Do I Need a Stand Mixer to Start Baking?

Beloveds, the answer to that question is NO.

Want to know which tools you really need to start baking? Click here my FREE new ebook, the Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers!

In this Post:

About Stand Mixers

Friends, a stand mixer is a powerful machine that bakers use to thoroughly and evenly mix ingredients for pastries and bread. It’s a pretty heavy countertop appliance that can be the centerpiece of a kitchen. However, it can also come with a hefty price tag that makes it out of reach for many new bakers. This is especially true for those new bakers who aren’t sure if they want to continue baking!

The most commonly-known brand in the U.S. is KitchenAid; they make several different stand mixers at several price points, they come in every color under the rainbow (and even some limited release versions that they make for other vendors), and they come in sizes from a 3.5-quart mini to a 7-quart professional.

All KitchenAid models have something called planetary motion. That is simply a fancy way of saying that, once the mixer is locked in place, the mixing mechanism automatically spins smoothly and evenly through batters and doughs. It’s typically faster than mixing by hand and requires minimal hands-on effort.

This is my KitchenAid Artisan. She was a gift to me from my mother-in-law, who saw potential in me years ago and invested in me. She is a beauty and she works HARD:

She is not just for show.

While there are some legitimate competitors for out there that are arguably comparable in quality, KitchenAid is the heavyweight champ for home kitchens, even if it’s just because of better marketing.

Put another way, when someone says they “got a new KitchenAid,” I have never once assumed that that person was talking about a washer/dryer. #NoShadeKitchenAid

About Hand Mixers

A hand mixer is another powerful kitchen tool that helps you mix batters and doughs evenly. However, the planetary motion from a hand mixer is created by your wrist, not the mixer itself. This means that you have to use sight and feel to make sure that everything mixes evenly; you can’t rely nearly as much on the machine. This is how you learn baker’s touch.

These small but mighty machines do a fantastic job of creaming butter and sugar and incorporating ingredients. With proper technique, it is impossible to tell whether a baker used a stand mixer or a hand mixer.

To further my point, last week, I made this:

With this:

While KitchenAid makes an amazing hand mixer (I’m on my second one), there are several companies that make hand mixers that are wonderful. I honestly believe that every mother in my neighborhood growing up had the 80s versions of this Cuisinart or this Hamilton Beach hand mixer:

There are those among us who own these mixers today and they still work perfectly. And, as the story, below, will show, working with a hand mixer has done more to help me develop a better feel for batter and dough than working with a stand mixer ever has.

Don’t get me wrong! I use my stand mixer all the time. But, again, you don’t need one to start baking.

Time for a story of abject failure and devastation to prove my point.

Story Time

Before I had that beautiful KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer, my mother-in-law actually gifted me another KitchenAid Ultra Power mixer.

I am extremely fortunate and grateful that she did that for me.

I was a non-baker at the time, and I truly appreciated that KitchenAid as a beautiful countertop appliance. However, I did not initially appreciate the significance that this gift would play in my life.

She…was gorgeous. Still is:

Y’all. My mother-in-law is a literal angel sent from heaven. And not just because she gave me these mixers that catapulted my baking career. She is love personified, and she radiates sun beams of positivity wherever she goes. I just love her so much. #LoveYouMom

When this KitchenAid first appeared in my kitchen, I was awed by the gift (I’ve always loved kitchen gadgets, even before I started baking), but didn’t have a full appreciation for it until The Mediocre Sugar Cookie Bake of 2014. Before that experience, I was the cook whose KitchenAid hand mixer was in the kitchen, while the beaters for said mixer were in another room entirely. Or in a random “multi-purpose” box on the other side of the house somewhere. After that sugar cookie experience I caught the baking bug, and wanted to bake everything.

I also wanted to use my glistening new KitchenAid stand mixer for everything. At the start, I under-creamed butter and sugar for a solid year in this forgiving machine. Over-mixed cake batters and cookie doughs in this machine. Turned out the toughest muffins and driest cakes of my baking life in this machine. And got no more skilled as a baker just because I owned it.

I had all of the baking books and resources at my fingertips during those early days, but I wasn’t developing a baker’s touch with my Ultra Power stand mixer. And I worked it to the bone. Worked it until the top was super hot and it was dancing around the counter, trying to mix quadruple batches of bread dough.

It started one day as a modest thunk….thunk…thunk. Did I think anything of it? Nope. I powered through that bread dough (I kinda went through a phase were I was making large batches of bread all the time), and another bread dough, and another…

A couple of weeks later, the motor…quit. When I plugged in the machine and turned on the motor, it would glide lazily at low speed and low speed only. My machine went from superstar to paperweight in one bake. And that was one of many times that I cried in my kitchen. It has not been the same since, despite being “fixed” more than once.

