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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.


          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.


        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.

                            1. A digital scale comes in handy. I tend to use cups mostly, but a scale comes in handy in some recipes.

                              Rolling pin, definitely.

                              Parchment paper. My cookie trays are pretty sad looking, but as long as I use parchment, my cookies always turn out.

                              Cookie cutters! Maybe not an essential, but it can provide a way for the little one to join the fun.

                              Quality is important, but if you can't really afford the good stuff yet, start with cheap and replace when you can. If your cookie sheet is too thin, then just double the tins up to provide a little extra insulation. Also, if you find cakes darken too much on the outside when cooked in a dark tin, try lowering the temperature a little the next time you make it.

                              1. If you are going to make cookies a good quality solid cookie tray. You need dry and wet measuring cups. Parchment paper is always good to have on hand.
                                Most of all a well stocked pantry, as there is nothing worse having to go out for ingredients mid-recipe.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  Forgive my ignorance, but what are dry and wet measuring cups? Also, do you have suggestions as to a well-stocked pantry? I have the usual stuff like flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, chocolate chips, cinnamon, vanilla + pure vanilla, cocoa powder... any other recommendations for a novice baker would be much appreciated

                                  1. re: CookEatSleep

                                    Dry and wet measuring cups are because there are slight variations in the volume of dry vs. wet ingredients.

                                    Wet = pyrex style measuring cups where one has lots of gradiations. I'd suggest a 1 cup and 2 cup size. (these go in your cupboard)

                                    Dry - nesting cups where each measures a different amount, eg. 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 1 cup. I prefer metal, but get whatever you like / can afford. (these fit in a drawer)

                                    1. re: CookEatSleep

                                      Dry measuring cups are used to measure flours, and the like. The wet measuring cups are used to measure liquids. They should not be interchanged especially if you are making a cake or bread. Some even measure their dried goods with a scale for accuracy.

                                      Sounds like you have the basics in your pantry, items like all purpose flour, cake and pastry flour, corn starch, tapioca starch, raisins, oatmeal, are good to have on hand. Nuts can be stored in the freezer for future use. Frozen berries are great for baking, especially blueberries. Many recipes call for unsalted butter so that is good to have on hand. I use whole milk for baking, and also keep buttermilk powder on hand as some recipes call for buttermilk. As well a good quality oil, I use sunflower oil for my baked goods.The key is to read the recipe before(which I have been guilty of not doing) to ensure that you have all that you need As you have mentioned your are new to this you might want to check out Anna Olson on the Foodnetwork she has done a number of shows on baking and I do find her very informative:

                                      1. re: CookEatSleep

                                        Dry measuring cups come in sizes from 1 cup downward. You fill the cup then level the flour etc. with a straight edge to get the measurement right. They're usually metal, sometimes plastic.

                                        A wet measuring cup is transparent glass or plastic in sizes of 1 cup, 2 cups, 4 cups etc., with the measurements marked in quarters, thirds, etc. You fill with liquid to the measure you want.

                                        A dry measuring cup isn't so great for wet measures as if you must fill it to the brim and you're likely to spill some. A wet measuring cup isn't good for dry measures as you can't make them precise by leveling.

                                        There's another kind of measuring cup called an Adjust-a-Cup by KitchenArt which is good for sticky stuff like honey or vegetable shortening that would cling to an ordinary cup. It's a tube with measures marked on it, with a piston inside and a rubber gasket. You set the piston to the measurement you want, fill the "cup," then squeeze it out into your bowl or whatever by pushing the piston. This isn't optimal for liquids and not good at all for dry ingredients like flour.

                                        Pictures of all three kinds of measuring cups are here:


                                        1. re: John Francis

                                          "A dry measuring cup isn't so great for wet measures as if you must fill it to the brim and you're likely to spill some. A wet measuring cup isn't good for dry measures as you can't make them precise by leveling."

