I'm sorry if you've been missing my baking posts recently; I'd love to say that I've stopped making delicious baked goods in an attempt to eat better this year, but in reality we've had so much Christmassy food leftover, and chocolate and yummy things as gifts to eat, that I've had no need to bake anything!
I realised that I've never really talked about the equipment I use when I share recipes, so instead of ignoring the kitchen for another week I thought I'd put together a list of equipment that I think is essential for any baker- whether you're new to baking or a seasoned expert :)
First of all; scales and a mixer. I really don't understand how American people make yummy cakes with their (bizarre) love of using inaccurate measuring cups for everything instead of weighing dry ingredients- I think there's only one recipe I use (which I must share with you soon, it's amazing) that only uses cups, any others I've tried have never turned out well! My scales were about £10 from IKEA :) You can always use a spoon and a lot of elbow-grease instead of a hand mixer, or a stand mixer if you are lucky enough to own one (I WILL get one someday) but hand mixers can be really cheap (I think this one was about £10) and much easier and faster than old school spoon mixing.
Next on my list is a selection of bowls, I really like having quite a few mixing bowls, that way I don't have to do washing up between steps. I have 2 sets of nesting bowls, both with lids (very handy in case you need to let dough or mixture rest/chill before use) and a collection of smaller bowls are less important, but very useful for things like melting butter, making up coffee or mixing coloured icing.
Another few must- haves for me are sieves- I have a larger one for flour/ cocoa powder etc, and a small one (which cost me 34p!) which is great for dusting cakes with icing sugar to decorate. I don't measuring lots of things in measuring spoons or cups, but I do like them for liquids and small amounts of dry goods- I have a couple of sets with different sized cups. A measuring jug is also very useful, I sometimes use this for pouring runny cake batter/pie filling into cases.
Utensils are definitely important- there are usually quite a few that I use on a regular basis :) Wooden and plastic spoons are good for mixing things on the hob (like flapjack, melting chocolate etc.) (I prefer plastic because I hate the feel of wood...) and metal knives and spoons of various sizes are useful for all sorts- weighing out ingredients, spooning mixture into tins etc. A skewer is another essential for anyone who wants to make cakes- it's the easiest way to test if a cake is cooked through. A nice extra to have is a pastry brush, which is good to spread egg over pastry, or drizzle syrup onto cakes etc.
For cookie and biscuit enthusiasts I really recommend a nice selection of cookie cutters, I have a huge tine full of them in all kinds of shapes- seasonal/animals etc, you can get basic sets really cheaply, and it's fun to make nice shaped biscuits :)
An absolute essential is a set of baking trays- depending on what you like to bake you might want different types of trays or tins; I use big flat trays for flapjack, and smaller higher trays for brownies or fridge cake. I have quite a lot of different sized circular cake tins, and a mixture of high sided and low ones- the lower sides are better for layer cakes, and the high ones are good for cakes with no filling. I forgot (somehow!) to photograph any cupcake or muffin trays, but I use these a LOT too :)