You can't tell me as you enviously scroll through layers and layers of foodporn on Instagram that you don't ask yourself, how the f*ck did they make that in their home kitchen. I do, even though I know the answer.
Instagram is all about eye candy. You don't have to be a professional photographer to create food 'porny' pictures. Yes, we're making up words today. You just have to have the right tools.
Just like there are camera tricks to take food styling to the next level, there are kitchen toys that help you upgrade your baking game at home. It starts with investing in the best essential gadgets that beginners can easily use and pros bakers have been using to bake beautiful things.
I've narrowed down the top kitchen toys that'll make your baking life easier and will make you a better baker.
Think of this as a baker's toolkit if you will.
1) KitchenAid Artisan Mini Stand Mixer
The KitchenAid mixer is the grandfather of baking accessories that has been popular for ninety plus years. Sometime last year, KitchenAid dropped its smallest sibling, the Artisan Mini. It has the look, feel and high speed power of the classic mixer but it's more compact (by 20%) and lighter (by 25%.)
The mini makes about five dozen cookies, which is four and half dozen more than I should consume.
Here's a scenario of why it's worth the investment: when a recipe says cream butter and sugar for 5–8 minutes, don't skip this step, they mean it. It really makes a difference in achieving that light and fluffy consistency. Would you rather have the mixer mix for 5–8 minutes or spend 30 minutes stirring by hand, which will likely result in a cramped arm, wrist and a slightly annoyed face from having a cramped arm and wrist? HuffPost sums up other reasons for why the mini mixer is pretty great. I live in a bachelor in the city, so the mini is perfect for my tiny a** kitchen.
[Pro baking tip: Overmixing happens once the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients, not before.]
2) Sili-Mitts Silicone Oven Mitts by Life Quintessentials
Being a semi-pro baker myself, I get a lot of use out my oven mitts. With my current mitts if I hold a cookie sheet that came out of a 350 degree oven for more than 10 seconds, I feel it. With the Sili-Mitts I held a cookie sheet for 20 seconds that came out of a 425 degree oven and didn't feel it.
These days lots of oven mitts come with a textured silicone outside (made for a better grip) and a cotton lining inside. I found the Sili-Mitts to be heavier and better insulated than the similar looking ones I bought from KitchenStuffPlus. Plus, they're longer by an inch than the average ones — still talking about oven mitts. Ultimately, what sold me on these mitts is the fact that they claim to be heat resistant up to 482F /250C.
[Bonus: The box that the mitts come in have a vintage I Love Lucy homemaker vibe, which subconsciously puts you in the mood to bake.]
3) Silpat Baking Mat
To bake the perfect batch of cookies, the Silpat is a must for all professional and shitty bakers alike. This really is a game changer. I was using a seven dollar silicon mat for years and instantly noticed the difference in my cookies when I switched over to the Silpat.
Here are a few reasons of why it's worth it; First, you can use it a few hundred times, which means it'll save your cookie sheet from needing replacing. Second, the bottom of your cookies will be evenly brown because the mat distributes heat evenly when you bake anything on it. Third, clean up requires two steps: rinse with warm water and air dry.
Rumour has it nothing sticks to the Silpat, not even caramel.
Since baking on a Silpat, I've managed to never bake a bad batch of cookies. I'm starting to think my baking skills are only half the reason why my cookies turn out, the other 50% I give credit to the Silpat.
4) Staub Cast Iron Loaf Pan
I bake a ton of one-bowl-baking, f*ck up proof banana breads. It's my thing. So naturally I wanted to see whether there's a difference baking in a ten dollar metal loaf pan versus Staub's cast iron one.
Cast iron is known for retaining heat well and once it's seasoned properly it becomes naturally nonstick, without the chemicals found in Teflon.
"If you are iron deficient, cook with cast iron pots and pans to boost your iron intake. They leach iron into your food and help provide the 18 mg of iron adult women need daily," writes HuffPost.
Baking in a cast iron pan gave my banana bread a nice crust and a more golden brown colour.
5) ZWILLING® Pro Blonde Chef's Knife
Every baker needs a good quality multi-purpose knife. Without one, how would one cut through frozen butter or slice uniforms pieces of fresh fruits to throw into a cake batter or chop up chocolate for cookies, brownies and for melting purposes? The 8" Chef's Knife from the ZWILLING's Pro Blonde series is my new favourite toy. The only change in the Blonde collection is the updated holm oak wood handles when compared to the older model.
Bonus Gadget - Coffee Maker
Just like cops and robbers go together, so does baked goods and coffee. This is why I'm including a coffee maker in this piece.
For a coffee machine that just does one thing and nothing else I went with the Capresso Perk. Again, I have limited space so I needed something compact and easy to store and this one fit the bill. Plus, it looks nice because it's stainless steel, not plastic. This 8-cup machine is an upgraded version from their classic percolator.
Baking Essentials Under $10
Now that the big ticket items are covered, there are some inexpensive items you'll need to avoid making ugly and gross homemade sweet treats.
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Oven thermometer
- Cookie scoop
- Cooling rack
- Baking sheet and pans
You can do without half of these toys, but I'm not about making your baking life harder.
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