                                          You hit it right on the head. You can use a liquid measuring cup for dry commodities you don't have to level like granulated sugar (I've seen Julia Child do this) or even to pack brown sugar but it's something of a pain. Best to stick with separate measures for both. I have Amco stainless, one-piece (i.e. the handle can't snap off at the weld) dry measuring cups that were a great investment. Better not to buy cheap because the likelihood of the handles' breaking off is high.

                                          1. re: MacGuffin

                                            Also better not to buy cheap because of lack of calibration (which I believe defeats the whole purpose of measuring ;).

                                            1. re: foiegras

                                              I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "lack of calibration" for dry measuring cups.

                                              1. re: MacGuffin

                                                What foiegras means to say is that not all measuring cups are accurately marked or manufactured. An even dip, scoop & sweep 1 cup measure of AP flour should weigh 5 oz. Liquid water should weigh 8 oz.

                                                These adorable looking measuring cups, for example, are inaccurate by up to 6%, according a Cooks Illustrated test done July 2008. (Yet the Amazon users meta-review still gives it 4 stars, even though it fails on the one element that measuring cups must succeed at!)


                                                Mr Taster

                                    2. I love having a scale and it makes baking easier. For many years I did not have one, but now I would not go back. Baking sheets (and pans) must be good and heavy or you will get frustrated. I found baking sheets on-line for $5 not insulated (which are good), but nice and heavy(thick). I use my 8" and 9" square pans a lot, muffin tin, 9"x13" pan and a 9" spring form. As others had said, I love my silpat and rolling pin. Cookie cutters I have, but never use. I can use a glass. I have not used a pastry bag in a long time (use storage bag if I really need it).

                                      You don't really need wet and dry measuring if you have a scale although I do have all that.

                                      I also got a long time ago a second bowl for my Kitchen Aid. An indulgence I know, but I love it.

                                      1. Arm yourself with a good digital scale and a library of high quality, well-tested, carefully written recipes that have been vetted by a reputable test kitchen.

                                        I cannot stress enough how many terrible recipes there are floating around on the internet. It's really discouraging to get halfway through a recipe and then realize you're not sure what the author means because they've misplaced their modifier, or the body recipe has left out something from the ingredient list.

                                        I'm partial to the Cooks Illustrated/Americas Test Kitchen crew because their recipes are incredibly well written and edited. They apply the scientific method to their recipes, making a dish 100 different ways in order to determine what works the best (often explaining how they reached their conclusions so you can learn along with them) and they very often come up with some amazing innovations (like vodka pie crust-- the vodka keeps the crust incredibly tender by inhibiting gluten development). Their recipes rarely leave me wondering what the author meant. I've learned a lot from them (both for baking and cooking). They've essentially taught me how to cook.

                                        But be careful-- not all test kitchens are created equal. As food has become more and more trendy, low quality "test kitchens" have been popping up all over. Chow's test kitchen, for example, is pretty bad.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. Here's my suggestions, beyond what you already have. I'm a pretty good baker and I've never used a scale, just regular ol' measuring cups. I'm listing Amazon links below but you can look for this stuff anywhere. I like to buy things at HomeGoods/TJ Maxx. Just make sure you're get stuff that feels substantial when you hold it, especially for baking pans. Also restaurant supply stores have some good prices for high quality stuff. I got my silicon mats there when I accidentally melted my actual Silpats. Note to self, do not leave the silpats on the baking sheets stored in the broiler drawer, then turn on the broiler :)

                                          Glass pyrex measuring cup (for wet measuring): http://www.amazon.com/Pyrex-Prepware-... I actually grew up measuring stuff like flour in this too, but you're better off with flat top measuring cups for that (like your dollar store ones).

                                          Half Sheet Baking Sheet http://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-Bak... These kind are good because they do not warp when hot (like cheapo non-sticks do) and have a huge variety of uses in the kitchen. I even use them like a tray to carry all my grilling supplies outside.

                                          Silicone baking mats: http://www.amazon.com/Artisan-Silicon... these are the same as the "Silpat" brand, but way cheaper. I got these for my mom for Christmas and she likes them.

                                          If you want to do layer cakes, you will need more than one cake pan. http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-AMB-9... ones like these have suited me just fine.

