The baking equipment and utensils featured here are from a chapter in my book “European Tarts, Divinely Doable Desserts with Little or No Baking”. At the end I have added additional baking equipment not included in the book as it was strictly tarts not all baking. I am often asked about equipment I use and I thought it might be interesting for you to see it. So when you see references to the book, it is this book I am talking about.
I am in no way suggesting that to be a good baker you have to go out and purchase all of this baking equipment at once. My equipment was built up over the years as I needed it. Some of it came from the bakery when I closed it.
The baking equipment shown here is my personal equipment. Some of the equipment is new, some has been with me for many years. The important thing is not that you use what I do, but what works for you in each of the categories. Buy the best you can and the equipment will last a lifetime, as you will see in some of these pictures.
I am not a believer in buying baking equipment for the sake of it. Especially when it comes to small wares. When I remodeled my kitchen, I put all of my small utensils in a box and whatever I didn’t use in six months, I donated to a resale shop. I used exactly one item and I don’t even remember what that was. I also don’t believe that the more money you spend the better the equipment. Some of my equipment is high end when I believe it will serve me better than another brand. Some comes from Walmart and is very inexpensive (read cheap!!).
Wherever possible I have included brand names not because I am being paid – I am not, but because they are the ones that have serviced me well for many years.
I know there may be baking equipment I have forgotten or don’t use. Please leave your suggestions in the comments. I would love to see them.
Baking sheetsHeavy sheets are important for even browning and to keep items from browning or burning before baking is completed. Professionally we used rimmed full sheet and half sheet pans which have a 1/2 to 3/4 inch rim all the way around the pan for everything including cookies and I still use half sheets in my personal kitchen to help keep the amount of equipment to a minimum. Cookie sheets have upturned ends but open sides.
ColanderThis utensil comes in plastic as well as aluminum and stainless steel with feet to hold it above a surface. It is used primarily to let water drain from a product. It is particularly useful to wash fruit and vegetables and drain pasta.
Cutting Boards come in a variety of sizes and weights. Heavier ones will last longer and provide more stability. Placing a wet towel under the board will prevent it from moving while it is being used.
Double Boiler This specialized piece of equipment consists of one pan seated inside of a second pan with room for water. Water is added to the bottom pan so the contents of the upper pan can be warmed or cooked gently without direct heat to keep it from breaking or burning. Placing a bowl over a pan of simmering water is an alternative.
Dishers/scoopers These are used for portion control and ease of shaping or dropping bakery items. They come in a variety of sizes with the highest number being the smallest size. These are Vollrath products.
Food Processor The tasks this machine can perform are amazing. But there are some caveats. It doesn’t puree as good as a blender and nuts can be turned into butters or cut too finely in seconds. But would I give my up – no way. The pulse button can save you from disaster. The size of the motors vary as well as the capacity of the bowls. Processors usually come with several blades including an S shaped blade that chops and purees and several discs for slicing and shredding. The more powerful machines can make bread dough. A feedtube on the lid of the plastic bowl allows food to be added while the machine is running. This is a real workhorse and a great piece of equipment for the sweet kitchen.
Knives Good knives will last a lifetime. They don’t have to be the most expensive knives on the market but they should be balanced and hold a sharp edge when sharpened. Essential knives include a small paring knife, chef’s knife in a length you can easily use and a good bread knife with a serrated blade..
Heat Gun or Blow Torch Used to heat the sides of pans to aid in the releasing of an item from its pan. This piece of equipment is particularly useful when removable rims are used. They are heated, the product is put on a can and slid down.
Juicer This is probably the oldest, ugliest juicer ever, but I love it. The looks of this is a testament to never putting aluminum items in a dishwasher. There are many versions of juicers including electric ones. This is a simple version were the cut citrus fruit is put on top of the juicer and twisted and pressed down to extract the juice while leaving the seeds behind. Also pictured is a plastic version.
come in wet and dry measures. The wet measures have graduated sizes on them and are used for liquids which is why there is usually a lip on the top. They come in sizes from 1 cup up to 1 gallon. I have seen them in metal, ceramic, glass and plastic. Dry measures are used for any dry ingredient. The important thing here is to overfill the cup and sweep the excess off with the back of a knife or any flat utensils. While cups are fine for some items, weighing dry ingredients is used by professionals and is encouraged for pastry/baking success
MicroplanerThis is one of the most wonderful tools in a kitchen. Microplaners can be used to grate citrus rinds, chocolate, nutmeg, etc. They are particularly good as they remove the zest from citrus fruits without taking the bitter white pith underneath. They also keep the zest dry.
