Bakeware (including baking tools)
What to look for - As with cookware, bakeware comes in a variety of materials such as aluminum, nonstick and glass. I have a variety for different purposes. Most are heavy aluminum that resist sticking. I have both aluminum and glass pie plates. It is important to purchase bakeware that is warp-resistant. I have had cookie sheets that bend when baking. That causes uneven heat distribution. Good bakeware will cost and, like me, you will want to purchase pieces gradually. But it will last a lifetime with proper care.
Types of Bakeware
The shapes and styles of bakeware you will need depend on what types of foods you bake. I do not bake a lot, but I bake many different types of foods. Therefore, I have a fairly large selection of bakeware that I consider basic. Most are multi-taskers and can be used for more than the usual sweets and breads. There are still some types and sizes that I would like to have but, at this point, they are not necessary.
Cookie Sheets - Cookie sheets come in several different sizes and styles. I prefer sheets with low sides because they can be used not only for cookies and other small foods but also for pizza, jelly rolls and sheet cakes. You will need at least two sheets so that one pan can be prepared while the other is baking when making something like cookies. Of course, two sheets can be placed in the oven on different racks at the same time and rotated half way through the baking time. My largest sheets are 15x10.5-inches. The smaller are 11x9-inches and are great for small portions of cookies or hors d'ouevres.
Round Cake Pans - More than likely, you will need three each of both 9-inch and 8-inch pans unless you know you will never make a 3-layer cake. There are also larger and smaller sizes, but they are not used as often.
Pie Pans - These come in a variety of sizes from 6 to 10 inches. I have four 6-inch pans for breakfast cakes, two each of 8 and 9-inch pans for pies. Most of the pies I make are 9-inches and I prefer glass pans for those.
Muffin Pans - These are also used for cupcakes. Some pans have space for 6 muffins and others for 12. I have two each of large, medium and mini sizes. The mini muffin pans are also used for mini-quiches and tartlets.
Loaf Pans - If you make any kind of breads you need loaf pans in various sizes. The larger ones usually come in 9x5 or 8x4-inches. As with other bakeware, two of each is required because many recipes make two loaves. Mini-loaf pans are wonderful for baking gift items such as sweet breads. The foil pans available in the grocery stores are adequate for that purpose.
Tube Pan - If you intend to make an angel food cake, you will need a tube pan. The center tube allows the delicate cake to rise properly. I have is a 10-inch tube pan. It is very old, slightly dented here and there, not top-quality, but works well.
Springform Pan - Springform pans have removable bottoms and are a must for many baked goods, including cheesecakes. They come in a variety of sizes from small for individual servings to 10 or 11 inches. I have a 9-inch pan and a 10-inch pan.
Tart Pan - I will not go so far as to say these are essential, but they are fun. I purchased a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom, made a fruit pie in it and removed it from the pan after it cooled. It makes a different and more elegant presentation. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so decide what you will use before you purchase.
Sifter - A sifter is a must. Even though many flours are pre-sifted, they need to be sifted again if the recipe calls for it because they get packed down in shipping and storage. There are different types of sifters available. I have one made of stainless steel with a capacity of 4 cups that is operated with a crank handle. It took me a long time to find it, but I like it best for large amounts. However, for smaller amounts, I just use a stainless mesh sifter with a long handle that doubles as a strainer.
Rolling Pin - If you want to work with pastry or dough, you need a rolling pin. Believe it or not, they come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and composition. The kind you get will be determined by the uses. The one I used for years is very basic and I have had it since I had my first kitchen. It is made of hardwood and has handles on either side that remain stationary as the pin is rolled. Recently, I purchased a hardwood rolling pin without handles and I admit that I like it better. It has more weight and is easier to control.
Basting Brush - Every kitchen should have at least one brush for baking or basting. There are flat or round varieties with different type handles, such as plastic, stainless or wooden. Some of the silicone bristle brushes work very well.
Cooling Racks - This is a must if you do any baking. Hot baked goods need to have air circulation on the bottom to prevent them from getting soggy while cooling. How many racks you need depends on how much baking you might do at one time. The racks can double as a roasting rack on a sheet pan.
Pastry Scraper - This is very helpful for getting any type of dough off of a work surface. It is wider than a spatula, and there seems to be more control because it is not as long. You can also use it to quickly chop through soft items or to easily transfer any chopped foods from the cutting board to a pan or bowl.
Cookie or Biscuit Cutters - These are essential if you make cut-out cookies or biscuits. I have some in a variety of shapes that I use mainly for cookies at Christmas, but I also have a set of many different sized round cutters that are useful for many things.