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Cala Massey

I would like to learn to bake

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Please suggest basic equipment and 1 to 3 very good, detailed and well illustrated books or other information source.

Thank You.

CM

P.S. BTW, I am referring to both Pastry and Baking, when I say "learning to bake". Also, if you live in NYC, is there a live course that you would recommend, should I decide after I dabble at home that I want to attend one)


Edited by Cala Massey (log)

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Cala,

Welcome to baking!

I always recommend that a beginner buy some really good baking pans (I like the Chicago Metallic light-colored NOT non-stick heavy baking Professional pans-- I have a list on http://www.baking911.com/pantry/list_kitch...f_pans_more.htm BUT you can start with 2, 9-inch cake pans, 2 cookie sheets, a standard-size muffin tin (for 12 muffins) and cooling racks and always add more as you go along; get a good set of measuring cups (metal for dry ingredients, pyrex glass for liquid ingredients and set of measuring spoons. I always recommend a hand-held mixer (I like Cuisinart-- get the most powerful one) and a stand mixer (KitchenAid), if you want to spend the money. Heat-proof rubber spatulas are important, a flat wire whisk, a balloon wisk, 2 or more wooden spoons, sharp knives, a kitchen timer...(I am sure egullet members will add to this beginning list).

And, above all, make sure your oven is accurate! There's nothing like mixing a wonderful recipe, and then having the recipe fail because your oven is off! An oven thermometer helps, but they aren't always accurate....so I would have your oven checked before you begin on your journey!

As for books, I really like the basic ones if you are an absolute beginner...Fanny Farmer Baking Book, Good Housekeeping, and Betty Crocker. They're loaded with pictures and lots of information. Plus, their recipes always work! I also like baking books from Susan Purdy, Flo Braker, Nick Malgieri, and Julia Child. (I recommend mine, Baking 9-1-1!)


Edited by Sarah Phillips (log)

Happy Baking! Sarah Phillips, President and Founder, http://www.baking911.com

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For baking things like pies, pastry and etc., I think that Nick Malgieri's "How to Bake" is an excellent way to begin. I have recommended this book to many novice bakers who find it has a wide range of recipes from very easy to fairly complex, all well explained and they all taste good.

For bread baking I recommend Peter Reinhart's "Crust and Crumb" or "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"

There is a thread on this forum about baking with "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"

here

which might be helpful to you.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I'd second the recommendation on How To Bake. I've never had a recipe go wrong in this and it does cover a very wide range of pies, cakes, muffins and cookies. I wouldn't go overboard with buying pans and would buy them as you need them. Definitely get an oven thermometer and a good mixer.

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Also, if you live in NYC, is there a live course that you would recommend, should I decide after I dabble at home that I want to attend one)

I like the classes at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC. There are some good beginning baking classes that are quite good! Nick Malgieri designed the week long curriculum for the amateur baker and he's done an excellent job! Plus, his recipes always work! ---This is very important when you're trying to learn how to bake!


Edited by Sarah Phillips (log)

Happy Baking! Sarah Phillips, President and Founder, http://www.baking911.com

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I second all the book and equipment recommendations! Another couple of books I like for beginners are the King Arthur's Flour Baking Book, (I think it's actually called that but I'm not sure) and In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan... damn, I can't remember her last name, but I like the book. It's got a tan cover.

Friends have told me the King Arthur book is really good for starting out with lots of explanations. Beware, they have a cookie book out also which, while I'm sure it's cool, is not as all encompassing becuase it's well, about cookies.

I have the second book and almost half of it is ingredient descriptions, recommendations for equipment, and all sorts of other things before you even come near a recipie. (First one is beyond page 350 if I remember correctly)

Welcome to baking and have a good time!

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I know people are gonna add this: get a scale. They are not that expensive. Get one that can zero with containers on. It is amazing how much easier weighing is than measuring by cups. You don't have to wash so many containers, you dump everything into your mixing bowl, you are ALWAYS accurate, blah, blah , blah.


"Mom, why can't you cook like the iron chef?"

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-Offset spatulas, large and small.

-A good vegetable peeler

-Microplane

-Silicon spatulas

-Metal whisks, 1 each small, medium and large

-Pastry brushes, large and small

-Spoons, I like the Exoglass ones

-Measuring cups/spoons

-Digital scale

-Mixing bowls, I prefer stainless steel to glass

-Pastry bags and tips.

-Silpats

-Instant read thermometer

-Sieve

-Good quality baking sheets

-Sturdy, thick cake pans. I would just start with 2- 9 inch pans

-Muffin tray

-Good quality removable bottom 9 inch tart pan

I think that should cover most of your basic needs.

-Buy the best equipment you can afford, but only buy what you know you will use. -Beware of all the cool, high-tech, nifty looking gadgets that fill up the cooking stores, and my cupboards, that will not get used regularly.