MixerThis is a necessary piece of equipment for pastry making. They are used to combine, beat or whip ingredients. There are hand mixers and stand mixers that go from 4 1/2 quarts to huge 140 quart commercial mixers. Generally speaking, hand mixers do not have enough power for many baking and pastry applications. Stand mixers have more power and in addition to performing baking and pastry tasks, many come with attachments that enable them to perform even more tasks such as grinding meat, stuffing sausage, juicing citrus, crushing ice and making pasta. Most of the stand mixers come with a paddle, whisk and dough hook for making bread. I use a 5 quart Breville mixer but have also used KitchenAid Cuisinart and Kenmore mixers. Every company makes more than one size. All of my recipes are figured for a 5 quart mixer. See my comparison of the Breville and the KitchenAid mixers.
Pastry Bagsare used in conjunction with pastry tips to finish pastries. They can be plastic, cloth or disposable plastic and come in various sizes. Disposable plastic bags are used professionally to avoid cleanliness issues. If large, they can be cut down. They should be turned inside out and washed in warm soapy water if using a plastic or cloth bag.
Pastry Brushes come in a variety of widths and sizes. They are useful for washing down the sides of pans, brushing flour away, applying glazes and more. While expensive, it is best to use natural bristles. The plastic bristle brushes can melt on a hot pan.
are used with pastry bags. The tips used in this book include #5 and #8 open star, #48 basketweave and #5 plain tip.
Peeler There are many styles of peelers available including ergonomic ones. I like the old fashioned version that has a rounded end for digging out the eyes of potatoes or other produce. The important thing here is to find one that is comfortable in your hand.
Quiche pans – See tart pans with removable bottoms.
Scales My mantra is scales, scales, scales. Not only for accuracy but for speed. It is so much faster to weigh ingredients than to measure with spoons and cups. Since successful baking and pastry depend upon the accuracy of measurements, scales provide a foolproof way of measuring. No professional should ever measure with anything but a scale. However, in the spirit of compromise, if you don’t use a scale, stir the flour briefly in the bag or canister as it settles. Dip a dry measure into the flour and fill to overflowing; sweep off the excess.
Scrapers Scrapers are indispensible tools for baking and pastry. The bench scraper was originally used to scrape flour off of the area used to make bread which is referred to as a bench – hence bench scraper. In addition to scraping clean a work area, this scraper can be used to cut dough into pieces. The second scraper is a bowl scraper used to get everything out of a mixing bowl. It is plastic and has a curved side and a flat side. The curved side is used to scrape out the sides and bottom of a bowl.
Spatulas, Metal, Offset Off set spatulas in both large, small and pointed are important for frosting cakes, particularly finishing the top, spreading any number of items out and releasing items from pans. The pointy one is useful for scalloped edge pans such as the pans used in this book.
Spatulas, Rubber Various sizes are available. From narrow to wide from about 13 inches to 20 inches, they serve a variety of duties in the baking/pastry kitchen. Do not use regular rubber spatulas in hot items. There are specially made high heat spatulas for use in hot pots.
Tart pans with removable bottoms Also referred to as quiche pans, these short tart pans with fluted rims, usually have sides that are 3/4 to 1 inch tall. The bottoms come out which makes anything in them very easy to release without turning the pan upside down. These come in various sizes from 3 1/2 inches, which is the smallest pan I have used to 12” round. I have also seen them in square and rectangular pans.
There are a variety of thermometers for different uses. Freezer and refrigerator thermometers are important to keep track of the temperatures for safety. Freezers should be kept at 0 degrees or below. Refrigerators should be kept at 40 degrees. A candy thermometer registers high temperatures used in candy and sugar work.
Whisks can be used for various tasks in the kitchen, including mixing and whipping ingredients. They come in very fine wire to heavy wire depending upon the use. They also come in various heights to accommodate different size containers.
