Baking Aid: Top 10 Basic Baking Essentials

baking essentials

Baking in all its beautiful glory can be very intimidating whether you’re a beginner, or advanced. I’m by no means advanced but like to think I have made and overcome enough mistakes in my baking life to have some wisdom to share in hope of making your baking lives that little bit easier.

To many of you what I share may seem like obvious facts, but, we learn from each other and you never know hidden beneath the obvious may shine a revelation. More importantly I want this series to encourage and inspire baking beginners to get in their kitchens, so without further ado, welcome to “Baking Aid”

When I moved out of my family home in 2014 and settled into my little flat in Surrey, I was left with the daunting yet exciting task of filling my empty kitchen with brand new baking equipment.

With baking such a huge part of my upbringing I was leaving behind a kitchen full of tools we had collected over the years, so in haste and anxiety my immediate reaction was to replicate everything immediately. Reality sunk in the moment I realised I only had one kitchen drawer in a kitchen that felt crowded the moment a second person stepped foot inside.

With this I had to sit down and deliberate over what tools and equipment I needed to buy immediately, and to be honest I was completely intimidated by it all. After some time however I came to conclusion that I didn’t need the fancy tools straight away, in fact most recipes only call for a limited amount  of equipment, or as I call them “The Essentials”. For 6 months I managed with those essentials and by the time a recipe that called for a new tools came along I had organised my kitchen to be able to accommodate them.

Whether you’re a baking addict, or it’s something you are looking to simply dabble in, below you will find all the essentials you need to create perfect cakes, cupcakes, cookies and traybakes.


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Mason and Pyrex mixing bowls


My mason bowl is one of my favourite tools to use when I’m not using my KitchenAid. I love being able to beat or rub together butter and sugar for cookie dough with my own hands and a large mason bowl is the perfect partner for that. The large rim around the edge also keeps anything from spilling.

I own at least 12 pyrex bowls in a mixture of different sizes and I use almost all of them with every bake.  I use them to weigh each of my ingredients when preparing for a bake, and as a cake decorator they come in handy when colouring icing and batter. The smaller bowls are also perfect for holding small ingredients like spices, and as they are heatproof they’re perfect for melting butter and chocolate.

Measuring jug


You cannot measure liquid out accurately without a jug so they are an absolute must. However aside from the obvious they are also super useful for whisking eggs or pouring milk into a batter.

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Spatula


One of the most important tools I rely on is the spatula. Unlike the wooden spoon a spatula will scrape out large quantities of batter or buttercream with ease meaning no waste. Look for one like this that is sturdy, otherwise you will find that it bends with weight of heavy batter which isn’t at all helpful.

Whisk


One of the cheapest tools in my kitchen drawer, yet the one I use most often. A large whisk is perfect for blending big quantities of liquid ingredients and gently folds sugar into beaten egg whites without deflating them.

Cake Tester


It took me a long time to get a proper cake tester, yet it wasn’t until I finally got one that I realised just how important they are. When baking cakes one of the vital stages is checking that it has baked through. Testing this requires poking something sharp through the cake to see if it comes out clean. My ‘something sharp’ used to be a knife, but this just left a unslightly slash in the top of my cake so after a while I stopped doing it. Big mistake. My cakes thereafter were either under baked, resulting is a sinking centre or slightly over baked so they went dry.

As much as I like to think I have a pretty good ‘sense’ of when my cake is fully baked, nothing tells me better than when it’s been tested. You can find most cake testers in leading supermarkets or baking stores, but as a Lakeland advocate I recommend getting a cute cupcake one like mine here.

Off-Set palette knife


An offset spatula is your best friend when it comes to smoothing cake batter, frosting cupcakes, and loosening cakes and bar cookies from their pans. The smaller size will be used more often, but when you want to frost cakes a much large size gives you a smooth, more professional finish.

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Spoons/Cups/Scales


The beauty of this internet is that we can find recipes from every corner of the globe. As a proud Brit I am passionate about baking in grams however many US recipes will give you the ingredients in cups. Quite often depending on the recipe I will convert the cups into grams and weigh it out, however occasionally if it’s a bake I’m not familiar with I will use the cups to be sure I’m following the recipe letter by letter. When buying cups and spoons, look for ones with clear easy to read measurements on the handles.

With scales while the old-fashioned do make your kitchen beautiful I cannot recommend digital ones enough as they allow you to measure ingredients out to perfection.

Regardless of what you use, it is SUPER important to weigh everything out accurately as it can make all the difference between perfect and utter disaster.

