been baking, or how much longer a cake has to bake. Digital timers are the easiest and most accurate to use, and you want a timer that is easy to hear if you are in another room. I like to use a digital timer that hangs around your neck so wherever you are in the house you won’t forget that batch of cookies baking in the oven. A multi-job timer is good when you need to time more than one item at a time, such as something baking in the oven, cooling on a rack, and chilling in the refrigerator all at once. An alternative to a kitchen timer is simply using the timer built in to your microwave or oven.
Kitchen Torch: A small kitchen torch, used with propane, makes creating a caramelized topping on crème brulee. It is also handy for browning meringues and glazing tarts.
Kitchen Towels: Kitchen towels should be clean, 100 percent cotton, and of a durable weave.
Mesh Strainer or Colander: Also known as a sieve, these mesh bowls are used to strain liquids and sift flour, confectioner’s sugar, and other dry ingredients. Finely woven mesh strainers are good for flours and fruit purees, and larger coarse strainers are used for larger particle ingredients. It’s helpful to have both types of sizes. A fine mesh sieve can be used to remove lumps from cooked fillings, or to sift ingredients (such as flour) into a recipe, or to sprinkle ingredients such as confectioner’s sugar or cocoa over baked goods.
Mortar and Pestle: A mortar is a small, round, heavy bowl; a pestle is a round headed crusher that fits inside the bowl, used for grinding spices and seeds. Most mortar and pestles are made of marble with an unglazed finish, providing a heavy stone surface for grinding.
Pot Holders and Oven Mitts: A pot holder or oven mitt is a must when removing hot pans from the oven. A kitchen towel does not provide enough protection and will likely result in a bad burn. Potholders and mitts are normally made from quilted cotton, thick terrycloth, or silicone.
Slotted Spoon: A slotted spoon is used for removing dumplings from boiling water, or poached fruit from syrup, and fritters and doughnuts from hot oil.
Tongs: Tongs are a versatile tool, good for lifting hot custard cups out of their water bath, transferring caramelized apple pieces into a cake pan, or grabbing pieces of fruit.
Chef’s Knife: A large 8 or 10 or 12 inch chef’s knife is essential for cutting, chopping, and slicing fruits, chocolate, and nuts.
Paring Knife: A 3 or 3½ inch paring knife can be used for many tasks, such as peeling and paring fruits, cutting small pieces of fruit, cutting decorations from pastry, and loosening cakes and other baked goods from their pans.
Serrated Bread Knife: A bread knife should have at least a 10 inch blade, and is ideal for splitting cake layers in half, slicing breads, and slicing some cakes and tarts.
Instant Read Thermometer: An instant-read thermometer registers the internal temperature of a baked item within 15 seconds or so. This allows you to quickly check water temperatures, or the doneness of baked goods such as a cake, pastries, custards, or yeast bread quickly, allowing the oven door to be open for a minimal amount of time.
Candy Thermometer: A candy thermometer is very useful for cooking sugar syrups and caramels. A candy thermometer has a mercury bulb with a long glass column. It is normally clipped to the inside of the pan, directly in the syrup but not touching the bottom of the pan, allowing you to watch as the syrup heats to the correct temperature.
Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer: This is the BEST instant read thermometer I’ve used for cooking and baking; the ThermoWorks Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is incredibly fast, accurate, and well worth the investment. Originally designed for professional users, the Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by celebrity chefs, cooking magazines, foodies, bloggers, and competition BBQ teams, and has become the top cooking thermometer for home use.
Gone are the various instant read, candy, and meat thermometers I’ve previously used; instead, I use my Thermapen Thermometer for everything including checking room temperature baking ingredients, melting and tempering chocolate, baking bread, making pastry creams, sugar syrup, caramel, and candy, cooking and barbequing meats and fish, and checking oil temperatures for deep frying. Thermapen thermometers come in so many colors it’s hard to choose a favorite! Shop here for Super Fast Thermapen Thermometers.
Oven Thermometer: An oven thermometer is useful for checking the accuracy of your oven. You can also move the thermometer to different positions in your oven to check for hot spots. An oven thermometer should be a mercury thermometer that either hangs or sits on the rack. Check the temperature after you have preheated the oven, then adjust the heat up or down as needed if the actual temperature varies from the original setting.
Blender: A blender is a great tool for pureeing fruits and vegetables, mixing bar drinks and smoothies, chopping ice, making dips, and chopping small amounts of nuts. Blenders will chop, mix, whip, and blend almost anything.
Bread Machine: If the old fashioned method of mixing, kneading, and rising yeast breads doesn’t suit you, then a bread machine is good to have. Just add the ingredients, close the lid, turn it on, and in 3 or 4 hours have a perfectly baked loaf of hot homemade bread.
I actually prefer making my own yeast dough, including the kneading the rising process. However I do sometimes use my bread machine for making bread dough up to the baking process. After the dough has rising in the bread machine I take the dough out, shape it, and bake in my regular oven.
Food Processor: A food processor is an expensive investment; however it is a versatile machine for chopping, dicing, mixing pastry dough, mixing some cookie dough’s, and pureeing fruit. Food processors come in various sizes. A good all-around size is a 1½ to 2 quart capacity. I like to use a mini food processor for small jobs such as chopping nuts quickly.
Hand Mixer: Not every mixing job in the kitchen requires a large stand mixer, and this is where the hand mixer comes into play. A hand mixer can perform nearly any beating and whipping task that a stand mixer can, except for very heavy cookie and bread dough. I usually use a hand mixer for quick or small jobs, such as beating cream cheese, whipping cream or egg whites, beating egg yolks, and making cake frostings. I also use a hand mixer to make fluffy mashed potatoes.
Stand Mixer: A good stand mixer is the heart and soul of a baker’s kitchen and worth the price if you love to bake. I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, and except for pies and tarts, is used for most of my baking projects. Stand mixers range in size from 4 quart to 7 quart. The smaller models will serve most home baking needs. But if you like to bake double batches of cookies or bread dough’s, then you’ll want the larger size mixers. Most mixers come with a whip, and dough hook, and paddle attachments, which are used to knead doughs, beat meringues, and fold batters smoothly together.