                                          If you want to do something like cheesecake, you will need a springform pan: http://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-Lea...

                                          I also like having multiple sets of measuring spoons, that way if you measuring something liquid, then need to measure something dry, you don't have to wash it. I actually have these plus two other sets. I like these because they are adjustable and take up less room than a whole set in the drawer: http://www.amazon.com/KitchenArt-Cook...

                                          Also even if you're using silicon mats, parchment paper comes in handy, especially when making layer cakes because you can cut them in circles and put in the bottom of your cake pan to make it easy to take the cakes out. I believe they even sell them in pre-cut circles.

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                            What exactly is the benefit of a silicone mat over just using a strong, high quality 1/2 sheet baking sheet and parchment?

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Things don't stick to a mat, and it is re-usable.

                                              1. re: tzurriz

                                                I've never baked with a silicone mat, but my instincts (and common sense) tell me that parchment is going to transfer heat from the pan WAY more efficiently than silicone.

                                                Things don't stick to parchment either. Re-usability is the only benefit I can think that a silicone mat would have over parchment. However, I'm not sure that re-usability is a good enough reason to replace my parchment with silicone, especially if your cookies turn out less browned than they would if baked directly on a hot sheet pan lined with parchment. Results are more important to me than convenience/price.

                                                For those who have experience baking on both silicone and parchment, I'd love to hear your comparisons.

                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  For what it's worth, Jacques Pepin constantly uses and praises silicone mats in his TV series and never ever uses parchment paper. I should think he has experience with both.

                                                  The advantage of parchment paper is that you can cut it to shape and size to fit inside a cake or sheet pan to prevent sticking. Depending on what you bake, it could pay to have both.

                                                  1. re: John Francis

                                                    I decided to pay the premium for the King Arthur Flour pre-cut 1/2 sheet sized parchment. It's an amazing time saver. They arrive flat in an oversized ziploc bag, so you never have to fight with the paper curling back up on you. It is pricey though, however I bought my supply a few years ago and I've still got plenty in my baking cabinet.

                                                    Incidentally, KA parchment is silicone lined, so you're getting the best of both worlds.


                                                    Mr Taster

                                                    1. re: John Francis

                                                      As for parchment vs. silicone mats, I decided to see what Cooks Illustrated has to say about them. They reviewed five different models in 2007, so bear that in mind.

                                                      As usual, they have a very distinct opinion. Thin silicone mats resulted in spotty browning, and thick ones imparted a plastic and chemical flavor to baked goods. All stained, and all retained smells from prior baking.

                                                      The winner (as such) was "recommended with reservations" for reasons outlined above, and is the DeMarle Silpat Silicone Baking Mat, model 2409.

                                                      The "losers" (all "not recommended") in descending order of (non)preference were the SiliconeZone Standard Baking Mat (model 1501), the KitchenAid Silicone Mat (model KBS965BU), Regency Wraps Non-Stick Baking Liner (no model # given), and the Wilton Baking Mat (model 2102-1026).

                                                      CI's conclusion: stick with parchment.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                    2. re: Mr Taster

                                                      I rarely use them for cookies (preferring the sheet itself or occasionally parchment), but for homemade pizza silicone mats are invaluable.

                                                      They're stiff enough to hold the dough together as you slide them on the peel or the stone. They're light enough to pick up the contact heat of the stone.

                                                      I've used both parchment and silicone for cookies and haven't noticed much difference. The parchment will burn or darken if you have a small oven (I do). Silicone can be a pain to clean or scrape between groups (although staining is light...not anymore than a sheet pan). In general I will use what is recommended in the recipe when it comes to cookies.

                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                        Mr Taster,

                                                        As I mentioned down-thread, I use this super thin silicone-coated fabric that can be cut to size, folded, etc... and is about the same thickness as parchment paper. It's also slippery as can be.

                                                        I've been using one for a while now, cut to fit my round baking stone, and as soon as my supply of parchment sheets is exhausted, I'm buying more for my baking sheets. I'm a believer.