After grieving (boy, did I grieve!) the loss of my stand mixer, I was determined to figure out what went wrong. I realized that I’d become too dependent on the stand mixer to do the work for me, and that I hadn’t fully committed to learning the techniques that would make me into a good baker.

I wasn’t developing the eye and the touch for when to stop mixing cake batter when I turned it on and left the stand mixer running while I did everything else. I wasn’t developing that eye and touch when I refused to watch the creaming process so that I could understand when to stop. I wasn’t developing that eye and touch for different bread dough textures when I just let the mixer knead huge batches for 15 minutes at a time.

The Moral of the Story

After ruining that mixer, I realized that I needed to see and feel what I was doing, so that I could develop a baker’s touch. That special touch developed very quickly when I started using my hand mixer. Now, I can use either mixer interchangeably, because I understand what the finished product is supposed to look like. I know what it’s supposed to feel like.

For those who started reading this post with the belief that they can’t bake without a stand mixer: I believed that and ran a beautiful machine into the ground. It’s absolutely not true. A strong commitment to learning the science and techniques with hand tools will make you a proficient baker more quickly than a stand mixer ever could.

Today, I have both mixers available to me. And guess what? Sometimes I don’t use either of them! If I have the time to use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to make something, and if the recipe is one that supports it, you’d better believe I’m reaching for those those implements first. Even if I’m doing something for my custom bakery! It’s all about touch.

Because, Dear Family, you do not need an expensive stand mixer to begin your journey as a home baker.

I hope you found this post helpful! If you have any questions, you can always send me an email!

Until next time!

-S

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Check Out My FREE New Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers!

Welcome to Begin with Butter! My name is Shani, and I’m the resident Butter Ambassador and owner on this site. I’m the quirky, nerdy, self-taught, fun-loving guide that’s here to lead you through the initial phases of your baking journey.

And I’m so excited today to share a brand new, FREE ebook that’s going to make your baking life much, much easier!

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This site is for the newbies–the new bakers and non-bakers who want to become consistent and proficient bakers. I know proficiency is possible, since I went from a non-baker myself in 2014 to a custom bakery owner now.

My philosophy is simple: you can become a great baker if you’re willing to start from the beginning and learn the hows and whys. If you already know that baking isn’t cooking, you’re off to a great start!

In other words, it’s the technique for me. 😊 But, in order to execute those techniques, you need a few simple gadgets.

And that’s where lots and lots and LOTS of people get stuck.

Don’t Worry! I’ve Got the Solution! And it’s Free!

With all of the resources and baking shows out here, it’s easy to think that you need a stand mixer, a blast chiller, fondant, and an unlimited supply of bowls to even get started as a baker. And that, all by itself, is discouraging enough to make you quit before you’ve started.

While those things are nice, they’re not necessary. So, I wrote my new, FREE “Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers” with my favorite starter gadgets to help you understand exactly what you need for your first foray into cupcakes, muffins, and cookies.

In addition to telling you what you need to get started, you’ll learn why you need it. There are even (non-affiliate) links in the book so that you can go directly to individual sites and find the exact same gadgets that I use in my kitchen!

It’s a F R E E resource that’s available for download right now. For those of you who have some things, but aren’t sure whether you have everything you need, you can double check the list and be confident that you’ll be ready to get started. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to confidently start executing many baking recipes without a trip to Target or the agonizing wait for the Amazon delivery truck.

And did I mention that it’s free?

Maybe you have an aspiring pastry chef at home and want to make sure that they have everything they need? Then this guide is great for you too! With this guide, you’ll know whether your aspiring chef has the tools that they need to confidently go for it on their first try.

Guys, I am so excited to share this ebook with you, and I hope you find it useful as you step into your new life as a home baker!

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Seven Amazing Baking Tools You Need Right Now!

Guys! It’s here! Check out my new, FREE e-book, the “Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers”! It’s got all of the gadgets that you truly need to start baking! Want the download? Enter your email below!

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Hey BwB Family! It’s gadget day!

If you’ve been here for a while, you probably know that my absolute favorite thing (besides my family 😬) is baking. And I am admittedly a huge nerd about baking gadgets.

Y’all, I’ve tried all the gadgets. And–spoiler alert–a lot of them have better marketing than “cutting edge design”.

There are a few baking gadgets that have earned my everlasting devotion. I’m talking about the tools that I cannot remember being without in my kitchen. The unsung gadgets that have made baking a much easier and fun experience for me. This post is my love letter to them.

Here we go!