Baking Parchment


Baking parchment will be your best friend in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking cakes. Lining your cake with parchment paper allows it to bake more evenly and protects the edges from catching. It also saves you from tin removal disasters which I am forever grateful for.

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Baking Tins/Trays


My weakness when it comes to baking is tins and trays. There are so many to choose from I literally want them all. Take a step back however and you’ll find you only need 4 key styles; two 6inch or 8inch sandwich cake tins, a cupcake tray, a brownie tray and a flat baking sheet. If I had to push it to 5 I’d add in a loaf tin for good measure. Lakeland do such an amazing range of bakewear. Their premium range is made from heavy duty carbon steel that is oven safe up to 240°C so it will never twist, warp or bend. They’re also super space-saving and when stacked neatly nest inside each other. Shop here for yours.

Cooling Racks


Every baker needs a cooling rack and they are handy for more than just cooling. Aside from the obvious, once my bakes are cool I use the rack to decorate my cakes or cookies so that any unwanted drips fall away leaving me with the perfect decoration.

My Kitchen Favourites – Macarons

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Thank goodness it’s April, the beginning of spring and lighter baking. As much as baking indulgent cakes and desserts pleases the little fat child inside of me I’m always pleased when we reach the summer months as it gives me the opportunity to test out fruiter, lighter and brighter bakes. This is not to say they can’t be indulgent though and macarons are exactly that, light, bright jewels of pure indulgence.

This edition of Kitchen Favourites is in honour of my new baking bestie, the macaron. We may not always see eye-to-eye but with there are a few tools and ingredients which have ensured we will always have a life long friendship.


FOR BAKING

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TWO CHICKS|FREE RANGE LIQUID EGG WHITES

Aside from being cast as one of the most difficult bakes, the one issue I have with macarons and meringue is that I have to separate eggs. Food wastage is one of my biggest pet hates so when I bake macarons or meringue I always try to use the egg yolks for something else such as custard or rich shortcrust pastry.

This isn’t always convenient though so you can imagine my delight therefore when I discovered Two Chicks and their carton of liquid egg whites. Absolutely genius!! You get roughly 15 liquid egg whites in each carton which translates to 7 batches of macarons in my world, and at a very affordable price of £2.25 from most leading grocery stores they have fast become my favourite kitchen ingredient.

The Two Chicks brand also includes Liquid Whole Eggs, Pancake mix and Chirps, a light puffed egg white snack.


FOR GUIDANCE

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SWEET MACARONS | BY JACQUELINE MERCORELLI

There are so many different Macaron recipes out there. Some using the French meringue method, others opting for the Italian meringue method. Before I read this book, the French method was all I used. To be honest it was all I was really aware of as the Italian recipe always seemed more daunting and long winded. I’m right, it is more long winded but daunting it is not and this guide made me realise that.

The Sweet Macarons guide by Jacqueline Mercorelli, a self taught French baker and blogger since 2005 gives you recipes for both methods and guides you through the process with ease. A must read for anyone wanting to make macarons at home.


FOR DECORATION

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EDIBLE LUSTRE DUST | SUGARFLAIR

So you’ve made your macarons and now you want to decorate them with finesse. There are so many options to choose from be it dusting with coco powder, espresso powder, sprinkles or chopped nuts, the list really is endless. One of my favourite options thought is Edible Lustre Dust. The effect gives macarons that real wow factor and turns them from pretty to stylish. I love working with Lustre Dust as it can be added to almost anything. When mixed with a tiny splash of vodka you can create a gold paint to brush over macaron shells, fruit and fondant or left as dust it can be scattered over buttercream.


FOR PREPARATION

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3AM JOURNAL | KIKKI.K

The last 4 weeks have been some of the most manic of 2016 so far. I took a week off work last week before Easter just so I could catch up with it all. I’m generally a very organised person, but if I showed you my iPhone notes app you’d have a hard time believing that. With random thoughts, recipe ideas and meeting notes all thrown randomly in the mix to say it’s chaotic would be a severe understatement.

I decided last month that my thoughts needed a home, but not just any home. As a self confessed stationary obsessive I wanted them to live somewhere pretty, which is why I’m so happy to have found Kikki.K Stationary.

The Swedish brand was the creative child of Kristina Karlson a stationary lover looking for beautiful products and stationary for her new home office. Her light bulb moment came weeks after struggling to find anything that inspired her. If you can’t find it, create it, was her motto and it wasn’t long before Swedish design stationary boutiques popped up in her favourite cities around the world.

