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8 Baking Tools From Sarabeth’s Kitchen

8 Baking Tools From Sarabeth’s Kitchen


These easy to find and affordable pastry tools will make your baking experience even more of a success

Baking can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like, depending on the mood you’re in and how big of a challenge you’re up for, but there are a few essential tools that will make a world of difference when you’re creating your sweet masterpieces. Here are a few suggestions from The Daily Meal and Sarabeth of Sarabeth’s Kitchen in New York City.

  1. Ice Cream ScoopersSarabeth calls them portion scoopers in her interview with The Daily Meal, but the more commonly known term for them are plain old ice cream scoopers. Sarabeth likes using these to portion out treats such as cookies because they ensure even size and even baking.
  2. Mixing Bowls — If you’re an avid baker, we suggest investing in a set of mixing bowls, which will help you get organized and prep your dry and wet ingredients.
  3. Microplane Zester — A zester is a baker’s best friend, explains Sarabeth, because it makes it easy to infuse powerful citrus and spice flavors into baking. Why use mass-produced nutmeg when you can grate fresh nutmeg using a zester?
  4. Icing Spatula — Ever wonder how the icing on a cake from a fancy bakery looks so smooth and perfect? It doesn’t take hours of dedication that you might think it does — it just takes an icing spatula. The flat and long metal gadget is designed to give you the perfect angle when icing, whether it be smoothing out the top layer of a cake or icing a cupcake.
  5. Half-moon Spatula — Sarabeth explains that the most common mistake in baking is not properly scraping down the bowl of your stand mixer, because it leads to the ingredients not being mixed well enough. She suggests buying a half-moon spatula, which gives the right amount of angle and pressure to make it easy and efficient to scrape away at the concave surface of a bowl.
  6. Tapered French Rolling Pin — A rolling pin is a must when baking things such as pies and tarts, and Sarabeth suggests getting a tapered French one, which allows you to roll out circular pie and tart crusts with ease because of its thinner edges.
  7. Rubber Spatula — Along with Sarabeth’s half-moon spatula, we couldn’t imagine baking without a rubber spatula, which comes in handy when you’re mixing something by hand or transferring batter from the bowl to another container such as a piping bag.
  8. Pastry Brush — This one was new to us, but once Sarabeth explained that this long brush allows you to easily wipe away flour on your dough, we realized that some of our pies in the past have had a bitter and uncooked flavor from leaving excess behind.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce

This post was originally published on August 27, 2012.


Stollen

In old New York at Christmastime, bakeries sold stacks of paper-wrapped and beribboned stollen, the beloved German holiday bread. When I serve samples of fresh-baked stollen at the bakery, the customers' faces light up with discovery. Once I served it and a customer asked what he was eating. "It's stollen," I said. With a straight face, he replied, "Well, you should give it back!" This recipe, inspired by pastry chef Dieter Schorner, is extraordinarily light and flavored with rum-scented raisins and other fruits and nuts.

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ounce (2 packed tablespoons) compressed yeast or 3-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm (105° to 115°F) whole milk

2-1/2 cups bread flour, divided, plus more as needed

10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, well softened, plus more for the bowl

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup (1/3-inch) diced dried apricots

1/4 cup (1/3-inch) diced dried pears

1/3 cup (1-1/4 ounces) toasted and coarsely chopped pecans

1/4 cup (1 ounce) toasted sliced almonds

Seeds from 1/2 Plumped Vanilla Bean (instructions follow)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup confectioners' sugar

12 vanilla beans, preferably Madagascar or Bourbon

Dark or golden rum, as needed

Instructions

1. The day before baking the stollen, prepare the rum raisins. Place the raisins in a heatproof bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand until the raisins are plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Return to the bowl. Add the rum and vanilla and toss together. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours.

2. To make the stollen, crumble the compressed yeast (or sprinkle the dry yeast) over the warm milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes, then whisk to dissolve the yeast. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and stir well to make a thin, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.

3. Add the remaining flour, the butter, sugar, salt, almond extract, lemon zest, and orange zest. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed just until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth, adding more flour if needed, about 3 minutes. Add the rum raisins, apricots, cherries, pears, pecans, and almonds, and mix until they are incorporated into the dough. Gather up the dough and shape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.

4. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Very gently shape each portion into a ball — do not knead the dough, as you want to retain its light texture. Place the balls on the floured work surface and cover each with a clean kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 45 minutes.

5. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Press one ball into a thick round about 7-1/2 inches in diameter. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom. Starting about one-third from the bottom, using your thumbs, firmly press a deep semicircular trough in the dough, reaching almost through the dough. This will keep the stollen layers from separating when baked. Repeat with the second ball. Transfer each to a prepared pan and cover with the towels. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy but not doubled, about 30 minutes.

6. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Uncover the loaves and bake, switching the positions of the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until deep golden brown, almost walnut-colored, about 35 minutes. The stollen may look a shade darker than you might expect, but do not underbake them.

7. To make the coating, combine the superfine sugar and vanilla seeds on a half-sheet pan. Brush the hot stollen twice with warm melted butter. Roll each loaf in vanilla sugar to coat well. Return to the pans and sprinkle with the remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. Generously sift confectioners' sugar on top. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.)

Baker's Note: Look for a reliable source of vanilla beans and compare prices. Vanilla beans are never inexpensive, but if you buy them in bulk, the price will become more reasonable. This recipe uses 12 vanilla beans. However, you can soak up to 3 dozen in the same amount of rum. The beans will last for up to 6 months in the rum, after which time they may get too soft.

1. Cut 1/8 inch off the bottom end of each vanilla bean. Stand the beans, cut ends down, in a large glass jar that is at least 12 inches tall. Pour in 2 inches of rum. Cover the jar and let stand until the beans are softened, at least 2 weeks. There is no need to turn the vanilla beans — just let them be.

2. To use a bean, remove one from the jar. Hold the cut end of the bean over the bowl containing the mixture that you want to flavor. Starting at the unsnipped end of the bean, squeeze down the length of the bean to extrude the pulp. (This will remind you of squeezing the last bit of toothpaste from its tube.) If using the bean, split it lengthwise to release more flavor. When a recipe calls for less than a whole bean, return the unused part to the jar.

From Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine with Rick Rodgers (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2010). Text copyright ©2010 by Sarabeth Levine. Photographs copyright ©2010 by Quentin Bacon. Used with permission of the publisher.


1. Cake tins

There are many tins on the market of all shapes, sizes and materials. At BBC Good Food, we prefer heavy-duty tins, like springform cake pans. Dark-coloured silicone bakeware has a tendency to absorb heat and make the sides of the cake dark. It’s essential to use the correct tin size and shape stated in the recipe, or cooking times will need to be adjusted. Read our review of the best cake tins.

Recommended product:

Le Creuset springform round cake tin

This Le Creuset tin is a cut above your average springform tin. It has a clasp with a heat-resistant silicone cover to make unclipping that bit easier and is worth spending a little extra money on.


Sarabeth’s Bakery – From My Hands to Yours

There&rsquos no rhyme or reason why I selected this book first to review as I certainly have significantly older books, those with worn pages, splatter marks and so forth. I just grabbed it. I will say this that while this book is fairly new to my library, it has quickly become one of my favorites. So perhaps that&rsquos why I grabbed it first. I&rsquom just drawn to it.

The book is big over 300 pages and full of dare I say&hellip &ldquolove&rdquo. This book is so unbelievably well written that it&rsquos as if you can feel Ms. Levine&rsquos passion come through the pages. This was one of the few cookbooks that I literally sat down and read cover to cover, including the forward and introduction. It&rsquos as if you take a journey with her from her days of making apricot orange marmalade (*side note.. this is AMAZINGLY good marmalade!) in a small New York apartment to how she turned a small storefront into a bakery and cafe that eventually lead to multiple locations.

Ms. Levine does something refreshing in this book is she teaches and explains the hows-and-whys of ingredients. She discusses the differences between flours, leavenings, to that all-too-confusing conundrum of &lsquodo I use cake yeast or instant yeast and what&rsquos the difference. &rsquo For me, being an engineer I&rsquom a highly analytical thinker. I need to know how and why something works. So when I cook and bake I break recipes down and analyze the composition of it. How will this react with this and what will the end result be? Ultimately we want something great tasting but you have to keep in mind, we also eat visually. Food has to appear appetizing first before we trigger that &lsquooh I need to taste that&rsquo sense. Even beyond the ingredients she teaches you about the various pans, equipment, tools and over all methodologies about baking.

Now for those of you that could care less about practicality and methodology, don&rsquot fret as there are TONS of pictures and step-by-step photos of how to perform the more difficult tasks.