**all opinions are mine. The links are not affiliate links; just links to some really good products that I believe in with my whole heart and hope you enjoy.**

In This Post:

Oven Thermometer

I’m going to put it out there. Your oven is a liar. Not a liar in the malicious, manipulative kind of way. But a liar like your dog, when they’re trying to convince you that you didn’t just feed them dinner two minutes ago.

The same way you don’t want to start baking in a cold oven (unless a recipe specifically calls for it), is the way that you don’t want to start baking in an oven that’s not the right temperature. But if your oven is unwittingly lying to you, what’s the fix?

The fix is this.

A $7.00 oven thermometer can make an enormous difference in your baking.

This, my friends, is a low-tech godsend called an oven thermometer. You can either hang this or set it right on top of the oven rack and it will tell you the exact temperature of your oven at that time. My oven thermometers live in my ovens at all times because they tell me the real deal about what’s going on in there.

The one on the left works perfectly…it just looks terrible from years of (over)use. I literally purchased the one on the right so that I could have a pretty picture for this post.

Baking demands as much precision as possible, and this includes your oven temperature! Exact temperature is key to achieving a perfect result. That’s why an oven thermometer is so important; it’s calibrated to tell you when you’ve reached the proper temperature and it will let you know exactly how far off your oven is.

If you set your oven to 350°F without having this failsafe in there, it’s highly unlikely that the oven will be at exactly 350°F when you’re ready to bake. And an oven that’s too hot or too cold could definitely lead to a ruined result.

Digital Food Scale

Not to be dramatic, but…

A DIGITAL FOOD SCALE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL IN YOUR KITCHEN.

Yes, my scale is a little beat up. It still works beautifully though.

I admit that that was dramatic. But a digital food scale is definitely the most important tool in a baker’s kitchen.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: baking is a game of inches, and how you measure ingredients will make or break your recipe every single time.

I’ve written two posts about why a food scale is important, and how to measure using a food scale, so it’s not surprising that this darling item ended up on this list.

Parchment Paper

I told Y’all that my baking beginnings were humble. This is the point where I share with you that I didn’t know about parchment paper when I started baking. Now, I can’t live without it.

Parchment paper is literally heat-resistant paper that’s used to prevent food from sticking to cake pans and cookie sheets. It’s also tough enough to stay in one piece when there’s a mess on top of it, which means that clean up is a quick business that includes throwing away the used parchment paper and giving my cookie sheet a quick wipe and rinse with soap and water.

It is genius for those moist (I know) layer cakes that have a tendency to stick. Simply cut a round of parchment in the shape of your cake pan, butter your cake pan, place the round at the bottom of your buttered cake pan, put butter on the top of the parchment, flour the whole thing and NEVER HAVE A CAKE STICK EVER AGAIN.

Some people prefer silpat silicone baking mats, which do the same thing as parchment but are reusable. I say try both! I did and I ended up choosing parchment paper because cookies spread more thinly (and get more brown around the edges) on silpat mats, but your taste buds might like what the silpat mat has to offer!

Multi-Level Cooling Rack

Friends.

Again, when I began, I did not own a cooling rack. I quickly found out that this was a must for baking, so I started with ONE of these:

The way I’m laughing at myself right now is not ladylike. It holds SIX cookies. But this is actually my favorite size for layer cakes, because I’m weird and I like each layer to have its own autonomous cooling zone.

I bought three more of the six-top cooling racks before I discovered this:

This was much, much better but it takes up a lot of valuable real estate on my countertop. It holds 24 standard sized-cookies or muffins and is a great fix when you have room for it.

I was slow-walking around Michaels one day and stumbled upon this multi-level cooling rack:

Family, please understand that this was an act of pure happenstance.

A multi-level cooling rack is genius because it holds 45 standard sized cookies and has a small countertop footprint. Instead of spreading out, this one goes up. I’ve used it to cool everything, from cookies, cupcakes, muffins, boules (and other artisan bread loaves), and my famous milk and honey rolls. It’s truly a space saver and it helps you get lots of baked goods off of hot pans in a hurry, which is important!

Danish Dough Whisk

A Danish dough whisk is the most amazing tool for making any kind of bread dough by hand. Unlike a wooden spoon (which is also a great tool for making bread, by the way), a Danish dough whisk works through tough doughs much more easily, thus making mixing more efficient and less backbreaking.

For those who enjoy making bread dough by hand, this tool is it. You can work through harder doughs much more easily because there’s not a solid spoon for resistance.

Pastry Cutter

A pastry cutter is a tool that’s used to help cut solid fat into flour, and is specific to pastry (pie!) making. For pastry, it’s important to have larger chunks of solid fat in your dough. Those large chunks of butter (or shortening, or even lard) release small amounts of steam as they’re baked, which creates tiny pockets of air in your pastry dough. That’s where the flakiness comes from!

