Sunday, November 11, 2007
Aw, come on! you're probably thinking. I logged on here anticipating a post that actually teaches me how to bake something and all I get is a photo of this intimidating piece of equipment.
Well, hang on. We can't run until we walk. Or at the very least crawl.
Every crafts person has their tools. Their workshop. Their library of source materials.
It's no different for bakers. If you plan to join me in this adventure, you're gonna need some basic tools. So bear with me for just one post.
THE WORKSHOP: As a baker, your workshop, obviously, is your kitchen. Sometimes it's also a sunny spot on a window ledge or out on the patio. But it's not your ass on the sofa (Unless of course you're Wicked and you plan to continue to ignore the fact that there is a bona fide oven in your kitchen as you plant your ass on the sofa, Cab Sav in hand, and just mouth the words.)
So. Those of you who aren't Wicked, get up and go into your kitchen. You should have the following; stove top, oven, microwave, counter space. Make sure all are in working order. That means, you can switch on the gas or electricity to your stove top without burning your domicile to the ground; your oven is calibrated to the correct temperature (a simple oven thermometer will do) and you adjust accordingly when baking; your microwave has at least a low, medium, and high setting; and you've got a good 3-5 feet of counter space cleared of all bills, cat hair, and last night's beer bottles. Simple, huh?
THE TOOLS: Uh, unfortunately, NOT so simple. Car mechanics, wood workers – hell, home tinkerers – have nothing on bakers when it comes to tools. Google any baking ware Web site and you'll quickly come away thinking, like Moi, that it is indeed a yellow short bus ride to the long, slippery slope of bankruptcy when it comes to one's materials. Then again, I've been baking for years and the Shoe Fund is no worse off because of it. (Hint: eBay, Party People)
Most of you probably already have half this stuff anyway. It may be lying dormant and neglected in your cabinets, covered in dust, the final resting spots for dozens of long dead and dessicated insects, but you most likely got it. So go on, fill a sink with some hot, soapy water, go snooping, and bring your materials back out into the light.
At the bare minimum you'll need:
1. Baking pans
2 8" rounds
2 9" rounds
12 hole muffin
1 8" square
1 9x13 square
2 9x3 loaf pans
1 10" scalloped-edged tart pan, with removable bottom
1 10" pie pan
For the rounds, muffin, and loaf, I prefer plain ol' aluminum of the kind you can purchase at any hobby shop (Wilton is a good, inexpensive, long-lasting brand). For the Bundt and tart, I prefer non-stick. And for the 8" square, 9x13, and 10" pie, I prefer glass (nothing beats Pyrex).
2. Baking Sheets
At least two, rimmed, non-stick, 12x17
One set of nesting glass and one set of nesting metal should do ya. Keep Aunt Ida's Depression-era ceramics on display, where they belong. I'd hate to be responsible for the loss of a lovely heirloom.
Unless you're Amish or have freakishly powerful upper body strength, don't even try to fool yourself into thinking you can bake without at least a hand held electric mixer. These can be purchased from any discount appliance store on the cheap, but should include at least two different beater styles and six varying speeds.
5. Measuring Tools:
Set of measuring spoons, aluminum, which range from 1/8" teaspoon to 1 tablespoon.
Set of dry measuring cups, aluminum, which range from 1/4 cup to 1 cup.
Two-cup Pyrex measuring cup for liquids
Four-cup Pyrex measuring cup for liquids
3-cup sized sifter. Or do as I do and use metal mesh strainers (I have several sizes) – they're easier to use.
2 large rubber spatulas
2 small rubber spatulas
2 long-handled, sturdy wooden spoons
1 large balloon whisk
1 medium whisk
1 small whisk
1 offset metal spatula for icing cakes.
For making candy, melting chocolate, clarifying butter, etc.:
1 1-1/2 or 2-quart
1 2-3/4 or 3-quart
8. Wire racks
Scale for measuring chocolate chips, raisins, etc.
Candy thermometer, preferably instant-read
If it's in your budget, I also highly recommend you substitute your hand held mixer with a Kitchen Aide stand mixer (Mine was a gift from my mother twelve years ago and it just opened up my baking world.) AND, you purchase two Silpat non-stick silicone baking sheets. These are almost imperative if you're going to make meringue cookies and they make clean up of other sheet pan goodies a breeze.
Of course, how you outfit your workshop from here is simply limited by your budget, your desire, and your imagination.
THE SOURCE MATERIALS: Why, Moi, of course. So, hang in there and stay tuned. Next time, we bake!