                                                    3. re: Mr Taster

                                                      I've used both and honestly don't see much of a difference in the end result. I just like that the mats are reusable (less waste), and parchment "curls" making it annoying to use sometimes, and I don't have the storage room to store the pre-cut flat ones (my kitchen only has 5 drawers, 2 of which are narrow, and when I started using the mats, my kitchen only had 3 drawers total, all narrow). I can roll up my mats and secure with a rubber band and toss in the drawer. I haven't had any issues w/ spotty browning or anything like that. Like I mentioned above, parchment does still have it's place over silcone in certain applications though.

                                                      Silicone mats are also helpful for when you're frosting/decorating cookies, because you can make a mess underneath/around the cookies and the hard frosting just peels off when you're done.

                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                        end of roll can get pretty curly. first thing, i tear off sheet and put it under baking pan to flatten, usually don't bother to do this. i never cut to size, overlap on rim is no problem. weight of whatever holds paper down.
                                                        reynolds wrap parchment is good heavy duty brand.
                                                        costco has a very big roll much much cheaper per foot but it is lighter weight. very non stick and adequate to bake several runs of cookies. higher heat, like for roasting veggies will tun paper brown and brittle but it is good for that one shot.

                                                    4. re: juliejulez

                                                      This is awesome. The links are super helpful. Thanks JulieJulez

                                                    5. You've gotten great suggestions here. I'd only add a springform pan and a few extra sets of measuring cups if you have a little one. She's going to want to start helping you bake, and she'll love to measure and dump. I pick them up at the dollar store, Home Goods, etc., and have also started leaving them in my canisters of flour and sugar...super handy.

                                                      1. Get heavy baking sheets from a local or online restaurant equipment store. You'll never have to replace them, and they won't warp in your home oven.

                                                        If you're planning on baking a lot and want a simple method of "souping up" your oven, place a thick pizza stone or clean brick pavers on the bottom shelf in the oven. This will increase your thermal capacity and help even out hot/cold spots. It's cheap yet effective.

                                                        1. My baking items that get a lot of use are a pizza stone, loaf pans (Chicago Metalworks, not nonstick), muffin pan (CI), measuring cups, and a big mixing bowl. I use the palm of my hand in lieu of measuring spoons. Silpat or parchment, too. I use parchment for free form loaves. Also in cooler weather the madeleine plaque gets a lot of use. Oh, and a pizza peel and CM cookie sheets and half jelly rolls.

                                                          1. Basic basic: at least one large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. Two cookie sheets if you're making cookies. A measuring cup. For cake, a rectangular pan about 9 x 13 and/or a pair of round layer cake pans. and/or angelfood cake pan, depending on what you plan to bake. For brownies and similar bar or square cookies, a square pan 8 or 9 inches square. For rolled out cookies or pie crust, a rolling pin (but in an emergency you can use a bottle). For cutting out cookies with a child, cookie cutters, also a spatula for lifting cookies. Some kind of electric mixer, even a cheap hand-held one, is desirable for whipping egg whites stiff. A measuring cup. A set of measuring spoons. For cupcakes, a muffin pan. For pies, a couple of pie pans. A scraper for cleaning the bowl and getting every bit of batter. I doubt you will need a scale immediately. Keep this as simple as you can.

                                                            1. You've got the basics, and lots of good recs from other posters. I wouldn't upgrade too much right away, but rather see what works for you, then replace what isn't.

                                                              I would add decorative edibles along with the cookie cutters in fun shapes to get your little one really jazzed. Grab yourself some inexpensive supermarket sprinkles, in chocolate, glittery sugar, etc... Also, some food coloring, one of the boxes of 4 colors from McCormick or the like will work well. Don't forget to stock up on cupcake liners; I'm constantly running out! My grandsons have a lot more fun when I let them choose shapes and decor, and frost all the goodies. Even the 12-yr-old still loves it.

                                                              For now, a chair or barstool pulled up to the counter will work for her, but by the time she's 4 you'll want to consider getting her a nice, stable stool to stand on.

