Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Alice tells us the 10 most important items in her kitchen, and why they matter.
I like to think I am flexible and easygoing about most things. And I try not to be dogmatic... But honestly, I think there absolutely are things that belong in a well-equipped baker’s kitchen. Here’s my list. How about you?
1. Stainless steel bowls: I love bowls and keep several sizes ranging from 3 to 4 cups to much bigger -- about 14 inches in diameter. I use them for everything and anything (except in the microwave), including melting chocolate in a water bath. The biggest are great for folding large quantities of meringue into a batter or tossing a huge salad without bruising the lettuce. No need to get spendy; inexpensive, lightweight bowls from hardware and kitchen supply stores are perfectly fine.
2. Strainers: I have a drawer full of inexpensive strainers in several sizes, but the most important are those made with a fine mesh (to strain custards and ice cream bases, etc.), and those with a medium-fine mesh (for lots of other things, and to use instead of a sifter!).
3. Microplane zester: I use this for grating citrus, cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, hard cheeses, and the like. I prefer the original classic rasp type, which doesn't have a handle.
4. Silicon spatulas: I have both regular and large sizes for stovetop cooking, stirring, and folding. It can also be useful to keep a tiny one around, for things like scraping out the mayo jar.
5. Rimmed aluminum half-sheet pans: These are medium-weight, light-colored metal, without any nonstick coating. Mine are 12- by 16- by 1-inch. I use them for everything -- as cookie sheets and jelly roll pans, and any time a baking sheet is called for.
6. Wire whisks: I keep a 10-inch whisk and a 15-inch whisk (measures include the handles) for whipping cream and mixing all kinds of batters, but also for mixing, fluffing, and aerating dry ingredients like flour before incorporating it into batters.
7. Digital instant-read probe thermometer: Mine has a range from about 50° F to over 450° F, and it comes in handy for making chocolate, all kinds of candies, custards and ice cream bases, and bread, as well as for frying and testing the doneness of meat and poultry. (It's also fun to satisfy any random curiosity about the temperature of anything!)
8. Offset spatulas: I keep large ones around for spreading thin sheets of batter evenly in sheet pans, and small (4-inch) ones for spreading batter evenly in small pans.
9. Ruler: These are good for measuring anything from cake pans to the diameter of rolled-out pastry to the thickness of slice-and-bake cookies.
10. Scale: A kitchen scale should register both grams and ounces, with a range from 5 grams (less would be even better) to 2 kilos or more.
Alice's new book, Seriously Bitter Sweet, is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
Photos by James Ransom