Fleur’s Top Ten Baking Buys
I love a bit of retail therapy. It used to be clothes that I ‘needed’ to shop for, and whilst I still love fashion, being a mum of 3 has certainly changed things for me in this area. For a start my shopping time is now almost non existent. Taking children clothes shopping is a definite ‘no no’ for me. I tried it once and managed to lose a child (worst and longest 5 mins of my life) as well as cope with numerous tantrums and continuous whinging. Never again! The other issue is that whilst clothes look lovely in catalogues or on the rail in a shop, there is a high chance that they will be covered in snot/food/mud/paint/glue/playdoh/……. (fill in the blank) by the end of the day. I could go on but I’m guessing that you understand my predicament, and if you are a mummy yourself, you might well be able to empathise.
It’s ok though because I have found a whole new world of things that I want to buy that won’t get ruined by children and can normally be researched and brought on the Internet quite easily, (husband rolls eyes and groans at this point). Kitchen inventions, gadgets, bakeware, items for the house and home, however you like to put it, I’m loving it. It seems the ‘baking bug’ that is sweeping the nation right now has brought an explosion of new ‘must have’ items. Everywhere I look a new kitchen product is being marketed claiming that every home baker would be lost without it. Whilst I think that negotiating my way through all of this is part of the fun, it can also be a bit daunting, and I have of course made mistakes and wasted money. So I came up with the idea of sharing my top ten baking gadgets and kitchen inventions with you. These are just things I have got which in my opinion are great buys. Things that I could not do without now and which I would recommend investing in if you are like me and a keen home baker.
1. Microplane Grater
For a long time I was happy just using the small grater on the side of my cheese grater when adding zest to recipes, but then I started to notice a new type of grater in cookbooks and on TV shows. You don’t have to do much research to find claims that this grater makes magnificent flavoursome zest because of it’s design. It has little square shaped blades which are very sharp and I guess this cuts the zest off in such a way that it is deeper and less mushy. Sounds a bit ‘pie in the sky’ but I decided to get a Lakeland version of this grater which was quite a bit cheaper than other makes, just to see what all the fuss is about. Straight away I noticed a difference. The zesting was easier and I have to agree that the taste of zest is much stronger in the bakes that I have made. Be extra careful of your knuckle’s though, as the thought of catching them on this makes me grimace.
2. Silicone Pastry Brush
I love my silicone pastry brush and I often wonder why these were not on the market sooner. The main advantage is that they are so much more hygienic than the ordinary pastry brush. I could never get my old brush really clean and it always seemed to be sticky with whatever was on it before. A silicone brush can be put through the dishwasher and comes out clean and dry. As you can see from my ‘hot pink’ one they come in a range of fun colours making them appealing for children to use when baking with you.
3. Digital Scales
I used to have gorgeous looking kitchen scales. It had a vintage design and always caught my eye when sitting on the side in the kitchen. But I could never get really accurate measurements with it and the more baking and reading about baking I did the more I realised that my scales were just not going to cut it. I needed digital scales, because baking is a science and for optimal results precise amounts of ingredients are required. I brought a fairly cheap digital scale and instantly noticed a difference. My baking has significantly improved even if I do say so myself and it has made me more confident and willing to try new things as a result. If you are looking to get one I would recommend one that has lots of different measurement unit options as you will probably end up using them all. Key units for me are grams and millilitres.
4. M1 Wilton Icing Tip
It was not until I got myself one of these tips that I could manage to make my cupcake icing look any good, and I’m really not exaggerating. This tip has been a revelation to me. It effortlessly creates the most beautiful icing swirls on top of cupcakes and I feel like my cupcakes are much more professional looking now. You just start from the outside and work into the middle and it is as simple as that! You can also start in the middle and work out to create a gorgeous rose effect. At around £2.50 they won’t break the bank either.
5. Kitchen Thermometer
This is a fairly recent purchase, but has been incredibly useful. I have used it so much more than I thought I would. I’ve been able to heat sugar to create decorations, make italian meringues, macaroons, honeycomb and temper chocolate for my new silicone moulds. I’m sure I will use it to make some kind of jam this summer too. Before I had one I think I used it as a bit of an excuse not to do certain recipes and never really experimented very much with heating sugar. But I was missing out because it is a lot of fun with some pretty amazing results. You just need to look for ‘sugar corkscrew’ on You Tube to see a whole range of videos telling you how easy it is to make a most delightful little decorations for your desserts. I have tried it and vouch for it being easy and extremely impressive. One thing I would say is to make sure that all children and pets are completely out of the way when you make anything that requires heating sugar to a high temperature. Common sense I know but I feel better for saying it.
6. Kitchen Aid
I know that this is not within everyone’s price range, but there was no question that this had to go on my top 10 list of kitchen inventions. I got mine over 4 years ago and have used it most days ever since. It mixes cake with ease, kneads dough beautifully, and I have never made a bad meringue with it. I love the look of it on my kitchen work top, and would say that for me it has been money well spent. I love my glass bowl too. It is so helpful to see what the mixer is doing whilst getting the next bit ready. If you love baking you won’t regret buying a mixer like this. The rival to a Kitchen Aid is a Kenwood mixer, and I have used one of these too. There is always lots of discussion in baking circles about which one is best but I think they are pretty equal in performance and features. It probably boils down to which one you like the look of most in the end.
Before I discovered this I would regularly find myself in sticky situations. My weekly homemade pizza stuck to everything, (including non-stick foil) making it a nightmare to serve and on one occasion my husband nearly set the house on fire warming up a slice of pizza in the microwave that had a bit of foil still attached to the bottom! Biscuits would adhere to the baking tray making them a disaster, and macaroons…don’t talk to me about macaroons! Then I saw silicone coated paper that claimed to be non stick and it really does work. For me it is a kitchen lifesaver and helps to make sure that all my hard baking work does not go to waste. Don’t get this confused with greaseproof paper as it is not quite the same. Lakeland call it non-stick paper but I have seen it as silicone coated paper as well.
8. Cake Release Spray
Not too dissimilar from what I have written about above except this is a very handy spray which I use when making cakes, brownies or anything like that. It is so easy to use and I have not had one sticky situation whilst using it. You can line the tins as well as use this but there is no need really as this stuff is so good. It does cost a bit more than a knob of butter that you might ordinarily use to grease your tin but for the time it saves me and the consistent results I’m now a bit of a convert.
This is another item that I had no idea how much I would use it until I got one. Perfect for smoothing buttercream onto cupcakes, levelling cake mixture in the tin, applying frosting to traybakes, covering cakes with icing, leaving a gorgeous squiggle on chocolate ganache etc etc. I have no doubt that you will get your moneys worth if you invest in one. I only have a little one at the moment but will be investing in a larger one pretty soon.
10. Mini Morsels Cake Tin
Perfect for me, as love mini cakes, tarts, cupcakes. They are just sooo cute! I much prefer to eat one or two little tarts rather than eat a big one, and I would say that for those of us who bake a lot it is probably quite important not to make full size the whole time as I know I would probably be the size of a house before too long if I did. If you have children, little cakes are perfect treats for any occasion, and you can impress your friends and family with a selection of mini cakes and bakes for a special afternoon tea. Top tip: if you are making mini tarts, save a small ball of pastry to push your little cut out pastry bases into the holes in the tin without making marks on the pastry or risking putting your finger through it.
There you go! I hope you have found this useful. Let me know what you think and what your favorite items in the kitchen are.
*This is not a sponsored post, all opinions and recommendations are my own.*