The first section is for Morning Pastries. This book NEEDS to be scratch &lsquon sniff! The photos for some of these recipes are blissful! Her first recipe in the book is for Puff Pastry and honestly, I don&rsquot think I&rsquove ever seen a recipe more clearly documented on how to turn, shape, fold and incorporate ingredients. Puff Pastry isn&rsquot terribly difficult but it can be a challenge for the novice baker. However the way this recipe is written with the accompanying photos instills a sense of confidence in the baker to give it a shot. What most impressed me most about this section is the versatility of it. What I&rsquom referring to is each recipe starts with a general base dough &ndash croissant, danish dough, puff pastry dough, etc&hellip Ms. Levine gives you the base and then shows you how to expand off of those &ndash Fruit Danish, Pains au Chocolat and so forth.

The second chapter titled Muffins and More and boy does she give you just that! However before she jumps right in to giving you recipes, she gives you a brief lessons on muffins, pans and liners. I&rsquove made her Blueberry Crumb Muffins and her recipe is flawless! They were so moist and with the addition of orange to it, it took this muffin to a completely new level.

Chapter three is title Beautiful Breads. I think this is what made this fall in love with this book. I love bread and find it thoroughly relaxing to make something so amazing out of but a few sparse ingredients. Like the other chapters she starts off with a bread baking lesson which for me was more like a reaffirmation of what I already knew. I stress to anyone that isn&rsquot a bread baker but wants to learn, don&rsquot just jump into the recipes. Read the lesson on this first. It&rsquoll make sense and will help you produce exquisite bread! While going through this chapter I wasn&rsquot sure what to try first &ndash her Challah, Rosemary Focaccia or her House Bread. I ended up making her Rosemary Focaccia but since I&rsquom not a real big fan of Rosemary I cut the rosemary amount in half and added roasted garlic. This was insanely good! I mean INSANELY good! Keep in mind, when a recipe calls for a high-quality fruity extra virgin olive oil, definitely splurge on a GOOD ONE! It makes all the difference!

Chapter four is all about Everyday Cakes. What I love the most about this chapter is that it &lsquoclassy-ups&rsquo just basic cakes. How? Honestly as simple as altering the pan you use can make the presentation that much more gorgeous. And no, not every cake needs slathered with mounds of icing. A simple dusting of confectioner&rsquos sugar, cocoa or even a glaze can make it so much more elegant. I HIGHLY recommend the Chocolate Souffle Cake recipe! It&rsquos not the prettiest of cakes as the top is all crackly but that&rsquos how it&rsquos supposed to be. The addition of the chocolate whipped cream makes it over the top. I would say add a few chocolate curls to it as well.

Chapter five gets all fancy schmancy on us with Party Cakes and Company. Now anytime any of us entertain we again, want the food to taste great but also look great. I mean when people rave over something we make we beam with pride. It&rsquos simple human nature. If you want to truly wow someone I would make the Chocolate Truffle Cake. It&rsquos not really that difficult but will require some planning as you need to make this the day before to allow it to set up and become firm. Now I did change this recipe as it calls for the cake base to be Chocolate Orange. I&rsquom not a big fan of this flavor combination so I ended up using a raspberry coulis in the batter to give it that fruity undertone. In addition I made a raspberry syrup instead of the orange syrup. If you wanted, you could easily make this with mocha, mint or chocolate &ndash layer the flavors of chocolate. For me this section needed more photos and maybe a few step-by-step for the novice baker. She did a great job on the Lemon-Raspberry cake with the photos however readers would have benefited greatly on photos for the Mille-Feuille with Summer Berries.

Chapter six is all about Pies and Tarts. It&rsquos funny how so many people are intimidated by making pie crust from scratch. There really isn&rsquot any magical secret to making it. It&rsquos common sense really &ndash ice cold ingredients, not handling it very long and chilling it. Now people need to keep in mind is that not all pie crusts are the same &ndash you have your sweeter flakier crusts for pies and tarts, you have more dense crusts for savory pies, crusts can be nut based, made for tender pies or for sturdier crostattas.