Additional Items Not Mentioned in the Book
Cake Pans – There are many sizes and shapes of cake pans from round to square, oblong to speciality shapes. Buy the heaviest weight pan you can. They will last a life time as many of these demonstrate. Some of these are 30 years old, some new. Buy as you go along. If you don’t need square baking pans, don’t get them. These are ones in my collection. This 9″ round cake pan is my most used cake pan . The round pans are 6″ to 24″ with the larger ones being used for wedding cakes. The brand I use is Magic Pans. The are inexpensive among professional pans, they are heavy weight and last forever if well cared for. the pan above is at least 25 years old. I have 12 in my personal collection as I brought them from the bakery when it was closed. If you plan to bake your layers as i do in single layers as opposed slicing the layers, I would suggest 4 pans would suffice. We had over 150 of these at the bakery for various cakes we baked on a daily basis.
Square Baking PansThese come in glass or metal. The metal can be light or dark. Both of the above require a reduction in the heat when baking of 25 to 50 degrees as they conduct the heat faster than light colored aluminum. The normal size for home bakers is 8″ and 9″.
Quarter Sheet PanThis is a new addition to my baking pan collection. It is the same size as a 9×13 inch pan but the sides are not as high. It is one half of a half sheet pan. I find it more convenient for recipes where the height of the item is only about 3/4 inch when baked.
Angel Cake Pan
This deep pan has a removable bottom to easily remove the baked cake. Angel Food Cakes are typically 5 to 6 inches deep. The tube in the middle facilitates the heat reaching the center of the cake so the sides don’t burn. This is one of my favorite cakes and I could probably eat it every day.
Bundt PansThese three bundt pans are just a few of the many out there. They come in all sizes and shapes. The 12 cup bundt pan in the right rear is the original design and the only one for many years. Then manufacturers boosted their popularity with different shapes and sizes as you can see. The shape of the finished cake can be seen by turning the pan upside down as this is how it would be served.
Cheesecake PansAt the bakery we had dozens and dozens of these. We used them not only for making cheesecakes but assembling cakes that had wiggly fillings that needed to be refrigerated or frozen before finishing. I much prefer this pan to springform pans for several reasons. The springform pan does not have a perfectly flat removable bottom as does this pan making it more difficult to remove the cheesecake. Also, after years of use or if not stored properly, the spring can get sprung making it unusable. This pan with its removable bottom makes it ideal for uses other than cheesecakes. When we made cheesecakes requiring water baths, we simply wrapped these in aluminum foil to keep the water out.
Cake boards are the easiest way to assemble a cake. At a bakery it is what we used to send the cakes out. There are two kinds of boards, waxed and unwaxed or coated and uncoated. If available always take the waxed. It will cost a little more but they don’t have to be wrapped in foil as unwaxed boards do. If a cake is put on an unwaxed board the board will draw moisture out of it. A waxed board allows the cake to sit on it as long as needed without changing in taste or texture. The boards come in all sizes including quarter and half sheets as well as full sheet boards. Some also come in single and double strength. I always specified double strength if available in the size I needed. You can see the waxed or coated round in the photo above. It is the shiny round board in the middle of the cake board photo.
Parchment paper is indispensable in a bakery and so it is at home. It prevents batters from sticking and it makes clean up a lot easier. Parchment comes in various size rounds. We bought full sheet and had it cut by the supplier into half sheets for ease and speed of use.
There are silpat pan liners that can be used. We didn’t use them in the bakery because of their expense and the fact I didn’t feel we could keep them adequately clean. I still use parchment for my personal baking just as I did at the bakery.
Wax PaperThis was the precursor to parchment for home bakers. Although I use parchment for lining my sheets and pans, I use wax paper for rolling out dough when the recipe calls for rolling between wax paper. I prefer it to parchment because it is easier to use. Whenever no additional flour is recommended when rolling out a dough, particularly a thin one, wax paper is great.
Cooling RacksWhile professional bakeries cool their items in their pans placed on racks, home bakers often use cooling racks of different sizes and shapes. Here again, buy the sturdiest ones you can find that have a high foot on them.
