Monday, July 8, 2013

Basic Pastry Tools

Basic kitchen tools for preparing pastries and desserts

I often get asked about the tools I consider essential for baking.  For the most part, I like to keep things simple and fairly basic.  Once you have the tools you like, get familiar and comfortable with them.  They will add to your ease and enjoyment of preparing your favorite pastries and desserts.

Here is a list of tools I use repeatedly in my pastry kitchen.  I also have a Pinterest page to collect these and additional items in one place.  But the most important thing is that you have your own favorite tool choices that feel right for you.  

Oven temperature gauge
Since each oven has its own idiosyncrasies, I recommend placing a thermometer in your oven to determine if it’s properly calibrated.  Knowing whether it runs hot or cold will save you a lot of grief!

Baking pans
I prefer non-stick aluminum baking pans because aluminum is the best conductor of heat.  Glass and dark nonstick pans conduct heat in a different way and pastries may bake faster and darker.  For cakes, I have aluminum pans with 3” high sides so there’s never any worry about overflow. 

Mixing bowls
I like to use a stackable set of stainless steel mixing bowls in varying sizes because they are very durable and can withstand lots of wear and tear.

Wire whisk
A good whisk is a must-have tool to mix, whip and blend.

Heatproof rubber spatula
This is the best tool for scraping down a mixing bowl and folding batter.  It can also be used to stir and scrape a mixture in a saucepan on a stovetop.  

A good chef’s knife is perfect for chopping chocolate, nuts and herbs.  I use a 4 1/2" utility knife for slicing fruit.

Kitchen Aid stand mixer
Because I do a great deal of baking, I own a Kitchen Aid.  It was one of the first things I purchased when I went to pastry school.  They are expensive but very efficient for doing a lot of mixing.  However, a hand mixer or a strong arm can accomplish the same thing with a bit more time and energy.

Parchment paper
This is essential to me and something I would bring to that metaphorical desert island.  I can't live without it.  I use parchment to roll out pastry dough, wrap cookie dough logs and cake roulades, line cake pans and baking sheets.  Be sure to buy parchment sheets and not rolls so you don't have to fight with it.

Pyrex 6 oz glass custard cups
I use these for mise en place (ingredient preparation and set-up) and for pouring out browned butter or caramel so I can see the color right away.

Food processor
Although I love getting my hands in the flour, I also recognize that many people are looking for time-saving techniques.  Lots of doughs and fillings can be made very quickly in a food processor.  I have a basic Cuisinart that has lasted me years.

Pastry brushes
I use old fashioned bristle brushes that have separate uses: a broad one that is always dry and used for brushing excess flour off of pastry dough; another smaller one that I use strictly for butter or oil and a third one I use for brushing clear glaze on fruit.  I wash the last two kinds with soapy water and air-dry them thoroughly before storing.

Small metal spatula and small offset spatula
I use these often for a variety of functions, such as leveling ingredients, clearing a baked item from the rim of a baking pan, lifting cookies off of parchment or a silpat or spreading a filling or a finishing cream.

Fine double mesh sifter/strainer
Important for sifting dry ingredients.  I also keep a single mesh strainer for straining liquids and creams.

This is a very efficient tool that makes zesting citrus a breeze.  I use a lot of zest in my pastry so this is indispensable for me.

Ice cream scoop
I use a #40 scoop (The #40 refers to 40 level scoops per quart) for quick and easy portioning of cookie dough.

French rolling pin
I like the weight and feel of a French rolling pin with tapered ends.

Ice cream machine
If you want to experience the pure joy of homemade ice cream, a simple ice cream machine will encourage lots of experimentation.  Go for it!

Kitchen scale
Not completely essential but nice if you want to get into the practice of more precise calculation of ingredients.  Otherwise, you need both dry and liquid standard measuring cups and a set of measuring spoons.

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