Some people like to use a food processor to make pastry dough, and that’s a great technique too. I am a very hands-on home chef, and I actually prefer to use hand tools to mix things like pastry dough and bread. With practice, using your hands helps you develop a great baker’s touch. Because one of the best kept secrets in baking is knowing when to stop.

A pastry cutter is a low-tech tool, to be sure, but it’s an amazing gadget and an absolute must for the home baker who wants to make pie without investing in a countertop appliance.

Air Tight Storage Containers

::Cambro storage containers have entered the chat::

My Cambro containers allow enough room for the dough to rise without getting squished, which is something you never want as a bread baker.

Family. Food waste saddens me more than just about anything. It…it just…stings.

When you start baking all the time (if you haven’t already), proper storage containers for raw ingredients like flour and sugar will be key. True, once you’re baking 4-5 times a week, you’ll consume flour and sugar and a scarily rapid rate, but that’s probably about the time you’ll realize that you can buy these ingredients from restaurant suppliers.

You’ll want somewhere to store this:

That’s where my favorite Cambro containers come through like a champion. They seal tightly, come in a range of sizes, and they keep flour and sugar fresh for a long time. Because I have these, I can buy flour and sugar in bulk and have a great place to store it!

Once you get serious about baking, being able to buy in bulk is so important. Having proper storage for those bulk ingredients will be so helpful for making those bulk dollars stretch.

Conclusion

It took a while for these gadgets and tools to become part of my working baking repertoire, but once they did, I noticed big improvements in my baking. They each solved a big problem with a small effort, and collectively led to huge improvements in my overall baking.

Are you going to try one or more of these fun gadgets? Let me know in the comments below! And while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe!


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Home » Featured Recipes » Equipment

What Baking Pans Do I Need to Start My Baking Journey?

Home » Featured Recipes » Equipment

Family, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started as a baker.

One thing you definitely need, though, is some baking pans. Because you can’t bake bread in your hands.

Today, we’re talking about different kinds of baking pans that I use in my kitchen (hint: I LOVE a multipurpose pan), and my recommendations for pans that are the best if you’re just getting started. Because the goal isn’t to go broke on equipment (save your money for great ingredients), but to get great equipment at a reasonable price that does a fantastic job.

I’m excited! Let’s go.

In this Post (It’s…A Lot):

Basics about Baking Pans

Okay here’s the deal: there are a lot of bakeware companies and lot of baking pans out here. I get it. Over the course of my baking life, I’ve purchased so-called “starter” bakeware and high-end bakeware. I still have a good mix of both in my kitchen and use them interchangeably.

I’ve found a few universal rules that I use when I’m looking for a new pan. Here they are!

  • I sometimes prefer light-colored baking pans over dark colored baking pans. This is because light-colored pans reflect more heat away from your food, thus leaving the edges of your completed baked goods lighter in color (or less caramelized). While light-colored pans clearly still get super hot in a 350° oven, they don’t get as hot as dark pans, which means that they’re more forgiving when it comes to browning and burning food. I have both and I’ll explain why when I talk about each kind of pan.
  • I love a high-walled pan (unless I’m using a sheet pan). With high-walled pans, you’re more likely to be able to use that pan for multiple purposes. High walls also help shape beautiful dinner rolls and stop oven spills. Because, Friends, there’s nothing less fun in the kitchen than having to run your oven’s auto cleaning function because a cake or pie bubbled over. ::the auto clean function is frighteningly hot as well::
  • For baking pans, my absolute favorite brands are Wilton and Nordic Ware. I am not paid to mention their names, but they are my favorites, so I wanted to share them with you! Of all the brands I’ve tried (and there have been many, many brands), these two have given the most consistent product without breaking my wallet. I know what to expect with these baking pans and that’s been a huge boost to my confidence as a baker.

Since my baking beginnings were…let’s just say “less than great”, I hold onto every ego-boosting win with a vise grip. Using these three simple rules for buying baking pans has been one of those huge wins.

Onto the pans! If you want the cheat code for each kind of pan, check out the TL;DR summary at the end of each section.

Let me first apologize for the state of my sheet pans, y’all. They are beat to h*ll. But that’s a testament to exactly how much I use them. Even with parchment paper (which I use religiously), sheet pans will eventually show their age. I’m proud of my sheet pans!

Sheet pans come in full size, two-thirds size, half size, quarter size, and one-eighth sizes. I use half sheet pans in my kitchen. As you can see, sheet pans have flat bottoms and short rims; I’ve found that this allows great air flow for things like cookies, though the sheet pan is a BOSS for savory cooking as well, since the rims keep juices from overflowing into your oven.

I am all about avoiding the auto clean function on my oven, folks.

