Essential and Recommended Tools
Below is an outline of some essential tools any pastry chef / cook or aspiring chef should have in his or her kitchen to ensure a good outcome of the product. Not every Chef will need every tool – but it will certainly facilitate the job on hand if it is done with the right tool on hand.
Most of the items listed can be purchased in either department stores, kitchenware stores or online. Generally speaking with kitchen utensils you will get what you paid for and most of the times it will pay off in the long run if a better quality product has been purchased as it will (with the proper care given) last considerably longer then less expensive and possibly made out of cheap material produced utensils.
Usually any restaurant / hotel kitchen supply store will carry a wide selection of professional grade utensils at a usually affordable price is well. That the places where the professional chefs are shopping for their gears – which mean there, pretty much also where you want to buy your new gadgets for your kitchen is well. These supply stores are also many times staffed by ex-Chefs who can advise you very well about which brand, size or type of tool would be the best for you.
A quick word about knifes, for the culinary chef the knife is the most important tool of the trade and several hundred dollars can easily be spend on just a single chef’s knife. For a pastry chef it is slightly different, of course knifes are important in the pastry kitchen and we do need some good once and sharp once is well. My recommendation would be to spend only enough money on a short chef’s knife and reasonable long serrated bread knife which will be appropriate for the anticipated usage in your pastry kitchen and save the rest of the money for some of the other amazing gadgets, moulds, rings & forms you possibly can buy for the pastry kitchen.
Here is a quick run-down on some possible utensils for your pastry kitchen which will get you started and which will help you recreating the recipes we will cover in our pastry training lessons. Feel free of course to elaborate and shop around for different size and more fancy utensils.
- 1. Copper bowl
Definitely a luxury to have in the pastry kitchen, but nothing really beats your egg white to the lightest possible meringue then the relaxing effect the copper will have on your albumen proteins of your egg whites. If a copper bowl exceeds your budget, stick to a normal stainless steel mixing bowl for your meringues and simply add a small addition of Cream of tartar or any other acids which will have a similar effect on the egg whites.
- 2. Fine wired Whisk
Depending on your size of operation you may want to invest in 2 -3 different sizes of whisk, maybe a16” large balloon whisk for the ‘big’ jobs, a 12” for cooking crèmes & custards and maybe a smaller 8” whisk for all the delicate smaller recipes. Try to stick to the fine wired whisk’s not the thick once you see been used in the hot kitchen. In the pastry it’s all about whipping that air inside our recipes and that’s best done with the fine wired whisks.
- 3. Rolling Pins
I usually make my own rolling pins out of wooden dowels which I buy at home hardware stores, that way I can make them to the length and dimension I prefer. Several commercial type rolling pins made out of silicon, marble, wood, with handle or without are available. A good and comfortable rolling pin is important as unless you own a commercial dough sheeter, which will do the rolling out for you, you will roll out your doughs by hand.
- 4. Sheet Pans
The size of sheet pans you purchase are first of all determined by the size of your oven, sheet pans are pretty much standard and very similar worldwide. Solid once are great for most of your pastry application where with the higher sugar content inside the recipe you generally don’t want to have too much bottom heat to minimize the browning effect on your goodies. Invest in some perforated sheet pans if you are planning on bread baking as you will have a much better air circulation which will be beneficial for your breads.
- 5. Silicon Mats / Wax / Parchment Paper
Silicon mats are widely available these days and will work very well to ensure none of the goodies will stick on your trays while baking. Regular wax or parchment paper will also work most of the time and it is obviously considerably cheaper than the silicon mats. Actually, every now and then it is nice to go back to the time prior to all that silicon we have these days in our kitchen and to simply go back to good old greasing with clarified butter and flour. No additional cost as you have those ingredients and nothing really will beat the lovely browning effect and flavour you will have underneath your cookies if they have been baked on a tray greased with butter and flour – nice spreading by the cookies is well!
- 6. Pots & Pans
Choose your cook ware well, as all material will work differently and will conduct heat differently which will affect the success of your recipe. Copper will conduct heat the best and the most evenly ensuring rapid cooking and even heat conductor with the least chance of scorching. But of course they are expensive and pretty tedious to keep clean
Stainless steel pots are the most common and available ones, unfortunately stainless steel actually is a pretty poor heat conductor unless you buy the pots which are fortified with a copper bottom. But with the easy availability and affordability they will be most people’s first choice when it comes to pots and pans. Stay away from aluminum pots as the aluminum will react with any acidic substance (that’s pretty much all your fruit based recipes)and it would leave a pretty strong metallic after-taste.
