It’s easy for any home baker to get swept up in a wave of ambition in a well-stocked kitchen supply store. When shelves are stocked with such gadgets as mini pocket pie molds, fondant leaf cutter sets, and cupcake corers, it’s tempting to believe that these highly specialized tools will indeed assist us on the path to culinary greatness. But more often than not, that heart-shaped silicone cake pan or 70-count pastry tip set will end up dusty and forgotten, a hollow vestige of our former good intentions.
Even professional bakers recognize that it’s important to stick with the basics. Says Annie Gallo of Pickle Petunia, "I have worked in restaurants and bakeries most of my adult life, been spoiled with great kitchens and a school that had pretty much every single tool imaginable. But on a day-to-day basis, I’ve realized that most 'tools' are gimmicks, especially when you are just cooking in your home for friends and family."
Still, some tools are essential to baking successes. While most clear-headed individuals can wisely pass up that new toaster pastry press (that is, unless reinventing the Pop-Tart truly is your schtick), it’s more complicated to decipher must-have tools from those that just wean us of money and valuable cabinet space.
So we’ve turned to the pastry pros to gather a list of 10 essential baking tools. We bypassed what we assume most of us should already have (measuring cups, mixing bowls) in favor of tools that might get overlooked and we’ve also sought to highlight tools that, though familiar, might still get neglected by some home bakers. So the next time you reach for a used wine bottle instead of that rolling pin you’ve always meant to buy, or clumsily crisscross steak knives in an attempt to make pastry dough, keep in mind that sometimes the right tool makes all the difference between a smooth or rocky afternoon in the kitchen.
Finally, remember to invest in quality when stocking your bakery tool chest. "I think it’s important to invest in good tools," explains Stephen Collucci, pastry chef at New York City's Colicchio & Sons. "I prefer to spend a little extra to get a really great tool that I know is going to do exactly what I want it to, and last, then to purchase something cheaper that needs to constantly be replaced. Often, these tools are literally an extension of your arm and become really prized possessions to an individual. I even name mine." Want to know what to invest in? Follow these tips from the pros to get the most out of your baking resources.
This post was originally published on April 16, 2012.