Cookie sheets are a slight variation on the sheet pan; they have one raised side but otherwise have no other rims. Some cookie sheets (like these, from Airbake) also have a second, insulated layer between the oven rack and the cookies.

The theory behind the rim-less, extra insulated pan is that it provides more even cooking for short things like cookies, BUT I’ve found no appreciable difference in cookie outcomes with sheet pans and cookie sheets (and I’ve literally made TONS of cookies). When I’m doing a bakery-sized batch of cookies, I use both pans interchangeably. The cookie sheets retain heat for much, much longer though. (ouch)

One rule that I do have for cookie sheets and sheet pans is that I prefer light-colored pans. This is because I bake cookies using the convection function in my oven. I bake cookies high and fast in this kitchen, because they’re usually consumed almost as quickly as they’re done. But convection baking allows me to bake two dozen cookies at a time, which cuts my baking time in half.

Because I bake cookies so “high and fast” in my kitchen, I use light-colored pans to avoid having those cookies brown too much on the bottom. Since my ovens both have a hot spot, I also rotate pans about halfway through baking. But that’s another post altogether.

Cookie sheets and sheet pans are also great for bread! I usually try to bake bread right on top of a pizza stone, but sometimes a cookie sheet is the right tool for the job. For example, I recently used a sheet pan for this challah:

TL;DR version: cookie sheets and sheet pans are great multi-purpose pans for baking. Light-colored pans help avoid burnt-bottom cookies.

Pie Plates

I could honestly devote an entire post to pie plates. Not because I particularly adore pie plates, but because there are so many types of pie plates available. So I will stick with what’s in my kitchen.

I have ceramic and clear glass pie plates in my kitchen. I’ve used the glass pie plates since I started baking pies a few years ago, because I’m a weirdo and I want to know the exact moment that the bottom crust of a pie is done.

I picked up this habit as a beginning pie baker, and it’s been such a useful habit that I’ve just kept it.

A better baker might trust his/her instincts. I want to SEE. 💁🏾‍♀️

See?

All jokes aside, glass pie plates can help you build tremendous confidence as a beginning pie maker. Pie baking can be a challenging endeavor, and having the right pie plate can be the difference between spending four hours to make a perfect pie, or spending four hours to make a pie with an underdone bottom crust. The latter…is not a happy moment.

But it’s still pie!

TL;DR version: Glass pie plates are best for beginners because you can see when it’s done!

Round Cake Pans

It’s very easy to get intimidated by the number of round cake pans available. They come at every price point, every diameter, and in seemingly every weight imaginable.

I have purchased more round cake pans than I would ever admit (especially if my husband ever sees this post 👀). But I ultimately settled on Wilton cake pans because they’re just…consistent. I own these cake pans in 6″, 8″, and 9″ sizes, and I use them for personal and professional baking! They’re inexpensive and good and they turn out a consistent cake every time.

For the types of cakes that I bake in round pans, I prefer light-colored pans. These include classic “layer cake” cakes, like vanilla, funfetti, red velvet, chocolate, and carrot. While these all have vastly different flavor profiles, they all share one common goal: to not be dry.

When making layer cakes, I want the most delicate, airy crumb possible. The extra heat from dark pans tends to have a drying effect on cakes, since the extra heat effectively bakes the cake at a higher tempererature in a shorter amount of time. Cakes are temperamental and they demand the proper oven temperature, so the best way to control that is with a good oven thermometer and some light-colored cake pans. Stalking Watching your cakes while they bake can help too!

TL;DR version: for layer cakes, light-colored cake pans are the bees’ knees. Dark pans have a drying effect that can lead to an unpleasant finished texture.

Bundt Pans

I have consumed my weight in pound cake many times over the course of my life. In my bakery, pound cakes and cookies are some of the most popular items.

I make all of my pound cakes in bundt pans, and it’s been both the most rewarding and frustrating experience in my baking experience.

Bundt pans are my favorite pans because of the thousands or ornate designs they can make with your cake. BUT those ornate designs demand that you grease every corner of that pan. If you don’t grease your pan properly, you risk losing large chunks of your cake, OR EVEN WORSE, having your whole cake stick in the pan.

Listen:

This ain’t it.

I avoid this outcome at all costs. Luckily, the cost to avoid this outcome is low, since a good greasing with butter and flour will help your cake release every time.

When it comes to pound cakes, dark cake pans are IT.

Let me explain.

By definition, pound cakes are loaded with all of the ingredients that help cakes stay moist (I know). So, the sugar, the eggs, the buttermilk…all of those actively help your pound cake remain dense and flavorful and NOT DRY.

With pound cakes, I absolutely love a beautiful, carmelized exterior. Kind of like this:

To get this, though, a cake has to really absorb heat from the pan, or it has to bake until it’s nearly dust. Clearly, I prefer the former.