                                                              1. For baking sheets, I'm a fan of the heavy aluminum half sheet pans others have mentioned, because they don't warp and are inexpensive (if you get them from a restaurant supply place rather than a cookware store).

                                                                This exploration of cookie baking on different types of pans, with and without parchment, is interesting and useful: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2...

                                                                1. 1. best baking tool ever = parchment paper!

                                                                  2. child-size apron that is just for them (easy to sew or find someone to sew one up for you - go to a quilt fabric store and they always have cute prints that your young baker can choose from)

                                                                  3. a safe step stool (ikea makes one for kid bathrooms) - so they can be at proper counter-height

                                                                  4. a really good rotary hand beater - works for whipping cream and other softer batter mixes - still after many years - a fav thing to do while adults chat at the dinner table

                                                                  5. a damp cloth for the counter top - so the mixing bowls don't slide around

                                                                  6. pyrex measuring jugs - mainly 1, 2, 4 cup size (these are for liquids and melting in microwave (with your supervision)

                                                                  7. pans of course -

                                                                  8. sanding sugar - may be better re: less sugar than regular icings - but still adds fun to muffins, cupcakes, cookies


                                                                  re: parchment - easy to find in the plastic wrap / foil section of any decent supermarket - i use it to line everything, including pie pans (plates) - yes it looks rustic but that's our style (do not let it touch any elements in your oven) - I don't even use scissors to make it exact - basically - tear, press in to the pan, batter next - bake it - cool, decorate.

                                                                  and with a simple roll of parchment, you don't have to store and wash and all that nuisance stuff

                                                                  i have a lot of experience baking with young people - and I am - for fear of saying this on a fancy food website - a big fan of cake mixes --- there are some that are not totally horrifying. - you can get breads, scones, gluten-free etc.

                                                                  check out Bobs Red Mill from Oregon, for eg

                                                                  or from scratch - we have great success with Bob's Red Mill Carrot Cake recipe - uses whole wheat pastry flour, grate some carrots (make extra for snacks) - drain the pineapple from can - yes, some sugar - easy to measure oil - etc.

                                                                  i see you say "no" to pastry - well - we use the pre-rolled store bought - there are various brands - it is handy and fairly indestructible - and then they pick the berries outside in the garden (or here at the beach in the summer), measure, add sugar and spice - pour in to the pie plate - it just makes life easier and more appropriate to attention spans and other activities

                                                                  I think aside from the measuring and all that - it's the process and the final output "i made this!"

                                                                  oh - that reminds me - homemade granola is a great recipe - lots of fractions and very hands on!

                                                                  most importantly - be safe (always unplug before licking, testing, scraping, or putting hands in to the bowl - that is RULE ONE here - not just for the young cooks but for the adults too - cuz remember, they will always copy what you do. So we all make it safe.

                                                                  we also have "hand washing / cooking hygiene" and knife skills rules and hot liquid / appliances rules.

                                                                  some days it works like - well, clockwork - other days - they go off to read and i finish the project - we just go with the flow and make it enjoyable long-term and hopefully conscious about good food, how much work the farmers and animals do for us, and so forth for the rest of their lives.

                                                                  ps - someone on this thread wisely suggested checking what's at the thrift shop - i very much agree - pyrex jugs - dry measure cups - a sifter - pans - pie plates - rolling pins - i see those commonly at our local Salv Army thrift shop.

                                                                  have fun!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                    I very much like your integrated safety/hygiene-for-all method.

                                                                    and don't feel bad about the mixes. they're a good way of getting one's feet wet (so to speak) the OP can always move on to more delicate/elaborate things later when feeling more confident (or not).

                                                                    fancy food website? HA! go check out all the non-bashing McD's threads!

                                                                  2. I love parchment too, but I get my pre-cut flat pack sheets from here, for $4.49 per 100 sheets. Shipping is not free, but very reasonable. I also buy my nitrous cream-whipper cartridges there. And they have half-sheet and quarter-sheet pans in aluminum or stainless, and cake pans, lots of other things.