Plain and Fancy Cookies make up chapter seven. I love how this book, this chapter specifically, talks about tools and methods on cookie baking. I get asked all the time &ldquohow do you get them so round and evenly shaped?&rdquo or &ldquohow come mine flatten and yours are so thick and chewy?&rdquo Ms. Levine talks about this to some detail. If you want perfectly shaped balls of dough, use a stainless steel scoop. I&rsquom a huge believer in chilling or even freezing certain cookie dough. You want the butter to almost &lsquore-form&rsquo and not be all soft when you bake a cookie. You want the butter to melt as it bakes, not already be melted. I shudder every time I see someone leave butter sit out over night or better yet, microwave their butter to soften in. Want a trick for this. Grate your butter! From this chapter you must, must, MUST make the Chocolate Chubbies. Now for me I omitted the walnuts as I personally don&rsquot like walnuts in anything. Instead I used all pecans. This is majorly chocolate cookie.

Spoon Desserts take us into Chapter eight. I feel that every home cook should know how to make Creme Brulee. It&rsquos elegant and classy plus any dessert that gives you a reason to have a blow torch in your kitchen rocks in my world! For me, this was probably the least favorite chapter. It was a tad lack-lusterish for me. It just felt like it was missing &ldquosomething&rdquo.

Now with summer approaching Chapter nine titled Frozen Desserts is a welcome addition. It seems nowadays everyone has an ice cream maker. I&rsquom on the fence with these things. Yes I have one but I think I&rsquove used it only a handful of times in my life. I have issues with having to keep the containers in my freezer at all times if I ever get the whim to whip up a batch. For me it takes up precious space and doesn&rsquot allow for spur of the moment sweet attacks to be satiated by home-made ice cream. I do love however Ms. Levine&rsquos recipe on making your own sugar cone. People think that you HAVE to shape them as cones. You don&rsquot, really. Keep them flat and add a fried ice cream ball on top for added crunch. Let them dry flat and then break them up into pieces. When they come out, brush them with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon and enjoy a great crunchy treat!

Finally we hit Chapter ten, Spreadable Fruits. I turned the pages of this chapter ever so slowly, hoping.. praying for Ms. Levine to share her orange apricot marmalade recipe. *sigh* No such luck I&rsquom afraid. I mean I don&rsquot blame her really. That is her cash cow and one of her signature items. Kind of like me and our Signature items.

Last but not least we hit Chapter 11 &ndash Frostings, Fillings and Sweet Sauces. I was THRILLED to see how she makes her Buttercream. I abhor the &lsquoAmericanized&rsquo way of whipping butter/crisco and confectioners sugar and calling that true buttercream. THANK YOU Ms. Levine! Seriously.. the picture of this buttercream on the beater&hellip I so wanted to just dip a finger in that bowl and grab a big ol&rsquo scoop of it! Most of these recipes require only a few ingredients but the end result packs such incredible flavor. A great recipe doesn&rsquot need 90,000 things in it to be good. Her Raspberry Sauce uses 3 ingredients and it&rsquos outstanding. And OMG&hellip you have GOT to read her recipe and instructions on Plumped Vanilla Beans.

Now not every recipe has a photo but if you are okay with leafing through the book it does reference other photos that utilize the same technique. For some this may be an annoyance but for others it seems rather practical and smart. Why repeat steps if you&rsquove documented it elsewhere, right?! For me this book was refreshing, educational, inspiring and honestly exciting.

A great chef is not just someone who can cook and bake exceptionally well a great chef is one that can cook and bake exceptionally well AND teach at the same time. Ms. Levine does just that in this book!


Baking Tools Guide

When it comes to baking, one's tools can lead to either satisfying success or frustrating failure. There are tons of products available to help with tackling different baking tasks — from mixing and measuring up through finishing and decorating. Here are some of the more common tools you'll encounter along with way, with guidance, tips and uses for each.

MEASURING
Measuring Cups and Spoons: Proportions are key for any baking recipe, so measuring cups and spoons are invaluable for amateur and professional bakers alike. Glass cups are great for reading liquid amounts, and metal spoons and cups are ideal for scooping and leveling dry ingredients.

Digital Scale: When it comes to dry ingredients, a digital scale is the most-accurate way to measure. The amount of flour in one cup can actually vary by up to 30 percent depending on whether or not it's been sifted, how you actually got the flour into the measuring cup and how humid the air is that day. Precise measuring can make the difference between airy treats and heavy bricks.

