Last week, I posted my liste of must-have kitchen items for the basic home cook. Today, I feature the baker's edition of kitchen requirements. This list was compiled and sent to me from Alicat of Something So Clever. If you haven't seen her blog, you should check it out. I praise her more than is probably healthy for a married man, but the food is just so sexy-looking.
10. Pam with Flour -- I had my doubts about this stuff, but from what I've experienced so far this stuff works, and it works WELL. Just don't accidentally inhale or hell, even BREATHE during and immediately after using. It makes you cough really badly.
9. A good quality Microplane -- Another item I had my doubts about. I could never get my chintzy 'zester' to work, and when I was finally gifted a microplane, I fell in love. Zesting an entire lemon takes a matter of seconds with hardly any effort. In the past I had used dried lemon and orange peel for cookies -- but never again. It makes such a difference to have fresh zest.
8. A Hand Mixer -- Normally I would say a Kitchenaid Mixer, but as I sold mine several months ago and have managed to survive with merely a hand mixer, I will stick with this for both simplicity and to save money. If you can afford a Kitchenaid, I say go for it, it is a life saver with bread and pizza dough -- but usually a hand mixer or a bowl and spatula (with a little elbow grease) can do the job just as well. [[editor's note - a hand mixer is not one of those stick blenders]]
7. Vanilla Beans -- There are a few places on ebay that sell what seems to be great quality vanilla beans for an extremely reasonable price. I bought a full pound of vanilla beans (approx 120 beans) for only $36! Granted, I got Tahitian instead of Madagascar (Tahitian has a slightly floral flavor), but so far I have loved the results of Tahitian beans. Madagascar typically go for more money -- but you can buy 10 beans or up -- depending on how often you use them. Beans can be stored for up to two years... just don't freeze them! :)
6. A laminated list of substitutions, conversions and difficult cooking term definitions on your fridge -- Halfway through preparing your recipe is not the ideal time to run off to the computer to research a term or figure out a conversion. Save yourself the time (and perhaps the quality of the outcome of your dish) and keep this info handy.
5. Silpat Nonstick Liners -- Not only do they assure stick-free cookies, they also can be used for rolling out dough and keeping your baking pans clean while cooking.
4. Good quality set of nonstick pans -- Don't be afraid to splurge a little bit. I have thrown away far too many 'cheap' pans after only a few uses.
3. A selection of good chocolates -- Part of the fun (and freedom) of being able to make things on the fly is having a well stocked pantry. There are so many kinds of chocolates out there -- beyond the traditional white, semi-sweet, and bittersweet varieties. Try out some cinnamon, peanut butter or lemon chocolate chips.
2. Temperature gauge for your oven -- I am willing to bet that you will be surprised at how much your oven varies (especially if it is an older model). Don't just test one temperature -- try many and get a scratch sheet on your fridge so you can set the temperature correctly next time around.
1.Good quality vanilla extract -- We've covered vanilla beans already, but that doesn't mean you should throw out your nice bottle of extract. It gives cakes and frosting a completely different flavor than a vanilla bean does. In frosting, I actually use both! Be prepared to splurge on a good quality bottle. Or -- if you've got some great Madagascar vanilla beans, add about 10 to a bottle of good vodka and make your own extract. ;)