Whether you are new to baking or a seasoned professional there are several key tools you should own. For a novice baker especially it can be daunting to assume that you must purchase a mixer, pastry blender, seasoned pot, or any number of specific tools. I am going to allay your fears today by showing you that there only a few tools you must posses to make almost anything. Save for a mixer that is needed to whip buttercream, meringue, mousse, etc. most items can be made completely by hand. Even cream can be whipped by hand which I know because I once held a cream whipping contest with a friend wherein we each took a bowl of liquid cream and whipped it vigorously with a fork to see who could fluff it the fastest. I did it in eight minutes. And have some nice biceps to prove it. But I digress. Below are what I consider to be the pivotal tools for any baker’s success.
1) THE RUBBER SPATULA
Use it to scrape down a bowl or spread a buttercream. A good spatula made out of heavy, pliable plastic is a baker’s best friend. Pliable is a key word here. You want the spatula to bend liberally without breaking to really get into the crevices of a bowl.
2) THE OFFSET SPATULA
Use it to ice cakes, finish a cake, or adhere icing. Use it to apply glaze and smooth it quickly. Heat it up and spread it over cream to create that perfect flat finish. Once you start icing cakes the offset will be your best friend. My favorite one is about eight inches long and has a wooden grip. It was given to me by a favorite French chef I idolized in culinary school. I use it for everything from birthday cakes to wedding cakes.
3) THE WHISK
For whipping eggs or beating together a filling. The whisk is how a baker combines ingredients and aerates liquids. The whisk is used to get the lumps out of buttercream and stir through a simple sauce. Buy one with a good strong handle and durable metal prongs.
4) THE WOODEN ROLLING PIN
No self respecting baker would be caught without a wooden rolling pin. It is heavy and has the weight of the wood so it can be used to pound out butter for puff pastry or slap down some shortbread. If you are a baker of bread you will come to rely on your rolling pin heavily. For pies, tarts, or cookies the wooden rolling pin is ideal. Wipe it down gently with a damp paper towel only.
5) THE PROBE THERMOMETER
This bad boy is your timer and thermometer all rolled into one. All probe thermometers can be toggled between Celsius and Fahrenheit so you can use it for any manner of recipe testing. Probe thermometers are necessary for candy making but also useful when making mousses or buttercream. And every one needs a timer. Who hasn’t had five things they are watching in the oven and on the stove at the same time?
Of course this list is really pared down to the bare essentials. If you would like a more detailed list of baker’s tools check out this site.