Want to create the most beautiful treats without a hitch? Baking expert Anna Olson shares her list of essential tools that every passionate home baker should have on hand.
1. Off-Set Spatula
This great tool is used to lift cookies off of hot trays, loosen cakes delicately from their pans, and frost cakes with precision and panache. The spatula you see me use on Bake with Anna Olson is my own — I’ve had it for about 10 years, and I’d be lost without it!
2. Silicone Spatula
For effective folding and stirring, and for getting every last bit of batter out of a bowl, I favour the curved spatulas in this tool family. And silicone is heat-proof so it can be used to stir pastry creams, sauces and other preparations on the stove.
3. Oven Thermometer
This may sound trivial, but a thermometer placed inside your oven is a valuable and inexpensive tool that can save you frustration. You’d be amazed how many ovens don’t sit at the correct temperature risking underbaked or overbaked goods. Just because your oven displays the temperature you’ve set, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accurate. When using this tool, if you find that your oven temperature is far out of range (10°C or more), you will need to get a repair person to calibrate your oven.
4. Disposable Piping Bags
Gone are the days of fabric piping bags that never quite come clean or are cut so far down that they only fit your largest piping tip. Most cake supply and even craft shops will carry disposable piping bags in an assortment of sizes. They can be reused and are fully recyclable.
5. Ice Cream Scoops
Ice cream scoops aren’t just for scooping ice cream. I rely on an assortment of sizes for a variety of uses, including portioning perfectly consistent cookies and dropping muffin batter into tins without a mess.
6. Candy Thermometer
The world of confectionery and chocolate work requires a precision that only a candy thermometer can offer. The difference between the “thread stage” and the “soft ball stage” of boiling sugar is only a few degrees, and a candy thermometer takes all the guesswork out of it. There are traditional models and also digital probe thermometers — both work equally well. (Note: If you have an induction cooktop, I recommend the traditional model. The magnetic energy of the induction can interfere with the digital reads.)
7. Microplane Rasp
This handy tool is commonly used as a fine grater for garlic and Parmesan, but I value it to finely grate citrus zest, nutmeg, chocolate and to mince ginger without fibres. There are models with larger grates so that you can make chocolate curls, not just shavings.
8. Bar Citrus Juicer
Lemon, lime and orange juice figure prominently in desserts, and I always use freshly squeezed juice. A bar juicer is a fast and convenient way to extract the most juice — and it’s easy to clean.
9. Measuring Tape
This may seem trivial, but a fabric measuring tape is immensely handy in a baker’s kitchen. First, I can verify how thick my doughs are as I roll them. Second, I can measure the circumference of a piece of fondant before I lift it to cover a cake. Lastly, I can ensure that my squares are all cut to the same size.
10. Cake Wheel
If you are getting serious about baking, this will be a tool you’ll want to invest in. A cake wheel spins on its base, making seamless frosting simple, and detailed piping less arduous and hard on your back. Professional cast-iron cake wheels can be pricey, but there are other more affordable options. (Tip: Ikea offers a lazy Susan that functions as a cake wheel.)