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What Is Baking?
Baking is a method of cooking that uses dry heat in an enclosed space. Typically done in an oven, baking occurs when heat makes contact with dough or batter and causes the starches in the dish to change form. This results in the development of a firm, browned surface due to the Maillard reaction, and a soft inside as a result of moisture getting trapped within the baked good. An enclosed space is necessary for baking in order to uniformly distribute heat, resulting in evenly cooked baked goods.
Bread and other baked goods are deeply ingrained in just about every culture, religion, and region of the world. These significant cultural symbols have been the subject of lore, nursery rhymes, and religious texts for thousands of years. Therefore, baking is an essential part of human history and a culinary art form as old as humankind itself.
5 Different Types of Baking
- Oven Baking: The most common form of baking, relying on an oven to trap heat in an enclosed space with the dough or batter.
- Steam Baking: A common form of baking in the UK, steaming entraps heat using a small amount of water in tight-fitting lid and pan to cook baked goods from crumpets to cakes.
- Hot Stone Baking: A method of baking that uses a hot stone to evenly distribute high heat into breads and other baked goods.
- Hot Ash Baking: A primitive form of baking over a bed of fiery ash, typically used to cook flat breads and cakes.
- Grill Baking: A hybrid method of cooking that begins on the grill and is finished in the oven—or vice versa—to infuse baked goods with a slightly smoked or charred flavor.
25 Essential Baking Tools
Stocking up on baking equipment may be a costly endeavor at the start, but can potentially result in an infinite number of baked goods down the line. These essential tools will help transform a kitchen into a well-equipped home bakery in no time.
- Kitchen Scale: When baking, using precise measurements is essential. A kitchen scale will guarantee the weight of ingredients is just right.
- Oven Thermometer: Ovens can be unreliable when it comes to temperature precision. Use an oven thermometer to guarantee the appliance has hit the exact degree required for a recipe.
- Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer: Whether a cook opts for a work-intensive hand mixer or a more expensive stand mixer fitted with various attachments (from paddles, whisks, and dough hooks), a good mixer is necessary to the baking process.
- Cake Pans: Invest in a heavy duty 9- by 13-inch baking pan as well as two or three circular cake pans that can handle all of your sheet cakes, layer cakes, and celebratory desserts.
- Glass Square Pan: Ideal for brownies and other baked bars, a 9-inch square pan is another essential kitchen addition.
- Muffin Pan: A 12-count muffin pan is useful for cupcakes and muffins.
- Loaf Pan: Bread lovers and amateur bakers alike need a good 9- by 5-inch non-stick or stainless-steel loaf pan to make banana bread or proof and bake homemade loaves.
- Pie Pan: A high-quality 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan that can be reused with many iterations of pie dough is a must-have for bakers.
- Rimmed Baking Sheets: Necessary for making cookies, toffee, brittles, rolls, and more, sheet pans, cookie sheets, and half-sheet pans are necessary for a well-stocked kitchen.
- Mixing Bowls: A set of glass bowls for combining dry and wet ingredients is important for any home baker.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: Invest in a set of dry and liquid measuring cups and measuring spoons to be set for cooking and baking measurements.
- Rolling Pin: A sturdy wooden rolling pin is necessary for rolling out a variety of doughs, from pie crust to yeasted dough for cinnamon rolls.
- Flour Sifter or Fine-Mesh Sieve: A useful tool for aerating flour during the baking process.
- Silicone Baking Mat and Parchment Paper: Useful tools for covering sheet pans to reduce cleanup. Invest in a sturdy baking mat by Silpat (or another brand), or alternatively use parchment paper, which you can cut into rectangles and circles for all your baking pans.
- Cooling Rack: An important kitchen addition that allows baked goods to cool from all directions, avoiding prolonged overcooking and soggy bottoms as a result of trapped moisture.
- Spatulas: Invest in a rubber spatula and offset spatula for flipping and stirring needs.
- Whisk: Necessary for whisking egg whites and thoroughly combining dry ingredients.
- Cookie Cutters: Cookie cutters and presses will make shaping fun, holiday friendly cookies a breeze.
- Pastry Blender (aka Pastry Cutter): A useful utensil that easily integrates hard fats into flour using strips of wire.
- Bench Scraper: A beloved tool of bakers that allows them to scrape up dough and batter from any surface.
- Food Processor: A useful tool for chopping ingredients and combining hard-to-mix ingredients.
- Pastry Brush: Used to brush butter or egg wash onto dough prior to cooking, a pastry brush helps to give baked goods their golden-brown exterior.
- Cookie Scoops: Producing uniform scoops of cookie dough is necessary to guarantee the entire batch of cookies cooks evenly. Cookie scoop are available in various sizes, allowing you to make big and small uniform cookies without getting your hands dirty.
- Pastry Bags and Piping Tips - Perfect for cake decorating and other piping needs like making eclairs, pastry bags are a decorator’s best friend.
- Ice Cream Maker: An optional kitchen appliance for churning ice creams, sorbets, gelatos, and frozen yogurts.
25 Essential Baking Ingredients to Keep in Your Pantry
Baking rests on a foundation of sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. With these essential ingredients, the baking possibilities are endless: think crusty breads and elaborate French pastries to simple three-ingredient pie crusts. From shelf-stable dry ingredients to refrigerated stand-bys, these are the essentials to always have on hand for a basic baker’s pantry.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Granulated Sugar
- Powdered Sugar (aka confectioners' sugar)
- Golden brown sugar
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Kosher salt
- Active Dry Yeast (which can be kept for extended periods of time in the freezer)
- Vegetable oil
- Light corn syrup
- Vanilla extract
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate chips: dark, milk, and white chocolates
- Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and ginger are common additions to baked goods.
- Dried fruits: raisins, apricots, and cherries
- Nuts: almonds, pecans, peanuts, macadamia nuts
- Cream of tartar
- Unsalted butter
- Whole milk
- Full-fat plain yogurt
Learn more about the fundamentals of baking in James Beard Award-winning Chef Dominique Ansel’s MasterClass.