The thing with me is I LOVE to read. Usually when I love something, I tend to go overboard with it. You’ve probably already spotted this trend with chocolate. Anyway. More often than not, I find that my fingers are clicking open tabs at an alarming rate on my laptop while my brain frantically tries to keep up but of course, fails miserably and about half the open tabs go into a bookmarks folder or into my Pocket. Somehow, somehow, these multiply exponentially and I always have so much more to read than I’m able to.
So of course when I began cooking, I started to read voraciously about it – other food bloggers, popular websites, graphic art, you name it! Like I’ve already confessed, I’m a bit obsessive and have to read at least 4-5 opinions on the same subject and then some. I was going through my to-read folder and a thought popped into my mind that you guys might also enjoy some of the stuff that I read – may be cooking resources, books, some great infographics I stumbled upon – basically, whatever grabs my mindspace that week. I’m thinking of doing this once a week, every Wednesday and you can let me know after a couple of these if you want me to continue! Okay? Okay.
I’m a big lover of great design and illustration, so let me kick this off with this great little list of some useful kitchen infographics. Some of these are excellent to print and put up on your fridge, so you don’t have to panic-google in the middle of a recipe! These aren’t baking-specific, but several will be super helpful for the baking n00b (I should know!) and I highly recommend having, for example, the one below on hand at all times.
I’ve also discovered this nifty site called My Baking Addiction, from which I’ve taken a lot of baking wisdom. Did you know that scooping out your flour with your measuring cup instead of spooning it in gives you 50g more flour than you need? I didn’t either! All of you who’ve been doing it the wrong way – you now know why your confections may not have turned out perfectly. If you’re a new baker like me, it’s likely that your mind has been boggled by the variety of sugars that are called for in different recipes – icing, castor, dark brown, light brown, demerara, blah di blah. Here’s something to guide you – just the basics, so you at least know what the hell the recipe writer is talking about!
Now that you know how to measure out stuff (and what stuff to measure out), let’s get to some tools / essentials you’ll need to whip something up. If you’re reading this, you probably already have most of these, but this is what I use a lot in my kitchen and it really makes life a lot easier, so I’m going to share anyway! This is a pretty utilitarian list – I have a tiny-ish kitchen and I adore things that store well and take up as little of my shelf space as possible. The first question I usually ask before buying anything is – how much space is this going to take? (The first question Hubs asks, however, is “Do you really, really need this?” Oh, well.) All of these are very easily available in home/kitchen stores and if you’d rather have them come to you, hit the Amazon in your country!
- Mixing Bowls – Genius, I know. The only tip I’d like to share is to use deep bowls and ones that do not slip on your kitchen counter. There are a massive variety of these but I prefer steel ones because they’re easy to maintain and can’t break.
- Wire whisk – Again, self-explanatory. Use it to combine ingredients together while getting a little air into them.
- Sieves – I know that not a lot of home cooks sieve their ingredients, but oh, you MUST! It really helps get out those tiny little lumps and impurities and gets all the dry ingredients to mix so well. Use the larger ones for flour etc. and the small ones to dust icing sugar or cocoa on top of desserts!
- Measuring cups & spoons – So, so essential! Only one thing to say here – there are different measuring cups for dry & wet ingredients, so yes please get yourselves a set of dry measuring cups & a liquid one. I swear by Pyrex liquid measuring cups – they last ages & ages (I have one of my mother’s!) and are virtually unbreakable.
- Oven Mitts – A necessity to avoid burns and bruises. Also, they come in so many pretty patterns! What’s not to love!
- Wire racks – To cool all your baked confections. These are super handy as they allow the food to cool evenly and don’t get the base soggy!
- Cake Pans/ Tins – So there’s a whole world of these out there but start with the basic square (for brownies & bars) and round pans. At least for the round ones, I would really recommend getting springform pans. Much less hassle!
- Cupcake/Muffin Tins/Moulds – You can get these regular or mini-size; a tin that can get out a dozen cupcakes at a time is a safe bet. I don’t own metal tins but have several silicone moulds. They’re amazing cos you don’t have to grease them and the cupcakes unmould like a dream but there’s always a slight possibility of a cupcake losing it’s shape (turning oval instead of round) with these.
- Silicone spatulas – I can’t gush enough about these – they are the best thing to happen to spatulas! They’re flexible, easy to clean and help you get every last drop of batter out of your mixing bowl.
- Silicone pastry brush – What’s not to love about something that has so many uses. Use it to grease tins or moulds, brush pastries or even glaze cookies and cupcakes!
There’s a couple of other things – a kitchen weighing scale & an electric mixer – that I think are a must-have if you’re a home cook / baker but I don’t (yet) own these, so I haven’t put them in the graphic above. I’m definitely not suggesting you can’t do without these but precision is important in most baking and while you might be able to wing it after enough experience, being precise is a good way to start! And I don’t have to tell you how handy an electric hand mixer is, right? Imagine all the creaming of butter & sugar and whipping of cream that you’re arms DON’T have to do – a great tool to have in your baking arsenal!
And that’s a wrap, folks! Hope you guys liked this first edition of Kitchen 101!