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Baking 101 - What do I need?

While I love to cook, I've always stated that I hate baking. I hate measuring, not being able to eyeball, I hate following recipes, heck I don't even like sweets!

But I now have a 2-year old who loves cookies, cakes, etc. and want to make my own to at least give her 'healthier' treats. So I caved and got a KitchenAid artisan... I must admit that it makes baking somewhat enjoyable and has yielded better results than my previous attempts.

So what essential baking gear do I need? I have some dollar store measuring spoons and cups, hand-me-down cookie trays, a muffin tin, a bread/cake pan, a silicone spatula, mixing bowls. What else do I need? I'm thinking of getting a digital scale, maybe a rolling pin. Any other essentials? Do the quality and material of the trays and pans matter?

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  1. i advise getting a Silpat for your cookie sheet. They aren't cheap but I've seen them on sale here and there. They make baking cookies a heck of a lot easier. rolling pins are good. i've got a basic one but you can always improvise. with my little one we use rolling pins made for playdough. we also have some fun cookie cutters. i think decent cookie trays do matter.

    7 Replies
    1. re: trolley

      Any recommendations as to sizes for Silpat and specific brands or material for cookie trays? Love the Silpat suggestion, I had never even heard of it before! Love Chowhound :-)

      1. re: CookEatSleep

        I have three that are cookie-sheet sized, and one humongous one for rolling out pastry. I am compelled by my husband (who cleans up after me in the kitchen--that's our deal) to report that the big one is a pain in the butt to wash.

        1. re: MsMaryMc

          Haha that is really good to know. Thank your husband for sharing that tidbit. I'll stick with the cookie-sheet sized ones as I have absolutely no intention of venturing into pastry making.

        2. re: CookEatSleep

          The slipat is great. I know this is NO help whatsoever but I saw it for sale somewhere. you can get it at places like BBB or on Amazon. mine is the smallest 11.5x16.5. it fits a standard cookie sheet perfectly. I've used it over and over. no greasing the pan or cookie stuck on pan business with the silpat and they last forever. well, maybe not forever but i've had mine for a long time. As far as your cookie sheet you can get a set at Costco or again at BBB. it doesn't have to be serious stuff but just good and even. Mine are chicago metallic from BBB.

          as far as measuring I'm going with nesting cups and a glass pyrex for liquid. Sure, weighing is more accurate but measuring works just fine. i think weighing will be fun too for my child once he's a bit older. my child loves to "dump" the dry ingredients in a bowl. we make cookies and he rolls out the dough and we have fun cookie cutter shapes. sprinkles are a must in the end!

        3. re: trolley

          Instead of a silpat, I recommend the half sheet pre-cut parchment sheets from kingarthurflour.com. I have Silpats and rarely use them because I hate how difficult it is to rid them of their greasy feel. I love that I can toss the parchment sheets when their useful life is done.

          http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/i...

          1. re: roxlet

            you know, i really do like the precut parchment as well. i went thru one packet and for whatever reason every kitchen store in my area stopped carrying them. i hate the parchment in a roll and i avoid it if i can. I could have ordered from King Arthur but that took planning if you know what i mean ;)

            1. re: trolley

              I've found another source for parchment. Free shipping in 2 days if you've got Prime.

              http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A...

        4. Rolling pin is essential. If you involve your child a lot measuring cups will be more fun for her than a scale. I baked for years successfully without a scale and am now making the switch because... Just because :)

          A silpat Is great but there are other brands of silicon baking mat. They may not be as good as a silpat but are pretty close, otherwise parchment paper is excellent.

          A piping bag can be fun to make cute looking treats. For her, sandwich bags will do the trick.

          A disher (ice cream scoop) may be nice to make equally portioned cookies.

          If you work with pastry then a bench scraper can be useful.

          1. Quality baking pans are something I've come to appreciate. A bundt cake baked in a nice, heavy cast aluminum Nordic Ware pan is a lot less likely to bake unevenly, or stick and tear itself apart coming out of the pan, than the ones I used to try to make in my Kmart cheapie. Ditto cookie sheets--I get much better results from the insulated ones I got from the King Arthur Flour catalog than i ever did with the old thin ones.