Knowing that bundt cakes are infused with all of those delicious, moisture-aiding properties makes me confident that my pound cakes will survive the additional heat from dark bundt pans (within reason…you still can’t bake it forever). I currently have bundt pans from Nordic Ware and Wilton, and when I want a gorgeous crust, I reach right for the Wilton bundt pans. The Nordic Ware pans put out a beautiful shape, though!

TL;DR version: For a beautifully caramelized pound cake, dark pans are key. Pound cakes can take the heat. Also, butter + flour = release.

Glass Baking Dishes

Also known as the casserole dishes, I use 9″ x 13″ and 8″ x 8″ glass baking dishes mainly for breakfast buns. For instance, for cinnamon rolls? Glass baking dishes are key:

This purpose of this ridiculous foodie thirst trap is to show that, with a glass baking dish, you can actually see when the sides of your cinnamon rolls (or other breakfast buns) are done. Since the aim is pillowy-soft with just a hint of al dente chew, it’s a huge bonus to be able to see what’s happening under the rim of the pan.

I don’t use 9″ x 13″ metal baking dishes for breakfast buns, because I find that they get too crispy and dark for my liking. BUT this is absolutely a personal preference! As with everything baking, the best way to figure out what works for your taste is to try and try again!

TL;DR version: for special breakfast treats like cinnamon rolls, glass baking dishes for the win!

Sheet Cake Pans

Sheet cake pans are different from sheet pans because sheet cake pans have higher sides than sheet pans. The higher sides create structure for the larger cakes that we commonly see at kids’ birthday parties and cookouts.

My relationship with sheet cakes is…complicated. I’m going to tell you, Family, that it’s very difficult to bake something as large as a half sheet cake or a full sheet cake and not have a dry product. While it’s possible, it’s arduous, and I prefer to work with smaller cakes to avoid the stress.

BUT, like you, I’m constantly hunting for the best techniques, so when I find the best sheet cake technique, I’ll be sure to shout it from the rooftops! Or at least post it on this blog.

It is ironic, then, that I absolutely adore my dark-colored, half and quarter sheet-sized Wilton cake pans. I use them exclusively for my famous dinner rolls. I am particularly partial to my quarter sheet-sized pans for this task; the beautiful golden color that results, combined with the slight flakiness of that first bite, makes me reach for my quarter sheet every time.

I love these pans so much for dinner rolls. So much so that I keep them exclusively for that use.

As much as possible, I try to find multiple uses for most of my kitchen tools, because it means buying fewer kitchen tools. HOWEVER, I will break that rule every day for these quarter sheet pans. It’s worth it to clean and store these pans every week, just for the sake of making these wonderful dinner rolls.

I *should* mention that, like pound cakes, my dinner rolls contain eggs, milk, and honey. So, based on my experience, they can take the extra heat from the dark pan.

TL;DR version: quarter sheet cake pans cannot be beat for beautiful dinner rolls.

Loaf Pans

Loaf pans can be used to make sandwich loaves, pull-apart breads, or quick breads. For traditional white breads or milk breads, I prefer light loaf pans, since there’s not a lot of extra fat and moisture to counteract the extra heat.

For quick breads, I let my spirit guide me. Some days, I want a beautiful, caramelized crust on my banana bread to counter the soft interior texture.

Other days, I use a light-colored loaf pan to create a delicate zucchini bread through and through. This is a classic example of when personal preference rules the day!

TL;DR version: For lean breads and milk breads, light loaf pans are best. For quick breads, think about your personal preference! If you like a more caramelized crust for your quick breads, choose a dark loaf pan. For tender crusts on your quick breads, light loaf pans are the way to go.

Muffin Pans

Muffin pans are another type of pan that come in several different variations. There are light and dark muffin pans, silicone and metal muffin pans, and mini, standard, and jumbo muffin pans.

I don’t have any silicone bakeware in my kitchen, so I don’t have an opinion about their effectiveness. But I started with standard-sized metal muffin pans at the beginning of my journey, and I have yet to find a need to add any additional muffin pans to my repertoire.

And y’all, I bake LOTS and LOTS of muffins and cupcakes. I even had a whole cupcake-themed birthday party. It featured over two hundred cupcakes, all made by yours truly.

But I have not yet been moved to try mini muffin pans, jumbo muffin pans, or silicone muffin pans.

Sometimes, you just keep using what works.

I have both dark and light muffin pans, but I do prefer using the light muffin pans when I can. Muffins and cupcakes are such small cakes that they can overbake easily. The extra heat produced by a dark pan will almost always produce a darker bottom on muffins and cupcakes, and could ultimately lead to a much more dry finished product.

