10+1 Essential Kitchen Gadgets to Get You Started With Baking

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If you are building your first kitchen or have decided to get more serious about your baking (Farewell, pre-made cookie doughs and muffin mixes!), thumbs up and welcome to the community! I made you a shopping list of the things you should own to make the most of your baking, all based on experience.

I am a self-taught baker and a sucker for all things kitchen. Sometimes I honestly feel I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near an Ikea, let alone online shopping (can anyone relate?), but at least some good comes of my culinary hoarding problem – I can tell you what get’s used a lot and what stays idle collecting dust.

It’s funny because I’m actually a very conscious shopper but somehow could not yet master up that kind of moderation over kitchen-related purchases. Working on it though!

For a more minimalistic approach on your kitchen collection (or anything else, really), the first step is to get rid of the things that have accumulated in your space over time. I’m after the latest kitchen cull, where I was brutally honest with myself about the gear I really use, and the stuff that’s just taking up precious cupboard space.

I found a local charity that accepts kitchen goods as well, and donated my barely ever used items. If you are a bit of a kitchen hoarder like me, I strongly encourage you to take the time and clean out your cabinets. It’s liberating!

That said, the things you will actually make good use of are the following (you’ll find them at various price points so you can make it work whatever the budget):

#1 Baking spatula. You’d want to find the best combination of size, flexibility and strength: small enough to fit in jars, flexible enough to scrape the sides of bowls and strong enough to press down doughs. Also, look for a slightly angled tip and ’heatproof’ written on the label. (GIR Ultimate High Heat Silicone Spatula)

GIR Silicone Spatula

# 2 Balloon whisk for breaking up liquids, dispersing solids, and incorporating air. Get a medium and a small one with a comfortable, grippy handle and flexible wires. Choose the one with the more loops. Non-stick, no-scrape silicone coating on the wires is a plus. (OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk)

OXO Good Grips Balloon Whisk

#3 Bench scraper. This rectangular piece of metal with a grip is used for cutting, scraping, lifting and folding pastry, bread and other doughs. The blade needs to be stiff enough for cutting, with a sharper blade rather than a dull one. Look for a model with a ruler on the edge for easy measurements. (Ateco Stainless Steel Bench Scraper)

ateco stainless steel bench scraper

#4 Measuring tools. More precisely, a sturdy Pyrex jug for liquid measures, and a set of measuring cups and spoons for dry goods. Stainless steel over plastic. (Pyrex Measuring Jug and Hudson Essentials Stainless Steel Measuring Cups Set)

pyrex measuring jug

hudson measuring cup set

#5 Mixing bowls. You’ll need a bigger and a smaller one, preferably microwave and dishwasher-safe. Opt for a design featuring a spout and a handle for easy, spill-free pouring. (Ikea VISPAD)

ikea mixing bowl set

#6 Pastry blender. This gadget is created to work solid fats quickly into flour without melting, but is equally good at mashing anything. Ok it’s not a necessity, but you still would be glad to have it around, trust me. Look for a solid stainless steel construction and sturdy handle. (Cake Boss Stainless Steel Pastry Blender)

Cake Boss Pastry Blender

#7 Pastry brush. To brush eggwash onto pastry or oil a baking tin. Pastry brush bristles come in plastic, silicone or natural fibres. Silicone brush strands are less likely to fall out or splinter, plus they wash easily. However, liquid tends to drip off silicone rather than grip. Natural brushes give a more even coat, but the bristles tend to flake. Whichever material you choose, go for a brush that’s flexible, soft-haired, wide and flat. (Matfer Pastry Brush)

matfer patry brush

#8 Scale. If you’re still wondering why you need one: for more accurate measures and more consistent results. You’d be surprised how wildly inaccurate volumetric measurements can be! A small, reliable digital scale that can do conversions is a must-have kitchen tool and could be the difference between a perfect or a collapsed cake. (AWS Digital Scale)

AWS digital kitchen scale

#9 Sieves. Bowl-shaped metal sieves are among a kitchen’s most versatile tools. The metal mesh has to be able to handle some pressure without pulling loose from its frame. They come with medium (used for sifting, draining and straining), fine (for separating particles and refining textures), and superfine mesh for dusting. (Premium Fine Mesh Strainers)

premium fine mesh strainers

#10 Thermometer. In recipes calling for specific internal cooking temperatures, a thermometer can make all the difference between a perfectly done dish and one that’s under or overcooked. An instant-read digital thermometer is generally more accurate, consistent and convenient to use than an analog. (Habor Instant-Read Digital Thermometer)

