Baking Equipment

I’ve been thinking for quite some time about adding a separate section regarding anything that is related to equipment.

I will start by saying that good quality baking equipment can become a very expensive business. I would be the last person on earth to encourage compromise when it comes to quality baking equipment. However, I must say that hoarding equipment tends to be a never-ending story!
Slowly but surely, my kitchen cabinets were filled with unique baking pans and cool gadgets that may have only been in used once or twice. We tend think that a stylish baking pan will make the most impressive cake.

Today, I think differently. The simplest tools can make cakes and pastries turn out no less than impressive rather than if used some modern (and expensive!) designed molds.

It’s important for me to emphasize that anything written below is a recommendation only, and the individual personal experience is influenced by many personal preferences. Yet, I believe there are some points that should be considered before setting off the journey of buying the perfect set of equipment (which is, by the way, an illusion in itself).

Basic baking equipment

If you are a novice baker, I’d recommend in any way possible, to avoid the highly diverse baking pan charade at any cost. For example, unique metal baking pans that have many crevices and indentations, or shaped silicone molds.

My advice is to stick to the basics. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the most simple of shapes are the ones that are always (and always!) to produce an eye pleasing result. Which leads me to my next point, which is symmetry. We don’t think about it often, however, all symmetrical points are mostly basic shapes.
A symmetry of a circle (or sphere), square (or cube), are unwarily make us percept the object as something that is “cuter”.

My first personal rule of thumb is: symmetrical = cute.
Make sure to have on hand one or two basic round baking pans, squared and rectangle, in two of your preferred sizes.

Personally, I love what is called “small baking”. Baking pans that are sized between 15-20 cm allow for sufficient creative freedom to produce cakes of moderate size, that can please a crowd of up to 10 people. But again, this is just my personal preference. I’m also more leaning towards baking pans that are of the “single part” type, and not springform pans, or the ones with removable bottoms. Main reason is to avoid batter leakage.

Baking pans

High quality baking pans should be made of metal only (and not the disposable type). I know that disposable baking pans are accessible, cheap and fairly convenient especially if you are selling your baked goods at home. My personal experience with this type of pans is just not good. The reason is that cardboard doesn’t transfer the heat properly, which causes many problems such as, inconsistent baking time, pastries that aren’t rising correctly, partial baking, over-baking and overall, all of the above lead to some kind of disappointment from the final product.
In order to ensure guaranteed consistent results- baking in metal pans is the solution.

Baking in silicone molds- personally, in my perception, silicone molds are primarily used for cold preparations; mousses. The frozen substance is easy to release and they lend perfect finish for a preparation with that are highly dispersive, like mousses. Similarly to baking in cardboard pans, using silicone molds to bake is not something I normally do, therefore in this case I would also always prefer metal pans.

Pie and Tart pans- the main difference between these two pans is their shape. A pie pan has smooth edges that are slightly bending upwards, while tart pans are fluted and look like a flower with many petals. But that’s as far as it goes in terms of classic distinction between the pans. The pastries are fairly related in many aspects. As a novice baker, I had purchased the standard low tart pans. However, with time my personal preference changed towards deeper pie and tart pans (between 3-4 cm in depth), as I’d like to accommodate as much filling as possible into the crust. This also lends a slightly more impressive final touch to the finished pastry.

Tartlets and pielets pans are somewhat more “nice to have” for a novice home baker.

What about baking pans of other types?

By other types, I mean baking rings in different sizes. Smaller sized baking rings (6-10 cm in diameter) could be the perfect foundation for small and elegant individual pastries. The problem is that you’d need to buy many of them in order to effectively mass produce. If you are aspiring to mass produce then totally go for it and purchase as many baking rings as you like. However, if baking at home is just your hobby (for now), I wouldn’t recommend it.

Various sizes of baking rings allow us enough room for creativity without the need to purchase more baking pans in different sizes (which are by the way, more expensive than cake rings). We can always cut the bigger cake with a smaller cake ring in whichever size we have. Personally, I own cake rings in different sizes that range between 4-20 cm, that are used many purposes.

However, it is not strictly mandatory to have a similar collection. In baking specialty stores you can also find adjustable cake rings that cover a wide range of sizes.

Appliances

  • Electric Mixer (handheld and standing)- in my opinion, it is highly recommended that both types of electric mixers should be available. However, if you’re only starting, you would totally be ok with just a handheld mixer. If you plan on kneading doughs, a standing mixer is most practical, as kneading requires a stronger processing force.
    When purchasing a standing mixer, there are some points to consider, such as: our needs, the bowl’s capacity, reasonable price range that we’re willing to pay and the brand, which is also a decisive factor in our choice.
    In most cases, a single investment of a reasonable amount of money will keep us satisfied for the long run. However, do not be tempted to pay a huge amount of money for a brand just because of its name.
  • Food processor- those are excellent for making various type of shortcrusts pastries and creams. The metal blades allow for a quick processing of ingredients, that require us to work faster without overheating the preparations. Personally, I’d recommend on owning a smaller and a larger sized food processor, to cover a good range of capacities.
  • Immersion blender- this one is the most important and effective tools in the kitchen. It allows for a quick and reliable emulsification like no any other tool. With the immersion blender, I combine thick cake batters, creams, home made purees and more. The brand doesn’t matter as they all work pretty much the same, therefore I’d recommend to have it at your disposal.
  • Thermometer- I believe that a digital thermometer (whether infra-red or probe type), is a very useful tool for home baker that are looking to take another small extra step forward. It is used for accurate temperature measurements of various mixtures for different purposes. The most common, well-known are preparing Italian meringue (based on cooking a sugar syrup), making caramel and tempering your own chocolate at home.
  • Oven- choosing the best oven is a journey in itself, especially since the oven is serving us for the long run and we need to know we are making a good choice that will address all of our needs. Personally, I own a household combi-steamer oven (i.e., combines steam during baking), which comes from Anova (not a paid partnership).
    My choice was done further to extensive research for an oven that would serve me in the most reliable and accurate way. So, what led me to choosing this oven in particular?
    1. It is a digital oven with accurate degrees calibration that allow for 0.1-degree precision.
    2. It is equipped with a water tank that allows to bake in a steam-enriched environment (which is perfect for yeasted dough baked items).
    3. It has a wide range of temperatures, starting from 24 degrees Celsius (which again is ideal for proofing yeasted dough baked items, you can see where this is going lol).
    4. It is a medium sized oven and can accommodate a wide variety of different pans’ sizes.
    5. Does not require a three-phase socket.
    6. It was fairly priced and within my acceptable budget.        

Of course, provided other conditions, I would probably have bought a different oven, however, I must admit that I’m extremely satisfied with my choice.

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