There are thousands of cookie recipes on the internet, and more can be found in cookbooks or even the packaging of ingredients. But before you can bake cookies, you need tools. Don’t make the same mistake I made: driven by dreams of being the next Martha Stewart, I walked into a baking supply store and spent a small fortune on equipment I barely used. Get the basics, but invest in the best—you’ll be using them again and again. Here’s a list of what you really need (you can get the extras later).
1. A set of dry measuring cups, a set of measuring spoons, and a liquid measure. Cooking is chemistry, and in order to get optimum results you need to pay attention to measuring ingredients. You can tweak a recipe, of course, but it’s best to follow it exactly the first time, so you know what results you get. To get accurate results, pour or scoop ingredients into the measures and level with the straight edge of a knife. For butter and other fats, as well as brown sugar, pack firmly and then level with a knife.
2. A set of mixing bowls. Invest in microwavable ones so you can use them to melt butter and chocolate in the microwave as well as on top of a double boiler. You also need a very large one for sifting flour and other powdered ingredients. This can be plastic, just get one with a mouth that’s bigger than your flour sifter or you’ll end up with a very messy counter. (If you bake with kids, have a set of plastic bowls, so you don’t have to worry about your expensive bowls shattering on the floor.)
3. A food mixer, for combining butter and sugar and beating in the eggs. (A food processor can do the same job, but even if it blends ingredients it’s not as light and fluffy—and the texture is important for some recipes.) It’s still best to fold dry ingredients in by hand, since it’s easy to overmix. You can use the food processor for grinding nuts, chopping dried fruits, and making shortbread and pastry dough.
4. A sifter or sieve
5. A small and large wire whisk
6. A grater, for grating the rind from citrus fruits or for grating fresh ginger and nutmeg
7. A wooden spoon
8. A pastry brush
9. A spatula, for scraping off the dough from the mixer. Can also be used to level ingredients.
10. Two or three baking sheets. Heavy gauge aluminum are best as they conduct heat evenly and swiftly. Non stick baking sheets are good, but avoid the ones with a very dark color because they absorb heat quicker so your cookies will burn faster. If you have dark ones, compensate by adding a sheet of aluminum foil. Insulated baking sheets aren’t worth it, because they don’t really crisp the cookies. For best air circulation in the oven, baking sheets should be four inches shorter and narrow than the oven. Avoid any pans with edges because they interfere with air circulation.
11. A timer
12. Wire cooling racks
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