Food and Culinary

Digital timer

For years and years I refused to use a timer, thinking timers were for wimps. What was I thinking? Now I let my reliable digital timer do the thinking while I do the cooking. A double timer is twice as nice. What more can I say?

Proofing baskets (bannetons)

While proofing baskets are not essential, they are certainly a lovely addition to any serious bread baker’s supply stash. Up your baking ante by proofing your loaves in a linen-lined basket. The linen liner holds a coating of flour nicely, and the dough will not stick to the linen, making removal a cinch. Baskets hold the dough in shape before baking, and the linen keeps the crust smooth.

Unlined baskets – as tricky as they can be to use – put a pretty impression on the dough. Aesthetic only. Of course, aesthetics are powerful.

Flour sack towels

In a word – indispensable. No true cook or baker can work without a stack of clean, absorbent towels by their side. Keep them dry and use as oven mitts. Use them damp to protect dough from drying out. Wet and wrung out, they clean up any mess. Nice white towels stay that way because they can be cleaned with bleach. Flour sack towels = a cook’s security blanket.

Springform pans

Whether you are baking sweet or savory, springforms will make the experience almost foolproof. They can be lined with plastic for molding cold dishes, lined with foil for baking in a water bath, or sprayed with baking spray for even easier removal. Springforms can be tricky to store, but the rings can be managed by hanging them on scarf rings or a long loop of stiff wire, with the bottoms stacked somewhere in close proximity.

Boar bristle pastry brushes

Boar bristle brushes are particularly nice because they carry plenty of liquid – eggwash, milk, water, glaze, whatever, and they are soft enough to not disturb the surface you are brushing. Boar bristles are flexible, and they will bend easily along the contours of fresh fruit or the crimped edges of a pie crust. Very nice to have in a variety of sizes and shapes – both round and flat.

10-inch off-set spatula

Ten inches is a good starting place for off-set spatulas, although it is good to own some that are also longer and some that are smaller, all the way down to four inches or so. Use the long spatulas to create large swaths of smooth icing and to spread batters in large baking pans. Shorter spatulas are infinitely useful for a variety of odd jobs, including working on medium-sized cakes and tarts. Use small spatulas for fine-tuning and detail work.

Silicone baking liners

Silicone baking liners may not be as convenient as parchment paper, but they do not fill up your trash bin, or ever need to be replaced. Virtually nothing will stick to the liner, which seems miraculous to me. They are pricy, or so it seems when you are buying them. However, after the first use, the cost seems minimal. An amazing, semi-recent innovation.

Rolling stick

Rolling sticks come in all sort of sizes and weights. I own a number of them and favor various models for certain jobs. Large and heavy for yeasted doughs, lighter and more nimble for delicate doughs, and everything in between. The simple design of a rolling stick means they have no parts that may break, and they are easy to wipe clean. Aging only makes them more pleasant to hold and use.

Heavy-duty standing mixer

A standing mixer is a once-in-a-lifetime investment. Do not scrimp on the cost and you will be well-served. In fact, a well-built mixer is something to pass along to your ancestors (along with the gigantic roll of plastic wrap that will outlive you).

Pizza peel

When was the last time you tried to remove a blazing hot pizza or flatbread from the oven without a peel? Never again, right? Nuff said.

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