You might know this about me, but I sometimes get this urge to bake. A wave of need comes over me, and the only cure is fresh bread or cinnamon buns or biscuits or muffins. I’ve already broken down the essential ingredients I keep on hand. But all the ingredients in the world won’t help without my hardworking kitchen assistants (and I’m not talking about my husband as a sous chef). Here’s part two of my baking survival kit, all the tools and toys I have that help me make my favorite goodies on a whim.
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The Essential Appliances
KitchenAid Mixer: You can bake without a stand mixer, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t use the mixer for everything, because some things are better mixed by hand, but it’s a lifesaver when it comes to whipped cream, frostings, and bread doughs. The attachments it comes with – the paddle, whisk, and dough hook are enough for basic baking, but for an easy upgrade, I suggest a paddle attachment with bowl scraper.
Food Processor: Using a food processor can be a lifesaver when it comes to pastry doughs. It does the hard work of combining the butter and flour into that wet sand texture. Plus, it’s great for nut butters, fruit purees, and sauces.
Bread Machine: Do you need a bread machine to make bread? Absolutely not. In fact some breads can only be done in an oven. However, a bread machine can make your baking a total breeze if you need bread often. You just add the ingredients, and hit start. The machine does all the stirring, kneading, proofing, and baking for you. Plus many have settings now for jams and yogurts as well.
Wooden or Marble Rolling Pin: A good solid rolling pin is your multi-tool of baking. It’s a total necessity for everything from sugar cookies to cinnamon rolls to biscuits. And if you keep yours clean and cared for it can last forever!
Silicone Spatulas: I pretty much use spatulas for stirring everything from custards to sauces to batters. They are perfect for folding mix-ins into muffins or scraping the bowl so you don’t miss a single cupcake. It takes four just to make one batch of ice cream, so I keep around a lot!
Wire whisks in a couple sizes: I keep a small, medium, and large. Small is perfect for whipping up a single egg, and large for the constant mixing when tempering eggs for a custard. Medium is perfect for mixing up liquid ingredients and for everything in between.
Cooling racks: These are necessary for your treats that have just come out of the oven. Cookies and breads especially usually need to cool briefly in the pan, but then finish cooling on a wire rack. The airflow helps baked goods cool more effectively, and these are generally stackable to take up less counter space.
Small Baking Gadgets
Pastry Blender: If you don’t have a pastry blender, you are definitely missing out! I love how easy it is to cut butter into flour for pie crust, or anything else when the butter needs to stay cold. If you’re worried about buying a single-purpose kitchen tool, here’s a tip: I use mine to make the perfect guacamole too!
Microplane Zester: Besides the obvious purposes of citrus zesting, I also like to use my microplane to grate ginger and shave chocolate. It also ends up being really useful outside of baking, since a lot of dinners I make include lemon or lime zest as well.
Citrus Juicer: Here’s a personal favorite for me, since I hate squeezing citrus, but I love adding the tangy, sweet flavors to my desserts. I always seem to get lime juice in my eye, or a frosting full of lemon seeds, so my juicer ends up saving me tons of time and grief.
Consumables and Alternatives
Foil, Parchment Paper, and Plastic Wrap: You probably have foil and plastic wrap for food storage anyway, but parchment is a total necessity for lining baking pans. Put it under lemon bars for easy removal, or under cookies for easy cleaning.
For a more sustainable choice, you can replace parchment in many cases with silicone baking mats, and replace plastic wrap and foil with reusable beeswax wraps and kitchen towels. However, there are cases where I prefer to use the originals.
Plastic Spoons: I suggest keeping these around in any working kitchen, since they work really well as tasting spoons. I also like to keep them near my canisters for each of my flours and my confectioner’s sugar. The plastic-ware works great for flour, since you can spoon it into the measuring cup easily, and then use the handle as a level!
To go more green, you can use high quality plastic-ware. I have run my plastic spoon through the dishwasher many times. You can also upgrade to metal spoons for a fully reusable solution.
In the next post in this series, I’ll cover the basic baking pans you need to make all of your favorites. But you can get a head start by beginning to stock your cabinets and drawers with these essential tools. What are the items you can’t live without for baking?