Cookie and/or Biscuit cuttersWhen I had the bakery, I had literally hundreds and hundreds of cookie cutters. My husband hated to see me head for the rack of cookie cutters because he knew I would find something I didn’t have either large or small. I also had a lot of sets as I found them enormously helpful. In the photo above you can see a set of three rippled biscuit cutters which of course can be used for cookies. In the back is a set of round cutters in many sizes and to the left are cookie cutters that belonged to my mother. They have to be about 75 years old. The real kicker that they are still kept in the original box which says .29 cents. Mother made a Christmas cookies every year with these. When I post the Murbteig blog later this year, you will see one of my favorite Christmas cookies.
Cupcake or Muffin PansThis photo shows a mini pan in front, a regular size pan in the back left and a Texas muffin tin in the back right. The Texas cup holds about twice as much as the regular size tin. I like to make cupcakes in the regular size tin and frost them generously as I think most people eat a cupcake for the frosting, not the cake. However, for muffins I favor the Texas puffin tin as the regular size always seems small to me.These pans are also muffin pans. However, since there is no standard size for muffin cups, there are a bit larger than the ones above. The pan to the from is for minis and the one in the rear is for regular size muffins although larger than the one in the photo above it.
Chicago Metallic makes excellent pans although they are expensive and they are a bit larger than the first photo. I loved them.
Pie PlatesThere are metal and ceramic pie plates as well as the glass ones above. They come in 9″ and 10″ diameters. The 9″ standard pie pan, as seen in the front, has a depth of about 1 1 /2 inches. The 10″ deep dish version pictured in the back has a depth of about 2 inches. I prefer glass because I can see how the crust is baking and coloring. Both of these are by Pyrex and can be found at Walmarts. They are the least expensive pie plates around.
Deep Dish Tart Pan
This is a deep dish quiche pan with a removable bottom. They come in 8″, 9″ and 10″ x 2″ deep sizes. At the shop we used the 9″ size for our Deep Dish Tarts. I was often asked what the difference was between a pie and a tart. The answer was nothing except tarts have a fluted edge and pies don’t. Also, the tarts did not have a top crust. The were finished with crumbles or streusels. As you can see, the removable bottom made it very easy to get them out of the pans.
Ceramic Quiche PansThese provide a finished look to quiches served in a dish. If they are to be removed from the pan, a two piece pan, as above is more useful. These come in individual and various larger sizes.
Souffle DishesIn addition to soufflés these various dishes can be used for puddings, creme brûlées, custards and a variety of other desserts. The dishes come in different sizes. Pilliveyt in France makes a thin, study beautiful soufflé dish but there are many others. Just make sure they are oven proof.
Madeleine PansThese pans are for a specific shaped pastry. The original madeleine was nothing more than sponge and had to be eaten quickly as they dried out quickly. I used them with different batters for their shape. In the front is a pan with mini madeleines and in the back is the regular size. They add a great deal to a sweets tray.
Pastry TipsThese tips are others we used in addition to the ones that were featured in the book. The four tips are “B” tips. The tines are much closer together and give a different look from an open or closed star. The tip below is a Bismarck tip and is used to insert a filling into a doughnut, pastry or cupcake. Its long shank allows for deep penetration into the product so the filling can go deep inside.
Pot HoldersOk – so this is the grandmother in me. My grandson made these for me and I just love them. But they are useful to protecting my hands when handling hot pans. Oven gloves or mitts are also very good.
Rolling PinsI have a rolling pin collection but these are the two I use on a daily basis. The wooden rolling pin is useful for doughs that are not heavy in butter which tends to soften quickly and stick to the wood. I also like it for doughs that are wide. I use this one a lot when I am rolling doughs that are placed between sheets of waxed paper.
The marble rolling pin is very heavy and is my go to pin for doughs that need to be kept chilled. The marble picks up the cold from the doughs and helps keep butter heavy doughs from softening too quickly.
Heat GunThis is a blow drier and is a great tool for releasing cakes and tarts by gently heating the rim of the pan and sliding it down to free the dessert. We used a vinyl tile removing gun which is a much hotter heat gun at the shop as we needed to release a large number of items in any given day.
At the restaurant I use a big blow torch that really moves things along. I don’t recommend it for home use.
Can OpenersThere are two types of can openers above. The first one was given to me by my husband as my hands are no longer as strong as they used to be. It works as a ratchet which needs less strength. The opener on the bottom is for cans of liquids that will pour out of the hole made. Make sure a second hole is punched across from the original one or the liquid may not pour out.