                                                                    Great prices for good heavy duty stuff.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: patryce

                                                                      I recently stumbled on this while looking for cheap parchment rounds. I cut it to fit my baking stone. It works beautifully for bread and pizza, so far. Amazing stuff, cleans in a jiffy and completely reusable. Like Silpat, but it can be cut to fit without ruining it.

                                                                      As soon as I exhaust my current supply of paper sheets, I'll buy a few more of them for my jelly roll pans.

                                                                      http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Supply-...? ie=UTF8&qid=1379343250&sr=8-6&keywords=parchment+paper

                                                                      Webstaurant has similar PanPal liners, but it's not clear if they're designed to be trimmed. They are much less expensive, though and might be the same thing. I can't tell from the descriptions.

                                                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                                                        costco has a huge roll of parchment paper for around $5. lightweight, not as good as reynolds but much cheaper, great non stick but gets brittle at high temp, ok for maybe 3 batches of cookies.

                                                                        1. re: divadmas

                                                                          The pre-cut sheets are far superior to the roll because the curl of the paper (especially when you get down to the end of the roll) really is cumbersome to work with.

                                                                          Mr Taster

                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                            it can be a pain but the first thing i do is tear off a sheet and flatten it with a baking sheet or whatever pan you are using. the weight of cookie dough or whatever holds sheet in place later, even when sheet overlap is bigger than pan. i try to limit overlap as that is part that gets brown and brittle. roll is easier to store for me.

                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                              i can't deal with the curl in the parchment. i hate it i hate it!

                                                                      2. In addition to what everyone else has said, get a flour sifter. I sift my flours for recipes that call for measuring cups. It came to my attention a while ago that most recipes were written with sifted flour in mind. Sifted flour takes up more room than unsifted flour. So when measuring by volume (1 cup, 1/2 cup, etc...) you get too much flour if you don't sift. I just get better results when sifting.

                                                                        Now if the recipe calls for flour by weight, I skip the sifting.

                                                                        A sifter also makes nice dusting patterns and helps you flour a work surface.

                                                                        18 Replies
                                                                        1. re: JohnOort

                                                                          i don't have one of those crank sifters but do have a set of various size strainers. a set of 3 fine mesh strainers was $5 at walmart, i've had them for years. besides any sifting (mostly for powdered sugar topping) the large strainer does double duty for chicken stock and smoothing sauce or gravy.

                                                                          1. re: divadmas

                                                                            i hate those crank sifters, they're hard to clean and always break. i use just a strainer and it works well and it hasn't broken. HOWEVER, if baking with a child those things are worth getting. it's one of those safe things a young child can do with decent results.

                                                                            1. re: trolley

                                                                              i don't think i ever cleaned a crank sifter beyond giving it a shake. excellent point about kids. might be worth it just for them.

                                                                              1. re: trolley

                                                                                I LOVE my crank sifter! I've had it since 1974. We'll have to agree to disagree. :)

                                                                                1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                  well, you must have bought one before they decided crank sifters all needed to have built-in obsolescence. I've gone thru about 3 before I gave up. if they didn't break I'd be ok with them.

                                                                                  1. re: trolley

                                                                                    the hand-clench sifters are crap, but the crank ones last.

                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                      My mom had one of those. I thought they were the only game in town until I visited a friend's great aunt's house (we all lived a few houses apart) during one of her baking sessions. I vowed that I'd have a crank sifter someday, too--they were so much easier to deal with. :)

                                                                                      1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                        I just use a fine mesh strainer and a butterknife.

                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                          That certainly works but I like my sifter.

                                                                                          1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                            I think the fine mesh strainer works better simply because sifters generally have a very small sifting surface (maybe 4"-5" of mesh), whereas a fine mesh strainer can have a very large area (I think mine is 8" - 10"). That means that a lot more flour can be sifted at once, and that tedious, annoying job gets done that much more quickly.

                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                              If I found anything about baking, including sifting, "tedious" and/or "annoying," I wouldn't bother with it. It's nice that you found a method that makes you happy.