MIXING
Sifter or Strainer: Nothing is worse than biting into a slice of cake and getting a clump of flour or baking soda — sifting can easily prevent that scenario. A sifter is a relatively inexpensive and rather vital piece of equipment, useful with just about any recipe. You can also use a fine-mesh strainer to let your kitchen tools pull double duty.

Bowls: It's best to use bowls made of glass or a nonreactive metal (e.g., stainless steel). Plastic bowls can retain flavors that you might not want in your muffins, and they are also no good for melting chocolate or whisking egg yolks and sugar over a pot of simmering water.

Pastry Blender: Sometimes referred to as a "pastry cutter," this tool helps you cut fat into dry ingredients to create flaky biscuits, scones and pie crusts. If you don't want to do the manual labor, the same result can also be achieved with a food processor.

Silicone Spatula: If you do any type of baking at home, then you probably already have one of these. They’re heat-resistant, don't stain or absorb flavors, and are essential for gently mixing things such as cake batters, meringues or whipped cream. (They're also excellent for making omelets and scrambled eggs.)

Whisk: A whisk is the best tool for thoroughly combining just about everything. Use an all-purpose whisk to mix up brownie or muffin batter, or test your arm strength with an extra-wide balloon whisk when making meringue or whipped cream.

Electric or Stand Mixer: An electric mixer is sure to make your baking life much easier, especially when it comes to creaming butter or whipping cream. While they’re expensive, stand mixers can be a great investment for your kitchen arsenal, making everything from kneading dough to whipping egg whites a breeze.

FORMING & PORTIONING
Rolling Pin: This essential tool is used with just about any type of baked good you can imagine — biscuits, scones, pie dough, puff pastry, cutout cookies and even fondant for cake decorating. Needless to say, this is a must-have for any home baker. It can be made out of wood, marble, metal or silicone, with or without handles, and straight or tapered. These specifications are mostly a matter of preference, but a wooden dowel makes for a great all-around rolling pin. And remember, never soak wooden rolling pins in water instead, wipe with a damp cloth to clean.

Bench or Dough Scraper: As the name implies, a bench scraper is useful for getting any stuck-on messes off your counter, but can also be used for portioning dough. They can be made of either metal or plastic, with plastic being great for getting the last bits of batter or dough out of a bowl.

Mechanical Scoops: These are great for more than just ice cream. Mechanical scoops come in a range of sizes and can be used for getting uniform cookies and perfectly portioning cupcake batter. The key is finding one that's comfortable for you to use, which can mean choosing between one that requires a full-hand squeeze and one that needs just the press of your thumb.

Cookie and Biscuit Cutters: These come in all shapes and sizes — from the basic (squares or stars) to the more elaborate (cars or dinosaurs). If so inclined, you can even start a collection with different shapes to be passed on to future generations along with family recipes. But if you don't want the extra equipment, you can always just use a cup to make circles.

COOKING
Silicone Baking Mat: Made out of fiberglass and silicone, these nonstick mats are a great alternative to parchment paper, since they are reusable. A silicone baking mat is pretty much a necessity for baking tuile cookies — it's great for all your other cookies too — and is also useful when placed under fruit pies to catch any spills during baking.

Bakeware: Some introductory bakeware pieces you'll most likely want to have are rimmed baking sheets, a square baking dish, a pie pan, two round cake pans and a 12-cup muffin tin. Most bakeware can be made of ceramic, glass, metal or silicone. Ceramic tends to be more decorative glass lets you see how brown your food is getting metal is the best conductor of heat and silicone takes away all of your worries about sticking. If you choose metal, look for heavy pans without a dark coating, as this can brown baked goods too quickly a nonstick finish usually isn't that necessary either, especially when the pan is greased and floured properly or a silicone mat is used.

FINISHING, COOLING & DECORATING
Timer: Though your sense of smell can be a good indication of readiness, relying on just your nose can sometimes lead to disaster. Always set a timer to save yourself from accidentally falling asleep and waking up to a smoke-filled kitchen. Baking times can vary depending on the precision with which you followed the recipe, the temperature of ingredients at the start or the weather that day. It's a good idea to check items halfway through and rotate the bakeware for more even cooking. Set the timer for a few minutes before what the recipe calls for, just in case the food is ready early.

Cake Tester: Though a toothpick often does the job just fine, a metal cake tester has a few advantages when it comes to doneness. First, it is reusable and cuts down on waste, and second, its length makes it easier to use with thick baked goods. Outside of baking, many professional cooks also use them for testing whether meat and fish are warmed through.