Habor Instant-Read Food Thermometer

+1 Stand mixer. If you can only afford one splurge, a stand mixer should be it. Totally pays off! I don’t happen to own the you-know-which-one generic trademark, but I’m perfectly happy with my more affordable piece as well. These workhorses are more efficient at evenly combining ingredients than a human could ever be, and help cut down on prep times tremendously. (KitchenAid Classic Plus Series)

KitchenAid Classic Plus white

So that’s my list. Curious to see how yours look like!

Love,

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

― Charles Dickens

White tulips via Momo Living:

white tulips

Have purpose:

bob goff quote

Silver candleholders by Lilla Majken:

silver candleholders

Vintage brass dish rack from Dreamy Whites:

brass dish rack

Grain sack pillowcases by Melanie of My Rustic Farmhouse:

grain sack pillowcase

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

And so by degrees the winter wore away… and the chill, bitter, windy, early spring came round.

– Anthony Trollope

Spring neutrals (photo by Tjaša via Flickr):

spring neutrals

Wise words:

beau taplin quote

Spring in the kitchen (photo by Vibeke of Vibeke Design):

farmhouse kitchen

Never not candles (via Pinterest):

candles and mercury glass

Spring upgrades (Affogato al Caffè by Lisa of Very Eatalian):

affogato

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Guilty of Having an IKEA Catalogue Kitchen

We may as well call the 10-year period spanning the mid-20s and mid-30s the “IKEA decade.”

So apparently there is an IKEA era in your life, and Earnest took the time and effort to analyze tens of thousands U.S. user responses to describe it. Although the data was used to illustrate trends in the overseas market, I believe the results could very well apply to Europe too.

When R29 picked up the subject in this article asking friends and coworkers how they felt about the IKEA Breakup Age (it was found 34 is the magic number when you outgrow the Swedish brand), I felt an urge to declare where I stand on the matter.

Not yet past the breakup age at 30, never going to not shop there sums up my feelings best. I won’t argue some of their paperboard pieces are a little flimsy and will probably not survive 5+ movings, but it’s not what they’re meant for anyway.

Being a diehard IKEA devotee, I am ready to defend the furniture giant because when you have to set up an empty space from scratch, there’s simply no place better. And if you can invest in nicer furniture past your dorm years, they have more grown-up stuff too.

It’s not just the furniture, too – I’m especially loving their kitchen line. Yes, this means you and I probably own the same HEDERLIG wine glasses, but hell, it will at least be easy to replace the next time my dishwasher decides to break another one.

IKEA has the best offer when it comes to inexpensive basics and is a top source for quality kitchenware. I’ve decided to make a list of my favorite kitchen pieces, goods that have stood the test of time and really worth their price.

Below, 10 long-lasting, well-wearing, budget-friendly buys from the Swedish superstore:

ikea frying pan and tongsThe OUMBÄRLIG frying pan is a nice, heavy piece with a clad bottom for optimal heat distribution, non-stick coating and oven-safe handle: a multi-tasking must have! Use the IKEA 365+ HJÄLTE tongs for a firm grip and to avoid scratching your pots and pans.

ikea dinnerware and plate holder

I love the simple, classic design of my ARV dinnerware set, also available as open-stock pieces (phew!). I store all my plates in adjustable VARIERA holders for both convenience and safety.

ikea mug and tea infuser

Who doesn’t have a (or several) DINERA mug? I adore the muted colors they are available in and they have the most ergonomic handle of all mugs, period. For my morning tea, the IDEALISK tea infuser comes in handy, plus, when making soups I put whole spices in it for easy disposal when the cooking is finished.

ikea cast iron dish and kitchen towel

Heavy-duty cast iron cookware can get really pricey, but this enameled SENIOR casserole dish won’t set you back too bad. With a 25-year warranty and easy maintenance, it’s my secret weapon when baking bread. TEKLA dish towels are a steal of a deal and a must in every household.

ikea cake stand and paper napkin

My festive ARV BRÖLLOP cake stand has seen sooo many pastries! The lid is a huge advantage (I’m living with cats 🙂 ). Also, IKEA seems to have the best paper napkin designs every season. These flowery ones are part of the INBJUDANDE series.