Best Pans for Beginners

Family, I know that this post has been a lot. So, I wanted to share with you that you don’t have to have all of these pans to start baking. Clearly, if you’re making something specific, you’ll need a specific kind of pan, but if you’re building a shopping list for a good overall starter set for baking, I recommend the following (I’ve provided links for my favorites):

The rest can wait, unless you’re brave enough to make pie right out of the gate. In that case, take a look at my Sunday Session post about melt-in-your-mouth apple pie for technique tips, grab these Pyrex pie plates and have a ball!

Conclusion

I hope this post helps you understand some bakeware basics for home kitchens. I also hope that his post helps to take some of the intimidation out of baking, by literally giving you the tools for a good foundation. Don’t hesitate to contact me at hello@beginwithbutter with any questions about the bakeware featured here. And don’t forget to subscribe while you’re here so that you can get these amazing baking tips right to your email!

Thanks for stopping by! 🧁 ❤️

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Take a Peek at My Favorite Baking Science Books!

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“I wasn’t born with the baking gene, but God didn’t give me this sweet tooth for nothing.” –Shani

I need sweet treats on demand. Before I could bake, this…was problematic.

That all changed one fateful fall day in 2013, and I haven’t looked back. I made some splendidly mediocre sugar cookies over a feverish and sleepless night, and that was it, Friends. I was HOOKED on baking. HOOKED.

At the beginning, I worked with simple, go-to recipes that never failed. Those recipes helped me build confidence during those early days.

Alas, friends, I am a creative by nature. So, while it was fun to make someone else’s recipes, I yearned to create my own.

I didn’t have money for pastry school, but I had an unquenchable desire to learn, so I bought the books and dedicated myself to study and practice. I’m happy today to share the books that I’ve found most useful as I’ve gone on my journey.

I’ll link to the books on Amazon in case you’re interested. I make no money from these recommendations; I just find these resources helpful. Let me know if you do too!

In this post:

Let’s do this.

The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

There are not enough lovely words to describe this book. It is a textbook, to be sure, but it is also literally the first baking resource I ever check when I’m looking for a definitive answer about something.

As the name suggests, this book is written for pastry students, but it is an incredible, comprehensive resource for anyone looking to up their baking game. It contains concise, easy-to-follow baking science, conversion charts, baker’s percentages, and clear-cut explanations for so. many. pastries.

Oh! And diagrams! I love diagrams and this book has them in spades. Diagrams teach you the method for working quickly and efficiently, while producing pastries worthy of a high-end pastry case. We love diagrams.

This book is how intermediate bakers become advanced bakers. How those looking to truly understand baking science learn that knowledge.

For the petty, this book is how those looking to dominate the dessert scene at Thanksgiving put the debate to bed forever and ever. Going forward, that will be [insert your name here]’s dessert table. Picture it.

The recipes in this book use weight measurements, and the yields are for professional kitchens, but if you’re using weight measurements, it’s easy enough to scale these recipes down to suit your needs. And, of course, there are instructions in this book for how to do that without ruining the the integrity of whatever you’re making.

The new edition of this book comes out in September, and while I’ve preordered it, this version has a very special place in my heart.

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

Super fun fact: if you don’t know what you’re doing with basic baking ratios, it’s extremely difficult to create your own recipes without tons of food waste.

You see, the baking recipes that you see in cookbooks and online are generally based on basic ratios (formulas). That means, for example, knowing that for every cup of flour, you need x amount of sugar, x amount of fat, x amount of leavening, et cetera, et cetera.

These basic ratios are the foundation of baking recipes; they are time-tested to produce consistent texture, taste and color for your baked goods. Recipe development, then, depends mostly on knowing the ratios and making slight modifications to produce different variations. Once you know the ratios, you can let your creative flag fly!

This book cracks the code about ratios. For intermediate/advanced bakers who are ready to flex their creative muscles, this book will teach you basic ratios for baking that you can use to start your creative journey. Bonus: this book is not just for bakers! It is actually mostly dedicated to savory, but the information about baking is invaluable. (psst….the savory stuff is well worth the read too).

Not only will this book teach you about ratios, it will give you the industry-accepted ratios that pros use. If you’re ready to truly learn how to build baking recipes of your own, then this book is it. It’s a power-packed short read and a great resource.

The Great British Bake Off: How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom: And Other Secrets to Achieving a Good Bake by Gerard Baker

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

This book-with-a-long-title is an amazing resource for quick answers about nagging baking questions. It’s broken into short, easy-to-find information.

Family, this is the book you need when you want a quick answer…like when you’re in the middle of a baking project and something is about to go horribly wrong. When you need a plainly-written, effective answer to help you get back on track (hopefully). Or when something goes horribly wrong and you want a quick resource to troubleshoot how to avoid the mistake in the future. This book is that book.