Baking Rack: Generations past would place their freshly baked goods on windowsills both to cool and to tempt passersby. Today, a baking rack is the preferred method. Let items such as cookies, muffins and cakes cool for a few minutes in the pan before transferring to a rack to cool completely. The rack provides better air circulation to help speed up the chilling process and inhibit overcooking.

Offset Spatula: These are made of flexible stainless steel, come in a range of sizes and are usually rounded at the end. Offset spatulas are great for frosting cakes or spreading batter in a jelly roll pan. A medium-length spatula with a comfortable grip is a good all-around choice.

Piping Bags and Tips: Piping or pastry bags allow for greater control and more elaborate designs when decorating. Tips are available in an assortment of shapes and sizes for lines, stars, roses and even basketweaving — you can let your imagination run wild! Pastry bags can be disposable or made of plastic-coated fabric with the latter it is important to wash and dry thoroughly between uses. Piping bags are also used for shaping eclair and cream puff dough.

LASTLY, THE MOST-IMPORTANT BAKING TOOL OF ALL IS …
… your oven! Perhaps the most-critical factor many home bakers ignore is making sure you're actually baking things at the temperature you think you are. An oven thermometer is a great gadget to prevent mishaps caused by baking things at too low or high a temperature. Another important aspect to remember is that rack position matters. The heat source can be at either the top or the bottom of your oven, which can lead to hot and cold spots, so it's best to always bake on a rack placed in the middle. And if you're so lucky as to have a convection oven, this setting will help solve the problem of uneven cooking. But with convection cooking, be sure to either reduce the temperature by about 25 degrees F or shorten the baking time by roughly a quarter for most recipes.


8 Kitchen Tools You Need for Your Air Fryer

The air fryer craze is going strong. They’re a handy kitchen appliance that doesn’t require a steep learning curve to operate. You can make the Southern-fried food you crave without all the fat and calories. BUT-and isn’t there always a but? There are some important kitchen tools you need for your air fryer that will make your life easier. Ready to give them a whirl? Check out these 8 tools.

The best part? These tools and utensils don’t have to cost a fortune. I’m sharing some of the “must-have” tools along with where I purchased them. And, yes, I purchased all of these myself and use them on a regular basis.

1. Oil Spritzer- This is a must for keeping the meat tender and juicy while producing crisp skin. Since most foods need a spritz or two of oil when cooked in the air fryer, the oil spritzer will help distribute the oil evenly. I tried one of the $1 spray bottles from the discount store and it does not work. It made a dripping, oily mess everywhere. Then, I purchased an EVO bottle. It is amazing! It applies just the right amount of oil with no spills or mess. It’s the most expensive of the tools at around $14.99, but I can use it for everything. If you purchase just one item, make this your choice. I purchased mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but you can get them on Amazon.

2. Silicone Utensils. It’s best to use silicone utensils as metal ones can remove the non-stick surface from the air fryer.
*Tongs – these are perfect for turning pieces of meat and flipping vegetables, like fried green tomatoes. Yum. I purchased a pair of 7” tongs at Walmart for around $2.60.

*Spatula-I have several of these. One is a silicone pancake turner, which makes it easy to flip foods. I also have a traditional spatula I used for stirring and scrapping things down from the sides of pans. I’ve had mine for years, but you can purchase them at Walmart in a range of about $2-$4 dollars.

3. Wooden Utensils. These are also great to prevent scraping off the non-stick coating. I have a wooden spoon I use for stirring. It’s another $2 or less tool available at Walmart or Target.

4. Parchment Paper and Aluminum Foil- These are good for lining the air fryer tray to prevent foods from slipping through the cracks-literally. I use them when baking cookie dough, fried pies, wings, and anything that is messy. Parchment paper is available at most grocery stores.

5. Silicone Baking Cups- If you’re making cupcakes, muffins, or other desserts, this is the way to go. I’ve found that most metal muffin tins-even the six-cup ones-won’t fit in the air fryer. These make clean up easy too- just peel them off and the muffin is ready to go. No sticking, no mess. I picked mine up at a thrift store for around $1—so keep an eye out- but you can purchase them on Amazon or at Target for around $6 for a set.