What would be on your own list of IKEA kitchen favorites?

Love,

Fruzsi

All images © IKEA

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Culinary Basics: Cooking Methods

culinary basics: cooking methods title

OK, so here we go! The first piece of my new blog series will cover the basic cooking methods we all need to be familiar with. I bet you use most of them already, even if you did not know how they’re called.

According to the type of heat applied to your food, cooking methods can be divided to two categories (plus a third, when these two are combined):

Dry heat methods:

Bake/Roast. Items are cooked in the oven or other enclosed area where heat is applied until food is golden brown and tender.

Grill/Broil. Applying very high temperature for a shorter time period. The heat source is from below when grilling, and from above when broiling.

Deep Fry. Food is completely submerged in a hot fat. The result is a crispy, golden brown exterior and a fully cooked interior.

Pan Fry. Done by adding enough fat to a hot pan so that the fat comes up about half the side of the pan. Food is partially submerged in the fat and then flipped over so both sides can cook.

Sauté. Food is cooked in a thin layer of fat over medium-high heat, usually in a frying pan on the stovetop, just until tender.

Sear. Done with minimal amounts of fat over high heat. Searing gives food a brown, caramelized outside, while not cooking the interior fully.

Flambé. Alcohol is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames.

Moist heat methods:

Blanche. Food is par-cooked by boiling and then submerged immediately in an ice-bath to stop the cooking process.

Boil. Foods are boiled in water, completely submerged in the boiling liquid and cooked until tender, then drained.

Poach. Food is completely submerged in liquid until fully cooked through and tender.

Scald. Accomplished in water heated to around 185 °F (85 °C), usually in a double boiler, which conducts the heat of the water, contained in a bigger pan, to a smaller pan containing the food, thus avoiding contact between food and water.

Simmer. Slowly cooked with a liquid in a pot on the stovetop.

Steam. Food is placed in a separate steamer over hot liquid. The food is cooked by the steam from the liquid and does not come in contact with the liquid.

Braise/Stew. A combination cooking method that first involves sautéing or searing an item, then simmering it in liquid for a long cooking period until tender. Food is in bigger parts when braising, while diced ingredients are used when stewing.

Check out this excellent Chasing Delicious chart! I’m thinking of featuring more of Russell’s infographics in this series, they are such great sources of information.

chasing delicious cooking methods chart

Fruzsi

‘Sketchy kitchen supplies’ illustration featured in title image © Freepik

Culinary Basics: Intoducing a New Blog Series

culinary basics title

Let me start with an acknowledgement: I am thankful to have a family as a source of unvarnished truth when it comes to my blogging. If it weren’t for them, I may have not recognized that in several of my previous posts I used culinary terms without realizing there might be some of you who are probably not familiar with the vocabulary. Major bummer!

And it’s not because you guys missed the smart train or something… I totally wasn’t born with the knowledge either, nor were my first words in French culinary lingo. So to take appropriate measures righting my wrong, I’ve decided to start a new blog series that will acquaint you with the vernacular. Not the fine-dining-everyday douchebag expletives, but just enough to find your way around common kitchen jargon. How about that!

Disclaimer: I am not a professional cook by any means. Making and serving a good meal is a crucial part of my love language though. Culinary art is my passion, something I enjoy a great deal. I am an information sponge when it comes to cooking and baking, these things interest me largely. I don’t want to impart wisdom, just would like to infect you all with my enthusiasm and love for food.

That said, here’s the deal. Every now and again I will post about Kitchen 101 exploring the fundamentals of cooking and baking, entries with information covering everything you need to know on a non-professional level. Think cooking methods, principles, techniques and terms, explained with plain and simple descriptions you can refer to whenever in need.

Learning to cook (and/or getting better at it) is a life long process that is both rewarding and challenging. Let’s broaden our knowledge, sharpen our skills and become serious home cooks together. And most importantly: enjoy time spent in the kitchen, be confident, create and eat good!

It’s gonna be so much fun!

Fruzsi

Illustration featured in title image © Freepik