What every beginner baker needs in their kitchen

Two years ago, I had a sudden urge to start baking again.  Before that, I failed so miserably when I visited the States that I didn’t want to ever touch an oven again.  I used to complain about not having a proper oven in Hong Kong, so when my family visited in 2008, I decided to bake a lemon cake.

I didn’t have any proper supplies and accidentally microwaved butter with the aluminum foil still on it (epic fail).  Fast forward 4 years to 2012, I wanted to create everything and anything sweet – cakes, muffins, pastries, etc.  My dad has a special place in his heart for carrot cake, so I decided to pursue this craft.

During that time, I tried to look online for a list of supplies or things every baker should have. Most of the websites I have found are good resources, but living in Hong Kong means having very little space.  A lot of the food bloggers and recipe websites consisted of racks and racks of supplies.  As a broke college student, seeing their colossal supply made my wallet shrivel up and start crying before I even left the house.

From my two years of baking, here are some tips I wish someone had given me before I started:

  1. Start simple.  I wanted to create so many different things at once, I started bookmarking everything.  My suggestion is to find simple muffin recipes first (like this banana muffin recipe).  Once you’ve found one you like, cut the recipe in half.  This is so that if you mess up, or it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you won’t waste that much.
  2. Don’t buy expensive supplies at first.  Not knowing how to use any of it will result in stress.  Buying cheaper supplies will give you a foundation of how to use certain items.  Plus, it’s more rewarding to buy higher quality, more expensive supplies once you’ve honed your skills.
  3. You will mess up.  Not every cake you make will be phenomenal like the ones at Patisserie Tony Wong.  Practice makes perfect!
  4. Watch videos.  I love watching videos from Laura Vitale or Stephanie Jaworski.  They both have mad skills, and watching their technique has helped me understand why certain batters are the way they are.
  5. Practice, practice, practice!  This cannot be stressed more.  It takes from 20 hours to 10,000 hours to master a skill.  The longest part about baking is the wait time, and I believe it doesn’t count as practice time.  In this day and age, when we wait for something to bake or cook, we don’t watch it.  We take out our phones and play Candy Crush or text our friends back until the timer rings.
  6. Be prepared.  Many recipes require room temperature ingredients , so prepare a few hours ahead. If you want to bake in the morning, leave everything out the night before.  Also, having all the ingredients measured and ready to go before baking saves lives.  All you need to do after measuring is dump it into the bowl and voilà!
  7. Have fun! Or not. I’m not your mother, I can’t tell you how to live your life.

Honestly, I’m just one step above a beginner baker – I’m an advanced beginner. Now for the fun part – supplies! It took me ages to find everything I needed for every type of recipe.  But for beginners, I believe these few items will save your life:

  1. Measuring cups
    measuring cups
  2. Wire whisk
  3. Measuring Spoons
  4. Plastic or rubber spatula
    wire whisk, measuring spoons, rubber spatula
  5. 6 cup muffin tin & paper cupcake liners
  6. Non-stick paper/parchment paper
    non-stick paper, muffin tin, cupcake liners
  7. Rectangular baking tin
  8. Mini sieve
  9. Regular sieve
    loaf tin, sieve, mini sieve

I don’t believe that using an electric mixer or a stand mixer is crucial for beginners, although it has its advantages.  I strongly advise beginners to try everything by hand first (since that’s how our mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s baked…), and once you understand how ingredients fit together, purchase an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer.  I recently got a stand mixer for my birthday (thank you Dad) but sometimes using a spatula to fold or a whisk to stir can be beneficial to understanding the anatomy of your batter.

Now here is a list of basic ingredients:

  1. Baking powder
  2. Baking soda
  3. Vanilla extract (extremely important)
  4. Natural unsweetened cocoa powder (can also be used for hot chocolate *drools*)
    vanilla extract, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder
  5. Eggs (can’t have 蛋糕 without 蛋)
  6. Milk
  7. Unsalted butter (usually needed at room temperature)
    milk, butter, eggs
  8. All-purpose flour
  9. Corn starch (for making your own cake flour)
    flour, cornstarch
  10. Vegetable oil (sometimes used to replaced butter)
  11. White granulated sugar
  12. Icing sugar (for frostings/icings/fondants)
  13. Salt (enhances sweetness of desserts, go figure)

Hope I didn’t miss anything! Happy baking 🙂

-Den