6. Metal Baking Dishes – You’ll need dishes that fit into the air fryer basket if you plan to cook things like hamburger meat, casseroles, soups, and more. You can purchase the ones made especially for the air fryer that range from $10-$14 a pop, or you can use my budget-saving secret. Go to Walmart and look in their Main Stays line. I purchased 8” by 8” inch baking pans for less than $1.50 each. Tip: Check the size of your air fryer basket before buying pans. Mine is a 6 quart Instant Pot and these pans fit perfectly. If you have a small air fryer, these pans may be too big.

7. Instant Read Thermometer- This is essential when cooking meat to ensure it’s reached the proper temperature. Sometimes the meat can look done on the outside but still be very rare when you cut it. I purchased mine for around $10.

8. Basting Brush – Okay, this one is not *absolutely* essential, but it does make it easier to brush butter, oil, sauces, or marinades on food when cooking. You can pick one of these up for less than a dollar at Walmart.

Want to learn even more handy tips like this? Find them in our new Southern Air Fryer Cookbook, available in a Kindle edition, tomorrow, July 7th, and in print on July 21st. You can pre-order a copy here. (affiliate link)

Do you have an air fryer? What are your go-to utensils?

Thinking about purchasing an air fryer? Here’s what you need to consider before you purchase.


Basic Baking Skills and Tips

Some people seem to be able to toss things together and achieve wonderful results. This is a skill they achieved by many years of cooking and baking. Remember – Skill and confidence come with practice.

Photo was shared with me by my sister, Carol Arroyo, and her website called The Baking Pan.
Learn Tips for High Altitude Baking.

Basic Rules of Baking

1. Read your recipe carefully before starting: Be sure you have all the ingredients called for and that you understand the recipe clearly. Learn more about Recipes (What is a Recipe – How to Follow a Recipe – Why Some Recipes Don’t Work – What is Mise en Place?)

2. Cultivate the do-it-right attitude and habit. Remember: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Baking demands accuracy and care. Unlike other kinds of cooking, such as soups or stews, you cannot improvise or substitute ingredients.

3. Never carry on another activity while you are mixing a recipe. Distractions, no matter how small, lead to mistakes. Let the telephone ring!

4. Use good tools and utensils: Assemble all the bowls, pans, and utensils you will need on your counter or work table before starting. Use standard measuring cups and spoons (see below).

5. Use Correct Pan Sizes: Use the type of pan specified in the recipe. Recipes are carefully calculated as to yield and changing the pan size also alters the baking temperature and time. Larger, more shallow pans need increased heat smaller, deeper pans need decreased heat. The size of a baking pan or dish is measured across the top of the container from the inside edge to inside edge. The depth also is measured on the inside of the pan or dish from the bottom to the top of the rim. Prepare the pan carefully according to the recipe. Place pans as near the center of the oven as possible. Do not place pans directly over another and do not crowd the oven (this makes for uneven baking).

6. Use top-quality ingredients and assemble the ingredients before starting: You cannot expect a first-rate product using second-rate ingredients. Be sure your ingredients are fresh and of the finest quality. If your recipe says the ingredient must be room temperature, be sure it is room temperature before proceeding.

7. Measure the quantities correctly: This is a baking must! One common cause of cooking failures is inaccurate measurement of ingredients. You can use the best ingredients in the world, but if you do not measure correctly, the recipe will not come out properly. Also always use level measurements (all measurements in a recipe are level).

Measuring Liquids:

Use a glass measuring cup. The glass permits you to see the level of the liquid being measured. The cup for liquids should have additional space above the one-cup line, so that a full cup can be accurately measured without spilling. Check the measurement at eye level.

Measuring dry ingredients:

Use standard individual cups. Lightly spoon dry ingredients into correct cup size, heat up, and level off with edge of spatula by cutting across the top. Use measuring spoons in this way too.

Flour need not be sifted before measuring unless recipe specifies it. Sifting flour onto a sheet of wax paper instead of into a bowl cuts down on dish washing.

Measure brown sugar by packing it firmly into a measuring cup or into a measuring spoon.

8. Mix Carefully: Each type of baking has difference methods of performing the mixing. Follow the recipe carefully.

9. Final Step Before Baking: Spread cake batter evenly in the pans. Do not drop or knock pans to level the batter.


10.
Use correct oven temperatures: Never increase a cooking temperature because you are in a hurry. Make sure the racks are placed properly before heating the oven. If the recipe calls for a preheated oven, preheat it! Preheat at least 15 minutes before baking. Do not open the oven door prematurely. A draft may cause your baked product to fall. You can ruin a cake with a slow start in a cool oven because the cake can rise too quickly and then fall when the oven heat takes a spurt upward.

