My Favorite Things

I have learned that when cooking, baking, and decorating it is important to have the proper tools for the job. As a newlywed who was still building up her kitchen tools and gadgets, I was able to learn from my own experience and from my friends which kitchen tools I needed to have on hand, and which kitchen tools are a nice luxury to have. =) Here I plan to talk about a few of my favorite things that I use in my kitchen for baking and decorating.

Angled Spatula
For me, an angled spatula is pretty much an all-purpose tool when it comes to cake decorating. It's a very simple tool, but has so many uses from filling cakes, to frosting cakes and smoothing the icing, positioning tiers, and even adding texture to the sides of a cake. Smaller angled spatulas are helpful for 4 or 6 inch cakes along with frosting cookies and cupcakes. The angle allows one to completely smooth the sides of a cake with comfort and ease because the handle is not directly above the top of the cake. Having a variety of these spatulas will help cake decorating go quickly and efficiently. I find that having a small angled and tapered spatula, a 9 inch angled spatula, and a 13 inch angled spatula will get most jobs done.

Breville Mini Pie Maker
I discovered this gadget when a friend of mine kept talking about it on her facebook wall. I was quickly intrigued, and then amazed when I found it online. This appliance is by no means a kitchen necessity, but is most definitely a fun one to own! It makes 4 mini pies at once in a mere 8-10 minutes depending on whether they're fruit pies, custard pies, or savory pies. That's it. Done. It is just incredible! I love it because it beats making a huge 9 inch pie that takes hours to prepare, bake, and set when only half of it will get eaten anyway. The crusts are always perfectly crisp and golden and the fillings are cooked to perfection. Even better is that clean up is as simple as a quick swipe with a damp rag and that is it!

Cookbook Holder
Who doesn't love anything from Williams Sonoma? This cookbook holder is one of my favorite kitchen products from there. This one is top notch because it has a glass shield that protects the pages of my cookbooks from food splatter. Along the left hand side of the glass, there is a table of equivalents for dry, liquid, and weight measurements that comes in handy when preparing food.Not only is this a wonderfully functional item, but it also looks good displayed on the counter top as well.

Cupcake Courier
I almost died and went to heaven when I saw the Cupcake Courier for the first time, well not really, but it is pretty amazing. First off, while most cupcake carriers only hold 1-2 dozen cupcakes, this one securely holds 3 dozen- yes 36 individual cupcakes sit snugly in their own little wells! Beyond that, this carrier comes with trays that lay over top of the cupcake wells to hold, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, mini cupcakes, and anything else you could possibly imagine. It is not too bulky, easy to transport, and available in a wide variety of colors. This single item has saved me from buying dozens of cardboard bakery boxes, and I don't have to worry about my pretty cupcakes getting tossed around in the car while in transit.

Dough Scraper
Dough scrapers come in handy when working with delicate/sticky crusts or cookies. They help lift dough carefully off of a surface without stretching or tearing it. Another use for a dough scraper is to use it to smooth cakes. By holding it steady against the edge of a cake that is secured on a turntable, the cake it self can be spun while the scraper evens out frosting on the outside of the cake.

Flower Nails
Even if you don't decorate cakes at all, these little guys can come in handy. When I discovered heating cores, I was amazed. Heating cores help to bake cake from the inside out by providing a surface for heat to transfer to the center of the cake and not just from the edges. My cakes over 10 inches had perfectly baked centers and edges! Cakes that normally had huge domes were suddenly flat, which meant I had less cake to carve off the top when I stacked my tiers. While it's not a big deal, heating cores leave a large hole in the center of a cake that need to be stuffed with the cake that bakes in the middle of the core. I've found that flower nails can work just as well as heating cores, and there is only a teeny tiny hole left in the cake. To use a flower nail as a heating core simply prepare your cake pan as you normally would and place a well greased flower nail, upside down, into the center. Pour the cake batter into the pan and adjust the flower nail back to center as needed. Allow the finshed cake to cool completely and turn out onto a cake board.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer
This one may be obvious, but nonetheless, it is a favorite! I use my KitchenAid for everything I can. Hands free operation saves time, and my arms from stirring. One particular use this is ideal for is making homemade fondant. Kneading fondant can become tiresome, but this mixer is able to do the job quickly and effectively. This is also a quality product. Everyone I know who owns one says it has lasted them forever, and that it was a worthwhile investment. The variety in bowls and attachments make it an extremely versatile tool that can be used for countless recipes.

Magnetic Measuring Spoons
I never knew measuring spoons could be so wonderfully hassle free until I found these. If you're anything like me, you like your drawers perfectly organized and everything in it's place. Measuring cups and spoons have to not only be nested, but clipped in to the little ring that keep them together or they will fly all over the drawer- at least that has been my experience...
Not only do I love these because they magnetic handle allow them to store well, but because they travel well and they're double sided. One side is a wide circle for pouring liquids and the other is oblong for scooping out dry ingredients from small containers. Any cook or baker needs measuring spoons, so they may as well be ones that stay organized and work for liquid and dry ingredients.

Marble Pastry Board
If you live in a home without marble or granite kitchen counter tops (like I do), then this kitchen tool can be extremely helpful. In many recipes for cookies, pie crusts, scones, or tart shells, it specifies that the dough mush be very cold. Basically, the colder the dough, the flakier the crust, cookie, or scone will bake up, which is ideal! Having a stone surface to roll out or knead these doughs on will not only help keep your counter top clean, but it will help maintain the cold temperature required for the recipe. The smooth cold surface of marble also helps keep dough from sticking.

Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mats
These are so versatile in the kitchen and come in handy when baking delicate cookies. They're made from food grade silicone that encases a fiber mesh lining that helps baked goods to brown evenly. They're non-stick and are ideal for sticky substances. They're also easy to wash and store. They have made my life easier in the kitchen because I'm not using parchment paper 100% of the time. Some good brands I know of are Silpat and Sil-Eco.

Wilton Bake Easy Non-Stick Spray
I know it may seem strange that a baking spray is included under "My Favorite Things" however, Bake Easy has really made baking easy. Traditionally when preparing a cake pan it is crucial to grease the pan with butter, dust with flour, line the bottom with an exact fitting parchment paper circle, then grease and flour that. I learned this method from the Williams Sonoma Cake Book. It is fool proof- cakes come out perfectly without any chunks tearing out from the bottom, but it is a lengthy process. A friend bought me Bake Easy and I was skeptical until my cakes turned out perfectly. I've never used the butter, flour, parchment paper, butter, flour method since, and my cakes are always gorgeous.