            The other baking tools I love are my measuring spoons and measuring cups in odd increments (3/4 teaspoon, half-tablespoon, 1-1/2 cups, etc). The measuring spoons are shaped to fit into narrow spice containers, which is also a good thing to look for.

            I second the Silpat recommendation, too.

            9 Replies
            1. re: MsMaryMc

              Totally agree about the odd increments--some of the best money I've ever spent. The 3/4 cup is totally useful if you make the Toll House recipe.

              You definitely want calibrated measuring equipment. I use a scale for baking European recipes, but that's kind of unusual. It's also handy for portion control.

              I use parchment paper for fancy baking, and usually use each sheet a few times before tossing (big batches of cookies). For drop cookies, I just bake directly on the pan. I also use jelly roll pans as my mother did--that way cookies never go flying.

              I do use a rolling pin, mine is silicone I believe. I have a ton of cookie cutters & molds ... I would kind of let your baking direction guide you. Like if you feel like making a fancy Bundt cake, buy one of those pans & see how you like it. You don't need a ton of equipment upfront, but baking is precise ... you don't want to use crummy stuff (like bad measuring equipment) that's going to compromise your results. That's just a waste of your time, effort, & ingredients.

              Just remembered a handy item to have ... one of those 'push' measures for sticky ingredients like molasses, peanut butter, etc. Pampered Chef has them, but they're available elsewhere as well.

              1. re: foiegras

                A really good microplane grater is very useful for baking, great for citrus, cheeses. As well for after the baking you need the metal trays to cool your food on.

                1. re: foiegras

                  if you measure out oil first sticky stuff slides right off regular measuring cups

                  1. re: divadmas

                    And when there's no oil in a recipe, I just smear a thin film over the measuring cup to achieve the same result.

                2. re: MsMaryMc

                  If your oven seems to be giving odd results, an oven thermometer would be a good idea.

                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                    Perhaps baking chocolate and some dried fruit. Candied fruit can be impossible to find other than at the holidays, but sometimes I want it during the year. Perhaps some other spices like cloves and ginger and ingredients like molasses if you like spice cakes and cookies. If you like nuts, some pecans or walnuts.

                    I don't see a problem with letting the recipes you're making guide you. No need to stock up on things you may never use.

                    I add things to my pantry as I need them, or if I find that I really wanted/needed them but didn't want to go shopping to get them. So many things you can do with good chocolate chips ...

                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                      I really like Maida Heatter's recipes for baking ... I think she is the gold standard.

                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                        Plastic & chemical flavor ... yumm.

                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                          I have silicone cupcake liners and like them ... no odd taste or flavor retention noted with these.

                          I too like sprinkles & decorations ... I think I've gotten some good ones from the King Arthur catalog. It's fun to get them for the different holidays. If you're into food coloring, professional paste coloring in a variety of colors is also available (individually or sets).

                        2. quality? not at first, hit thrift stores, charity shops and used places. the important part is in a year or 2 it will develop into parent-child time. you can either upgrade later or find that some of that used stuff far surpasses anything new today.

                          granted if the pans and trays are all gunked and warped, I'd probably take a pass as well. you can gunk and warp new cheap stuff on your own.

                          and if you start off with 'odd' cookies, imagine kiddo's delight when they get so much better with her (or his) help.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hill food

                            absolutely - thrift shops - why buy new for the kids if we're not sure they want to carry-on the baking activity

                          2. You already have most of what you need. If you make cookies, you'll want a rolling pin. I have a digital scale but never use it as few of the recipes don't give quantities by weight. The pans I have are a mix, some dark steel and others light aluminum, some are nonstick and others not, doesn't matter as I lubricate them anyway, and I've never gotten a silicone baking mat, though I've thought about it. Trays? Cheap aluminum works well enough for me.