                                                                                              1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                                >> It's nice that you found a method that makes you happy.

                                                                                                I wouldn't say any method of sifting makes me happy, exactly.

                                                                                                To my mind, sifting is the licorice jellybean in the otherwise delightful jellybean bag of baking.

                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                  Well, I guess I'd have to say that cleaning up is my licorice jellybean. Again, whatever makes you happy (or not).

                                                                                                  1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                                    I consider cleanup something separate and apart from the joy of baking :)

                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                    "the licorice jellybean in the otherwise delightful jellybean bag of baking"

                                                                                                    hey I like licorice and all things anise/fennel!

                                                                                        2. re: hill food

                                                                                          ok, my BAD. i'm thinking of those crappy hand clench ones. not those expensive crank ones. yes, nice!

                                                                                        3. re: trolley

                                                                                          Mine's a Bromwell; I think they only came in aluminum back then. They still manufacture them and they're still American-made: http://www.jacobbromwell.com/all-amer... . Not unsurprisingly, I paid a LOT less for mine.

                                                                                  2. re: JohnOort

                                                                                    If you don't want to pay for a sifter (and I have one), you can use a fork to move the flour into the measuring cup.

                                                                                  3. Just to clarify, are you looking for items so you can bake together with your child, or just "must have" baking items because you want to bake FOR your child? The reason I ask is because the stand mixer is not really child-friendly. (At least I get nervous having my kids around mixers.)

                                                                                    One of my favorite items is a 2qt measuring bowl with a lip. It is made by Anchor Hocking, and is like pyrex. It is so handy. It can go in the microwave and dishwasher, it can be used with a hand mixer, and has high sides so batter/dough doesn't splash out easily. It came with a rubbery lid.

                                                                                    I think stirring and tasting is are important tasks for kids in the kitchen, so I would be sure to have some good spoons. Kids seem to like decorating with things like sprinkling colored sugar or sprinkles or nuts on top of things.

                                                                                    I have small rolling pins that my kids like and use for play dough too. I have gotten them from several sources, including as gifts from various family members; my local Chinese store sells nice ones for less than $1. I don't make cookies I have to roll so I use my rolling pins for pies and breads.

                                                                                    1. Parrish/ Magic Line baking pans (yes, they're aluminum). These commercial-quality pans are made in California and can be passed down to family members (as many have already). Aluminum pans make all the difference because they conduct heat so evenly. Also, just to cover your posterior when baking cakes (especially sheet cakes), invest in a few #7 "flower nails": http://www.wilton.com/store/site/prod... (Amazon has them; I bought mine locally). You spray the "nail" with some cooking spray, daub some butter on the bottom of the disk to help them stick to the pan, then place them in the middle of the pan, pouring your batter carefully. They help to conduct heat to the middle of the cake and they work really well. You slip them out when you cool the cake.

                                                                                      A #20 disher (yellow handle) is great for cupcakes--just scoop, level, plop. Vollrath's Jacob's Pride dishers are U.S.-made.

                                                                                      An 8" frosting spatula (mine's Dexter-Russell) does double duty as the perfect leveling edge when measuring dry ingredients.

                                                                                      I realize I'm in the minority but I don't like silicone for baking. It doesn't allow dough to "grip," which results in a somewhat flatter result due to "spread." I really do prefer parchment.

                                                                                      I can personally recommend two digital scales, both of which I reviewed on Amazon. One is the MyWeigh KD-8000. It's an excellent scale but the manufacturers are non-responsive jerks. The other is the Soehnle Page Profi, which I was given for review (I bought the KD-8000). Digital scales are a very nice thing to have in the kitchen but be wary of reviews on Amazon because I've noticed that many of them are penned by manufacturer's shills.

                                                                                      Don't go for cheap. Buy good stuff at the get-go and if you can inherit it or pick it up in a thrift store, so much the better. I went to eBay for a garlic press because I wanted one made in Europe, and that meant "vintage." I scored for a song, as did a friend who also needed a press and followed my lead. Needless to say, since the presses are probably 50 years old, they're "good stuff." :)