Essential Baking Equipment

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The Baking Sheet

The baking sheet, often confused with a jelly roll pan, must have at least one side without a rim, but can have as many as three rimless sides. This allows for ease in removing the baked items from the pan.

Two inches of air space between the pan’s side and the walls of the oven are required. We recommend that you purchase a baking sheet as large as the oven will accommodate. But you may also be interested a small baking sheet that will easily fit into the refrigerator, especially when dough requires refrigeration.

How many baking sheets should you have on hand? At least two, but four is ideal. This way, cookies can be shaped and placed on one sheet while another batch is baking.

A shiny, aluminum baking sheet is almost a standard for professional chefs, and was popular with your grandmother as well, because the shine of the finish reflects rather than absorbs heat. As a result, baked goods won’t overbake. The sheet should be strong and durable and should not warp under normal baking temperatures. A buckled sheet will not heat evenly.

Jelly Roll Pan

The jelly roll pan is basically a baking sheet with one-inch-high sides. The sides make the pan better suited for cakes, rolls, or breads rather than cookies. Jelly roll pans should be chosen following the same criteria as those used for baking sheets, sturdy construction, capacity, and size. They can be nonstick coated or uncoated. Most cakes bake well in uncoated pans, while nonstick pans might serve better for roasting vegetables or croutons.

Also available are jelly roll pans with perforated bottoms that allow the oven’s heat to directly contact the bottom of whatever is being baked.

Baking Mats and Liners

Since they provide baking convenience, rubberized silicone mats and reusable parchment paper, which is made of nonstick-coated fiberglass, have become popular baking tools. Just drop the mat or liner onto a baking skeet or into a jelly roll pan for an instant nonstick surface.

Baking Pans

Bar cookies, brownies, cornbread, quick breads, and yeast-raised loaves all call for a baking pan. Choices include coated, or uncoated metal, or glass, and the decision as to which to choose depends on what is being baked. Breads or other foods such as a meat loaf that have thicker crusts might bake better in glass or dark metal pans as they will bake faster and darker. Cakes and other baked goods with lots of sugar and butter tend to burn. For this reason, many bakers opt for an uncoated pan, since the nonstick coating’s darkness will draw more heat to the pan, creating a greater propensity for the baked goods to burn.

Cake Pans

A pan gives the cake its form and must heat evenly, as well as help it rise properly. Mainly available in aluminum and steel (uncoated or nonstick), aluminum is the primary choice because of its even heating capabilities. However, pans that combine steel and aluminum are quite popular as well.

The layer cake pan allows the baker to stack multiple layers of cakes one on top of the other with frosting, or whipped cream between. It is important that the pan heat evenly and that it has straight sides in order to keep the cake’s shape uniform. Because the cake will most likely be frosted, most bakers opt to use pans that are nonstick coated – trading off the dark crust for easy removal. Another important consideration is whether the cake pans have generous grips for easy removal from the oven.

Cake rings are another option that assist in the creation of perfect cakes. These bottomless rings are used with a lined baking sheet. Once the cake is baked, the ring is removed and the cake is cut into layers. The ring is then used to assemble the cake by placing the ring on a parchment-lined baking sheet and slipping in the first layer. Then, according to the recipe, a layer of frosting, mousses, or a douse of flavoring syrup is applied, and the next layer is slipped on until the cake is complete.

Springform Pans

Springform pans are perfect for removing delicate cakes without inflicting damage upon them. The pan’s sides are separate from the bottom and can be unsprung from the cake by means of a clamp, and the cake removed without having to invert the pan. The base can be made of glass or the same material as the sides. Glass bottoms make more attractive serving dishes, and allow the user to cut directly on the bottom of the pan. Look for a base with a groove for the side piece to rest in; such construction renders it leakproof.

Tube Pans

A wide variety of shapes and sizes of pans, including the bunt, angel food, or Kugelhopf pans, fall into this category. Whichever the shape, it is the tube that has the most important function. It conducts heat to the center of the batter and for this reason, pound cakes, nut cakes, and other heavy-batter cakes are best baked in tube pans.

Muffin Tins

At Chef’s Paradise, we recommend ones with rounded corners, seamless cups, and nonstick surfaces. If the tin does not have a nonstick surface, it is recommended that paper pastry cups be used. The cups allow muffins to rise more evenly and be removed from the pan in one piece.

Tart Pans

A tart pan must heat evenly and quickly so that the tart dough sets. It can have either a fixed or a loose bottom that simplifies the tart’s removal. Tarts are made with a lot of butter; therefore, a nonstick coating is not required. Also available are tartlet molds used for baking individual portions, as well as tart rings, which are placed on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Quiche Pans

The quiche pan is traditionally made of ceramics, or glass, and has fluted sides to create savory egg tarts. The quiche pan should be sturdy and fuss free and can be used for baking such things as potato gratin or macaroni and cheese, as well as quiche.