It is a good idea to check your oven temperature with a freestanding oven thermometer. An oven thermometer is very handy (and inexpensive) to find out what temperature your oven really is cooking at. An oven thermometer can be left in the oven to verify that the oven is heating to the desired temperatures.

If the oven is not maintaining the set temperature, the oven thermostat will have to be adjusted by a service center representative authorized by the manufacturer. However, if, after testing the oven temperature at several settings (325, 350, 375, and 400°F), it is consistently high or low by the same amount (say, 25°F), this can be factored into the temperature setting. For example, if you know that your oven runs “hot” by 25°F and you need to bake something at 350°F, set the oven for 325°F. Always check the oven thermometer to verify the temperature.

11. The Final Step – Great cooks use a Cooking Thermometer as their guide – NOT A Clock:

Always follow internal cooking temperatures to be safe! Internal Temperature Cooking Charts – meat, poultry, seafood, breads, baked goods, and casseroles

A cooking or meat thermometer should not be a “sometime thing.” A cooking thermometer can be used for all foods, not just meat. It measures the internal temperature of your cooked meat, poultry, seafood, breads, baked goods, and/or casseroles to assure that a safe temperature has been reached and that harmful bacteria (like certain strains of Salmonella and E. Coli O 157:H7) have been destroyed. Learn how to read and use an Internal Meat and Cooking Thermometer.

Cooking thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking, as they measures the Internal Temperature of your cooked meat, poultry, seafood, baked goods, and/or casseroles, to assure that a safe temperature has been reached, harmful bacteria have been destroyed, and your food is cook perfectly.


To clean kitchen counters, appliances, and the inside of your refrigerator, all you need is baking soda. "It makes a great deodorizer and can be used to shine stainless steel sinks and appliances," says Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab. To deodorize surfaces, use the homemade cleaner with baking soda solution above or pour baking soda straight from the box and into your drain or garbage disposal to remove odors. To shine and remove spots from stainless steel, make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it with a damp cloth and rub gently in the direction of the metal&rsquos grain. Rinse and buff dry.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol 70% concentration
  • 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil for smell (optional)

The next time you need to wash your windows and mirrors, combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle to make a homemade cleaner with vinegar. Hint: Don't clean windows on a hot, sunny day, because the solution will dry too quickly and leave lots of streaks. For mirrors, spray the solution on a paper towel or soft cloth first before wiping.


Rolling Pins

Howard George/Getty Images

Muffin liners are entirely optional. You can bake excellent muffins or cupcakes and remove them safely from pans without using baking liners, as long you grease your baking pans. However, sometimes greasing pans is inadequate and muffin liners could save the baking. Here are a few reasons in the case for using muffin liners:

  • Muffins and cupcakes are easier to handle when in liners.
  • Using liners is more hygienic (when handling).
  • There's no need to grease baking pans when using liners.
  • Liners reduce wear and tear on the nonstick finish.
  • Easier no-fear removal of delicate cupcakes.

Muffin liners are sold in different sizes but it can be difficult to find some for tiny muffin tins. Not all regular (medium) sizing are the same sometimes they are on the small side. I've also found that cheaper brands of liners do not always remove well from muffins or cupcakes, so best not to skimp when it comes to buying liners.
Most muffin and cupcake liners are affordable and you can get more than one batch from a pack. There are also special occasion liners if you want to dress up your cupcakes or muffins. Make sure you buy the correct size of muffin liners for your pans. Liners are the same for making either dessert but are called either muffin liners or cupcake liners.

Rolling pins come in all sizes, lengths, and types of materials, but the most common are wooden pins with or without handles. There are also silicone pins as well as fancy (pattern-making) models for specific tasks.

Regardless of the type of pin you choose, it's a matter of getting used to the feel of it and how much flour it needs to keep the dough from sticking to it. You need a rolling pin if you intend on making pastries, tea biscuits, cut-out cookies, donuts, and other delicacies, but not for cakes, bread, muffins or squares.

When choosing a pin, consider the length - if you plan on making large pies or several butter tarts, you might want to get a longer one, so you can roll out a larger pastry. That being said, a shorter pin (less pastry) is easier to handle and roll, if you're new to baking.


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