Essentials for the Home Baker

Every kitchen store peddles decorative sparkly sugar, fanciful cookie cutters, and spatulas dedicated to specific uses in its baking section. They’re gimmicks; the most useful purchases are multifunctional items that will come in handy regularly.

1. Stand mixer. A stand mixer is preferable to a handheld one because you can leave it running while multitasking in the kitchen. KitchenAid is the standard, but many professional chefs prefer the durable, though expensive, Hobart.

2. Nonstick mats. Purchase two if you can: one to use in the oven for baking and the other as a quick-release surface for sticky candies, such as Honey Nougat. Brands like Silpat are available at most kitchen stores for $14 to $24.

3. Digital scale. Serious bakers need a scale. Weigh same-step ingredients into a single bowl and make recipes in metric quantities without doing complicated conversions. Digital scales are sleeker than manual ones and easier to tuck away in small kitchens.

4. Grater-zester. An easy way to grate fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and zest for recipes like Lemon Pound Cake and Fresh Ginger Cake.

5. Pastry bag. Handy for piping meringue, icing, and pâte à choux, pastry bags are an essential tool for any well-equipped baker. You can find them in a range of sizes, but the 16- and 10-inch bags are the most versatile.

6. Candy thermometer. Primarily used for measuring the temperature of sugar, this is also useful for tempering chocolate and heating oil. Manual thermometers, like those made by Taylor, are more durable and less expensive than digital ones.

7. French rolling pin. Traditional French rolling pins do not have handles. This allows for more control and maneuverability. Use them for rolling out tarts, puff pastry, and fondant, and for molding fragile tuile cookies.

8. Kitchen timer. You think you’ll remember to take the cake out of the oven in 20 minutes. You won’t. Buy a kitchen timer that keeps track of multiple cooking times, and you’ll never burn anything again.

9. Stick blender. This handheld immersion blender is easier to clean, is lighter, and takes up less storage space than full-size blenders. Use it for fruit sorbets, sauces, and soups.

10. Kitchen blowtorch. Some shortcuts—like caramelizing crème brulée under a broiler—just don’t work. This torch’s precise, controlled heat can also be used for searing meringues, unmolding stubborn flan, antiquing marzipan, and melting Gruyère for French onion soup.

We don’t mean to imply that these items are all you’ll ever need. In fact, we might add a pastry scraper, a set of prep bowls, and round cutters (for cookies, biscuits, and plating).