Specialty Molds

A variety of specialty molds are utilized in baking. They can include tartlet molds that are individual versions of their larger counterparts and specialized molds, such as the cannoli form, the lady lock form, corners, and cornucopie. Generally, these are used for hollow pastry forms that are filled with custards or cream.

When baking, precise measurement – of both wet and dry ingredients – is necessary. Bakers often use the same tools to measure dry and liquid ingredients; however, more and more are realizing that measuring liquid ingredients in a dry measurer can produce different results.

For liquid measurements, recommend containers with various measurements marked on them. For dry ingredients, recommend cups or spoons that can be filled with the excess being scraped off the top for precise measurement. A set of measuring spoons should provide the user with a variety of different measuring sizes, from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Some measuring spoon sets offer unusual sizes – such as a pinch and 3/4 teaspoon, for example.

Measuring cups should be of sturdy and durable construction, preferably dishwasher safe, and have clear size markings. For easy storage, suggest a set that nests together easily. Necessary measures include 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, and 1-cup measures, but sets are also available with unusual sizes. For even more precise measurements, measurements by weight are recommended.

Scales can be mechanical or electronic. The former uses a spring mechanism. When pressure is applied to it, it moves the attached dial to indicate the weight. Electronic scales have bases that are locked in place. They measure ingredients more precisely than mechanical – or analog – scales do. Advantages of a scale that allows the user to tare the scale – reset the scale to zero before adding the next ingredient to the same bowl.

Other measuring needs required for baking include oven thermometers that inform the user when the oven has reached the precise baking temperature. Other baking-related thermometers include candy or jelly-making thermometers or even dough thermometers for the serious bread baker. Dough thermometers are used to measure the temperature of the water and the dough.

Beyond the vessel to bake in, baking requires a whole set of specialized tools, and a baking department wouldn’t be complete without the following.

The bowl scraper is a flexible tool that can hold its form as it transfers dough to the pan.

A dough, or bench, scraper must be strong enough to get under the dough without bending. The baking spatula is a blunt-edged knife used for assembling, and frosting, or icing a cake. First, it can be used to remove the baked item from the pan and then applying the “finishing touch” – frosting or icing. It is recommended that the spatula be a bit longer than the cake’s diameter or width. They are available in lengths from 4″ to 14″. Baking spatulas with shorter blades can be used for frosting cookies, petits fours, and cupcakes.

Cake knives come with either a smooth blade or a serrated edge. The smooth blade is best used for cutting a firm cake with dense crumbs, the serrated-edged one for cakes with a more delicate crumb.

The sifter is best for dry ingredients that tend to clump, such as cake flour, cocoa powder, and the like. The sifter not only mixes and combines, but also aerates to ensure the dough or batter has a uniform mixture. Several different types of sifter mechanisms exist – some require squeezing by hand, and others require the turning of a crank. The consumer should choose the mechanism that best suits his/her needs and one that is comfortable.

For larger quantities – four cups or more, it is suggested that you use a fine-mesh strainer and stir ingredients through the mesh.

A pastry blender is used to cut fat (butter, shortening) into the dough. Its steel wires are perfect for blending and can reach the bottom of bowls to incorporate ingredients.

The pastry board is used to roll out dough on a smooth, dry surface. It is recommended that a pastry board be made of marble or wood. Marble works well for the sticky dough that contains a lot of butter and is easy to clean. Wooden boards are a good choice for composing bread and certain pastries.

The rolling pin must be smooth, regardless of its material makeup (wood, porcelain, nylon, polypropylene, or marble). The French pin typically has no handles, whereas the American version generally does. Those who use a French pin prefer it because their hands are closer to the dough, which allows them to better monitor its thickness. The advantage of nylon pins is that they are more hygienic than wooden ones.

Pie weights are ceramic or aluminum weights that help restrict puff or upward expansion on a pie or tart crust.

Cake strips are aluminized fabric strips that when moistened and pinned around a cake pan’s shiny side out reflect heat away from the pan. As they perform, the reflection and moisture slow down the rate at which the sides of the cake bake – reducing the problem of a cake that has a high-rise center or a cracked top.

The pie bird provides a vent so that steam does not accumulate beneath the crust and make the pie soggy. The bird should be placed on the bottom of the pan, the filling should be placed on top, and the crust laid over him, of course, cutting a hole for the bird.

A coiled wooden dough rising basket is recommended for raising artisanal breads. The rings of this traditional German basket are left on the dough once it is removed after rising, and then baked.

The unlined copper bowl is the choice for beating egg whites as the chemical reaction between the whites and the copper results in a foam that has great volume and will stay soft and elastic as other ingredients are added.

Stainless steel bowls respond quickly to heating and chilling, making them extremely utilitarian for a wide variety of baking needs.

Glass bowls are heatproof and can be used at the table as well.

Plastic bowls are nonporous, dishwasher safe, and for the most part, unbreakable. A variety is available, some with added features such as nonskid bases, pouring spouts, handles, or lids for storage.

Ceramic bowls combine function with beauty. Some can be used in the oven, microwave, or freezer and most are dishwasher safe.