Thank you Kristina, I see a bright future for me and Kikki. K Stationary.

My Kitchen Favourites – Cakes and Macarons

Hello there! And welcome to the first post of my brand new blog design. I’m sorry it’s been a little quiet on here these last couple of months, but it’s been a pretty hectic start to the year. Hectic but exciting I should say as already in 2016 not only have I been busy building my “made to order” business (more details on this will be shared shortly), but we’ve also moved out of our rented flat and are in the exciting, albeit gruelling process of buying our very first home. Therefore with 2016 seemingly the year of newness, I decided to give my blog a gorgeous new home too. However, as with all new homes it is going to take a little time settling in so please bear with me while I find my feet in these new surroundings.

You may notice that my recipe categories have been refined a little which I hope you are okay with. This way I am able to focus on the bakes I love most and give you the best content I can. Reductions leave room for additions though so you will also see that some new areas have been introduced, such as Baking Biography, where I will share my baking tips, essential ingredients and equipment, regular roundups of my current Kitchen Favourites, troubleshooting and reviews of my favourite bakeries, cakeries, and anywhere else that sells baked goods.

And with that I give you my first Baking Biography post in the shape of my current Kitchen Favourites for cakes and macarons.


FOR BAKING

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A traitor to our beloved metal tins, silicone molds have taken over kitchens in recent years and I haven’t exactly been their biggest fan. I was first introduced to silicone in the shape of a cupcake liner but as an avid lover of the classic paper liner I quickly disregarded them. Them and every other large silicon mold I was introduced to.

However, and I say that with emphasis as and I haven’t exactly given silicone the best Kitchen Favourite review so far, when I tested these French patisserie silicon molds I was pleasantly surprised. Although completely non-stick I sprayed them with a tiny bit of some cake release for good measure, but I really don’t think they needed it. They almost fell out of the molds when I brought them out of the oven, and they were so evenly baked  I could have passed them off as almost professional.

Unfortunately, although these softened my uncertainty of silicone, I haven’t been completely converted and remain an advocate for classic metal tins and parchment, however for smaller bakes such as these and macarons I would recommend them, not just for the great results, but also for how easy they are to store away.


FOR GUIDANCE

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“How Baking Works (and what to do when it doesn’t)” is James’ (you know the sciency guy from Season 3 of The Great British Bake off who created a giant Paris-Brest choux wheel in the shape of a bicycle) second book, but the first that I was aware he had published and my goodness I’m glad I found it. It does exactly what it says on the tin, to the extent that I have been reading it cover to cover like a novel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a baking book with such depth before.

Compared to his first book “Brilliant Bread” it covers everything non yeasty such as cakes, cookies and macarons which suits me down to the ground considering my recipe offerings. Best of all though is how he explains the theory and science behind baking techniques, why certain ingredients are so important and my favourite of them how to prevent common baking blunders.

While the title may call to all novice bakers out there, I urge those of you who are experienced not to be deterred.

Buy your copy of “How Baking Works” HERE


FOR DECORATION

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Not the most glamorous item in My Kitchen Drawer but putting my spatula to one side Piping Nozzles are my most used tool, so ensuring I have the best quality is important.

Over the years I have managed to amass dozens of nozzles of all designs and sizes, and I must say it has become a rather impressive collection. Of this hoard three have become my staple and I can’t seem to get through a bake without them.

Kitchen Craft are my favourite supplier for nozzles as they are hardwearing, dishwasher safe and you can get almost every design in small, medium and large. The Sweetly Does it Range is supplied in almost every baking shop in the UK, Super Markets and Amazon and they cost between £2.50 – £4.00

I could talk to you all day about how I use them, but will dedicate a whole post to this very soon.

Large Closed Star – Tip size: 20mm (9 point star)

Large Round – Tip size: 12mm

Large Petal Tip – Tip size: 24mm


 FOR PRESENTATION

cake stand

I like to think of cake stands as the shoes of the baking world. No seriously bear with me here.

On a few occasions recently I have seen beautifully dressed cakes, adorned with intricate designs and toppers presented only on their cake boards. This to me is like wearing your best dress with a pair of old flats; you look beautiful but the shoes are letting you down.

A good cake stand is like the perfect pair of heels. It will give your cake height and drama for presentation, and can either be the splash of colour you need to bring your cake alive, or the perfect way to make a simple design sublime.

I am obsessed with marble so could be happier with this White Marble stand from John Lewis, Croft Collection. It is utter perfection.

Sadly this is no longer available online at John Lewis, but you can buy it from Design Luxuria HERE.