The seventh series of The Great British Bake Off is just around the corner and we’re already dusting off our aprons. We might not quite have last year’s winner Nadiya Hussain’s skills, but we know that seeing the signature bakes, technical challenges and the showstoppers every week will inspire us to step into the kitchen and attempt to whip up baked treats worthy of Mary and Paul.
The right equipment can make all the difference between an even bake with a good snap and a soggy bottom. We’ve teamed up with baking blogger Cakeyboi to bring you some genuinely useful kitchen kit. We can’t promise investing in this lot will make you a star baker, but it should certainly help (and limit the potential for any kitchen disasters).
1. ProCook Stainless Steel Digital Scales: £16, Procook
Scales are a baker’s best friend. Without correct measurements, a cake won’t work. Baking is essentially a science, after all. So I recommend using digital scales, which provide a quick and easy way to measure. You can reset to zero when adding each ingredient into the same bowl. These sleek stainless steel scales also feature an built-in timer to keep track of how long your bakes have to go in the oven – avoiding any potential Bingate repeats – so really it’s two essentials in one.
2. Lekue Silicone Baking Mat: From £13.20, Lekue
Silicone mats are such a useful item to line your baking trays with – nothing sticks to them and they are easily washed afterwards. Plus, one of these means no more cutting out bits of greaseproof paper. I use mine for the likes of cookies, biscotti and scones, but it’s also brilliant when cooking fish as smells don’t linger. It’s great for lining grill pans, too.
3. Oxo Good Grips Squeeze and Pour Measuring Cup: From £7, Amazon
As well as for measuring out liquids, I use a jug for all sorts; melting chocolate or butter in the microwave and for cracking eggs into it. I love these silicone ones. They are pliable, heat resistant and, unlike glass which can be too hot to touch or regular plastics which can warp when exposed to heat, the silicone never loses its shape and always stays perfectly cool. Available in four sizes: 125ml, 250ml, 500ml and 1 litre.
4. Aircraft Aluminium Rolling Pin: £39.99, The Fowndry
If you make dough, you will at some point need a rolling pin. Whether it’s for cookies, pastry or bread, a decent one can make all the difference. Made of aircraft-grade aluminium, this can be refrigerated prior to use, making sure your dough stays cool, which helps with getting a good rise later. Virtually nothing sticks to this stylish pin which is laser-etched with measurements, useful when recipes call for particular sizes of dough. It’s available in different colours.
5. Optimum 9400 High Power Vortex Blender: £329, Froothie
Mary and Paul might not approve, but I’ve been doing a lot more ‘raw baking’ recently, using dried fruits, nuts and other ingredients to create energy bites, protein bars and the like. Tough foods like nuts and raw carrots call for a powerful blender. With its 2,238 watt motor, this one can blitz anything I’ve thrown at it. Rival high-spec blenders come in at around 1200-1400 watts and can’t always handle the tougher stuff, but this makes easy work of them.
6. Gilbert and Stone Ceramic Egg Crate: £15, Not On The High Street
Dairy foods should ideally be used at room temperature when baking cakes and cookies, otherwise they don’t incorporate properly into the batter, and this includes eggs. In fact, eggs don’t need to be stored in the fridge at all. That’s why I keep mine on the worktop in a ceramic egg holder, which looks a lot nicer than a cardboard box. This one’s handmade in the UK and holds six eggs. Choose from blue, orange, yellow, lime, green or pink on the rim to add a spot of colour to your kitchen.
7. Tala Stainless Steel Pastry Scraper: £4.25, Waitrose Kitchen
You will need one of these for getting underneath rolled out cookie dough or scraping puff pastry off the work surface. It’s also ideal for scooping up leftovers, cutting up tray bakes and even smoothing cake frosting. Tala is a respected brand in the kitchen world and its pastry scraper is the best I’ve used.
8. Sage by Heston Blumenthal the Scrape Mixer Pro: £250, John Lewis
If you are serious about your baking, a stand-mixer is a must. It leaves your hands free to get on with other tasks as it beats, mixes and stirs your ingredients. This one is like having a professional bakery mixer in your own kitchen. The scraper attachment ensures that nothing is left on the sides of the bow, unlike other mixers where you have to get in there with a spatula and scrape things down. With its planetary mixing function giving 360 degree coverage of the bowl, this powerful mixer beats ingredients up to three times faster than standard ones – great for saving even more time.
9. Marks & Spencer 4 Stainless Steel Measuring Cups: £9.50, Marks and Spencer
The main source for recipes is no longer cookbooks. Unsurprisingly, the majority of us reach for the internet when seeking inspiration for our next showstopper. This means that recipes are global and ways of measuring ingredients varies across the world. Americans tend to weigh by volume rather than weight and that’s where a set of measuring cups can come in handy. These stainless steel ones are solid and tarnish resistant, and come in an eighth, a quarter, a half and full-cup sizes.
10. Lakeland Jam Making Preserving Pan Kitchen Thermometer: £7.49, Lakeland
A sugar thermometer is a must if you make jams, fudges, toffee, Scottish tablet, sugar craft and so on. Without one, I would never know when “soft ball” stage is or when sugar reaches “hard crack” temperature. This one clips easily onto the side of your saucepan and shows temperatures in both degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit in large, clear lettering.
The scales from ProCook are such a useful tool in the kitchen and with the built-in timer, you have two handy gadgets in one. I also love the aluminium rolling pin – it looks cool and stays cool too. ‘Roll’ on The Great British Bake Off.
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