Go for non-reactive stainless steel or copper pots of various size and you will be well set to start your cooking & baking
- 7. Cake Rings
For best result and ease of work purchase stainless steel cake rings or different dimension (depending on your size of cakes you are planning to produce). Throughout the lectures I will be using mostly 5”, 6” or 8” cake rings which are 3” in height. These type of cake rings are very versatile and can be used for breads, mousse cakes, cheesecakes, sponges, pound cakes etc. They are easy to clean, easy to release your products out of it and they will last you many years to come.
- 8. Strainer / Sieves
A very small sieve comes in handy to dust a little cocoa powder on a Tiramisu or some icing sugar on a cake or dessert, a 6” diameter fine sieve will be great to strain your sauces and ice cream bases of any unwanted bits and pieces and maybe a larger sieve for sifting your cake flour for your recipe. Stick to the fine meshed sieve for your pastry kitchen not the once with any larger holes in it, as they won’t catch any of the finer particles.
- 9. Spatulas
Different sized off-set and straight spatulas will be required in your pastry kitchen to level or ice various different cakes and pastries. The length is certainly determined by the size of cakes and pastries you will eventually be producing, meaning if most of the cakes you will be making a 8” in diameter then you want to have a spatula with at least 9” in length and so forth. The angled or off-set spatulas are certainly most convenience when it comes to spearing sheet cakes and sponges on tray. One or two smaller spatulas will be handy for the small and details icing job might be required for smaller individual cakes and pastries.
- Piping bags and tubes / nozzles
As you will be seen during the course of the lesson in the videos I rely on disposable food-grade plastic piping bags. They are not only convenient and inexpensive but really the most hygienic piping bag to be used in kitchen. They are available in various sizes and even in colors is well. Piping nozzles (or sometimes called tubes) are more durable if purchased in stainless steel contrary to plastic ones. Instead of buying a whole set of all available sizes I would recommend to buy only three sizes of each, plain and star nozzles. Small, medium and large, those will be sufficient in doing pretty much most if not all jobs in the pastry kitchen.
- 10. Digital or Candy Thermometer
Either one will do the few jobs in the pastry kitchen when you really need to know the exact temperature of something. I like the digital or infrared thermometers as they tend to give you a very precise temperature without having to wait a long time, something which can be fatal in small recipes where you need an instant read. The candy thermometer are generally more expensive but certainly more handy if a longer cooking time is happening, where the candy thermometer will not require you to hold it during the cooking time.
- 11. Wooden spoons / rubber spatulas
How could we possible bake and live without either one of them in our pastry kitchen? You will need wooden spoons (size is depending again on the size of recipes you are frequently are making) for stirring hot liquids, creaming of the butter for your pound cakes, to check the right thickness of a vanilla sauce and many more applications. And nothing really beats a heat-resistant rubber spatula
- 12. Mixing bowls
I would recommend to stick with stainless – steel mixing bowl, which are inexpensive and widely available in various dimensions and depth is well. As most gadgets in your new pastry kitchen, the size of the to be used bowl is pretty much determined by the size of your anticipated production. Generally speaking various sizes, ranging from small to large will be helpful, what I have found in working all these years in kitchens is that you can’t really have too many mixing bowls. You need some small ones for scaling and measuring ingredients, another one for melting chocolate, more be kept in the fridge with finished crème’s and custard etc. Stay away from glass bowls, even so pretty and you can see what’s going on in the inside, glass tends to shatter ones dropped rendering your kitchen into a hazardous danger zone. Keep all kinds of glass out of your kitchen. Plastic mixing bowls are not bad, but they are lousy heat conductor so they really don’t work to well in terms melting ingredients, warming up butter for creaming etc.
- 13. Tart shells / Pie rings etc
For tart rings, try to buy the ones with a removable base, which will facilitate lifting your finished baked, delicate creations safely out of the tart shell on to a serving plate. Various sizes are available – having a couple of dozen individual small tart shells is nice to create some more personalized tarts and of course larger ones are very presentable also. The most common ones are round but square, rectangle or oblong shaped tarts can be a very pretty alternative.
Same for the pie dishes, choose a size which fits your need, most of them will be nice and deep with a rim around the edges which will help working the base and the top dough layer together.
- 14. Cooling racks
Can’t be without a couple of those, certainly we don’t want our freshly baked pound cake sitting any longer than necessary inside its hot loaf pan sweating away making it almost impossible to remove from it. Delicate cookies, baked to perfection and then forgotten on the still hot sheet pan will easily turn your supposed to be soft and fudgy chocolate chip cookie into a dry and crumbly chocolate chip cookie if not moved on to a cooling rack to stop the baking and to start the cooling.
As you will continue your journey into the world of baking and pastries you will quickly amass a rewarding array of tools and gadgets. And having the right tool for the right job will certainly increase your chance of success in tackling any recipes.