Who else here loves the Great British Baking Show? Because I do. A couple hours of binge-watching, and I get wildly ambitious about my own baking prowess. Soon, I’m considering how many layers I would want of a basic Victoria sponge cake, and what special flavors I’d like to try in scones, and analyzing the use of scoring in all my favorite loaves and rolls.
Well, the truth is that I’m a beginner baker at best. However, with a few upgrades to the kitchen, it becomes a lot more easy to make regular baking a reality.
Some of these updates are great for anyone who wants a more functional kitchen. Others are pretty special for bakers, and you’re only going to get a return on your investment if you plan to put in a lot of time baking. However, whether or not you use any of these updates, they’re fun to dream of…
A Tech Corner
This is something you won’t see in a lot of traditional kitchens, but as soon as you think about it, you’re going to want one. You know how people have recipe book holders that allow you to keep your book clean and hold the page open without you touching it with your grubby dough-caked hands? Well, how often do you use a laptop, tablet, or your smartphone to look up a recipe or to view a tutorial on cooking something specific?
With a tech corner, you have a home for your screen, so that you don’t have to worry about it getting in the way of your workstation. Whether this consists of a flexible wall mount for a tablet, or just a platform for your laptop, having a special place for it makes a big difference. You might also have speakers to plug into, and chargers.
A Double Oven
This is definitely the first upgrade that any serious baker needs, especially if they like entertaining. Sometimes you’ll need two different things going at once, and with baking’s sensitive needs, you’ll probably also need two different heats. Make sure they’re convection. Convection ovens circulate air so that you get a more even bake on the top and bottom; it also helps you get a more crisp crust, especially on pastries. Having two ovens also means that you can make one function as a proofing cupboard or a warming drawer to help your dough rise evenly, and to keep part of your meal warm while the other is prepared.
Most of your countertops are probably a great height for chopping vegetables and preparing sandwiches. They are not, however, a great level for kneading and pounding dough. Lots of bakers have a pastry table in their kitchen that’s a few inches lower than their countertops so that they have an ideal workstation for pastry and bread making.
This pastry table doesn’t necessarily have to be worked into your permanent kitchen structure. You can achieve the same effect with a table, or perhaps a roll-in table/shelf combo that can be anchored.
There’s a reason that people drool over granite countertops; not only do they look spectacular, but they’re also extremely functional for bakers. The natural stone won’t be hurt by extreme temperatures, and they’ll hold up under your chopping knife, too. There are also some things that you want a stone surface for, like chocolate work. Granite tends to be cool to the touch as a default, which makes it great for rolling out dough and shaping things.
A Weight Measure instead of Measuring Cups
It’s standard to find American recipes measured out in cups and teaspoons. However, that’s not always the most accurate way to determine how much of something you add to a recipe. After all, consider the difference between a cup of well-packed brown sugar and one that’s just lightly sifted. It’s a big difference!
That’s why more specialized recipes use weight measures much of the time. Instead of measuring out a cup of flour, you’ll place it on the scale (usually inside of a cup) and measure out 12 ounces. Food scales range from very affordable to very high-end.
If you like experimenting with baking, you probably have more than one kind of flour. Baking staples are a necessity, and it’s great to have them in an easily accessible, beautifully stored system. For many of us, that means jars that are either placed on the countertop or in a roll out drawer under the counter. This saves you from having to reach up to the top shelf whenever you need to start a recipe or modify it as you go with a little more flour, or a sprinkling of corn crumbs. Smaller jars are also great for things that you like to add into your doughs, like, say, matcha powder or coconut sugar. Make sure that everything’s easy to label because all those white powders can quickly start looking the same.
Did you know that the best professional bakers check the humidity levels in their kitchen obsessively? This is because how much moisture there is in the air can make a big difference in how something rises, and how well it cooks. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you bake cookies when it’s raining outside, the recipe turns out quite different?
In order control the humidity in your kitchen, you’ll want to have an overhead exhaust fan (often standard in a stovetop range) but you might also want to add a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on what your local weather trends towards. As an added bonus, minimizing the humidity in your kitchen can also reduce the risk of mold and pests.
Who doesn’t love having a little helper or two while you’re working on a baking project? This is great if you want to have people help roll out pasta, cut out cookies, or even just lick the spoon. Baking can take a longer amount of time than other kitchen projects, so it’s nice to invite people to chat with you while you work.