This book also has adorable history lessons (like about the history and use of baking powder and baking soda, and the cookie/biscuit distinction in American and British baking). Sometimes it’s fun to just get lost in this book for those cute history snips.

Of course, the writing is fluid and fun and you can absolutely kick your feet up with a cup of tea and just read straight through as well. While the sections in this book are a quick read, it is an excellent resource for learning bite-sized baking science in a Q&A style.

The Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life by Kate McDermott

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

Friends, when I say that I saved pie making for the very last thing I ever learned about baking because I was so intimidated about pie crust? Because the humble pie will HUMBLE YOU.

Then this book came along and changed everything. Kate McDermott calmed my fears in the first five pages and made me realize that “it’s just pie.” Those words changed everything. I also felt quite silly because what was I freaking out about?

Then I got overconfident and underbaked my first pie by a mile. But this book helped me realize that pie, like life, is about growth. So I just kept making more pie.

Lucky for me, this book has easy-to-follow pie crust recipes and techniques that made me feel very accomplished very quickly. There are also a crazy number of filling recipes to choose from.

After working with this book for a while, I tried several online pie crust recipes and I have yet to find one that I love better than the all-butter crust on these pages. And the fillings are always on point. Considering my book’s overall worn appearance, you know that it’s been well-loved over the years.

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

Let me apologize in advance for the overall beat up appearance of this book. At least the book jacket is still on it. I consider that more than a minor miracle.

This, Friends, is the tome for advanced bread makers. This book is based on the premise that bread only needs four humble ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast.

Don’t be fooled though. This book shows that the secret to transforming those humble ingredients is in your technique. If you take the gentle hand this book extends and take a walk through the pages, you’ll see that those ingredients can be transformed in any number of ways.

In addition to more common straight doughs (bread doughs that use yeast only), this book offers the advanced baker a primer on those types of sourdough “starters” (biga, levain and poolish) that add are used to create spectacular, bakery-quality loaves. This book primarily uses baker’s percentages in place of “recipes” that you might be used to seeing online, so it really appeals to my nerdy heart.

This book also does a tremendous job of explaining, in simple terms, how external factors (like humidity and air temperature) impact your bread. It gives practical tips for addressing those external issues to help you get the best loaf possible. The loaves in these pages are a lot of work, but they are more than worth the effort.

This is a tremendous, tremendous book.

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Herzberg and Zoë François

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

For beginning bread makers, and intermediate/advanced bread makers who don’t want to babysit loaves all day, this book has the answer. Bread dough in five minutes that lasts in the fridge for several days.

These recipes are amazing because you can have fresh bread whenever you want it, with minimal effort. The recipes in this book are unfussy and can make anyone feel accomplished with just a few ingredients. The directions are clear-cut and easy to follow.

This book promises bread dough in five minutes and it delivers in a big way. It’s extremely accessible for home bakers who have a million things going on but still want to make good loaves with whole ingredients. For those intimidated about working with yeast, this book is a way to gain quick confidence for more ambitious bread projects!

The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

Photo Credit: Begin with Butter

There some bakers who look down on bread machines because they feel that there’s too much sacrificing of quality for convenience.

I honestly think that’s unfortunate and don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking at all. We celebrate all bakers here. #PositivelyBetterBaking

There are a million reasons why someone might want to use a bread machine to make homemade bread. I, for one, truly appreciate any effort to make bread from scratch. And bread machine sandwich loaves > store bought sandwich loaves any day of the week.

My point is that there is no one true way to make bread. And again, for busy people who don’t have the time to babysit sandwich loaves, I support you! Get yourself a bread machine and some ingredients and have the best time. Seriously!

This book works for any baker with a bread machine. Whether you’re an advanced baker who wants a “throw and go” recipe that allows you to toss ingredients into a machine while you’re off to the market, or you’re brand new to working with yeast, there are tons of great recipes to experiment with and enjoy. I’m partial to the Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Walnut Whole Wheat bread recipe (sans nuts) myself.

The point is that there are a ton of well thought-out, truly delicious recipes in this book that are supported by baking science. Go for it! Have fun! It’s an amazing time saver and you’ll get bread with whole ingredients. Win!

Final Thoughts

I like to think that I graduated summa cum laude from the Culinary School of Hard Knocks. Mine has been an exceptionally worthwhile education, but it can be lonely trying to learn all of this stuff on your own.

I created this blog as a place to share what I’ve learned over the years. A place where you can find everything you need in one nice, neat baking blog package. For those of you who want to take supplement what you’re learning here with my favorite resources, feel free to check out one or all of these books and let me know how they worked out for you!

Until next time!


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