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I know people are gonna add this: get a scale.  They are not that expensive.  Get one that can zero with containers on.  It is amazing how much easier weighing is than measuring by cups.  You don't have to wash so many containers, you dump everything into your mixing bowl, you are ALWAYS accurate, blah, blah , blah.

I second getting a scale! I just bought a fabulous antique one for $25 that weighs up to 25 lbs and is accurate to the half ounce! I have a smaller one for little batches, I got it at a restaurant supply place that sells new and used equipment for about $10.

They're also available pretty often on Ebay, but you have to watch for the shipping charges--people are going crazy with shipping charges these days!!


It's not the destination, but the journey!

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What do you want to bake first? I suggest to people who want to start baking to start with their favorite baked goods. If you lean towards cakes, you should get the feel by starting with your favorite muffins. If you want to bake yeast raised items, get the feel by baking Moomie’s beautiful burger buns elsewhere in this forum. I am a professional baker but nothing in my repertoire beats MBBB for ease, reliability and speed.


Gato ming gato miao busca la vida para comer

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You'll definitely need a chocolate-tempering machine, a 20qt mixer, and one of those machines that folds puff pastry. Just kidding. :biggrin: Wait til you win the lottery to make those purchases.

Everything you need has already been mentioned. So all I can do is mention a few of the items that I resisted buying, but that, once I bought them, I realized that I should have bought them long ago. First is a good silicone spatula. Nothing allows you to scoop all the batter out of a pan with greater ease. Second is a microplane zester. I used to grate citrus with a box grater, and it would take forever. With a microplane, it literally takes seconds to zest a lemon. If you're going to zest more than 2 lemons in your life --and you should, because lemons totally rule-- go ahead and buy a microplane. Third is a digital scale. This is one of those things that can save you a little bit of time almost every time you cook.

Oh, and one piece of general advice -- generally speaking, the cheapest model is indeed the crappiest, but the most expensive model is often not any better than the mid-range model that costs half as much.


Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'd add a bench scraper (metal blade with a plastic or wooden handle) and a large flexible bowl scraper. The bowl scraper makes it even easier to pull dough out of a mixing bowl than a spatula. The bench scraper you will use to divide dough, scrape off and clean your work surface, lift up and handle very wet bread doughs, etc.

I'd also throw a digital instant-read thermometer in there and an oil/candy thermometer. As you get into more advanced things, both will be come indispensible.

Any hands on classes (be they at a community college, ICE, or even some of the classes at a store like Sur La Table) that interest you - go for it! There are some things that are easier to learn when you're shown, like pie crust or laminated doughs, than trying to figure it out from written instructions and photos in a book.

Ice cream scoops in various sizes make scooping cookie dough and truffles (with the very small ones) quite easy, and will give you uniform results, very important when you're baking off a sheet of cookies.

And get in there and bake! And bake some more! "How to Bake" is an excellent book; Nick Malgieri is a great teacher (if a little idiosyncratic in person). The advice to start with what you like to make is great. Friends, work colleagues, neighbors, most will be more than happy to help you dispose of your creations, even when they might taste great but look less than perfect.


"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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All of the above is excellent advice, and I cannot add substantially to it.

As a starting point, though, I would recommend picking *one* book, and selecting *one* not-too-outrageous recipe that you'd like to have in your repertoire. Buy the smallwares you need to make that one recipe, and make it three or four times. After you've made it three or four times, you'll have some confidence to build on. Pick another recipe with similar methodology, and do that one a few times. Repeat as necessary. After you've made three or four recipes that share a basic method, you'll have a good enough understanding of that method to pick up any other recipe that uses the same technique. When you're really good, you'll be in mid-recipe and say to yourself, "Hey, that's not right"...and adjust accordingly.

Really, there are only a few basic recipes. If you've done one sponge cake, you can make all the others readily enough. If you can make a basic yeast dough, you can make any bread with a bit of practice. If you can make one laminated dough, you can pick up the others. If you can make creme anglaise, you can make any custard...and so on.

That's about it, when you strip baking to its essentials. Some advanced projects require a large number of disparate skills, but you gain them all one by one, in pretty much that fashion.

Dig in, have fun, and don't stress yourself. Most of the time even your mistakes will be edible, and if they're not, well...not many things are cheaper than eggs and flour. Come to think of it, some of my current "standards" began life as mistakes, and turned out to be improvements on the original item.


"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

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I'm just a beginner like you, Cala, but I agree with jgarner53: my bench scraper is my best friend.


"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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I'm just a beginner like you, Cala, ........

Have you seen the stuff this man bakes? :blink: Feh! A beginner, he says. If he's a beginner, I'm a newborn. :wink:


TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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I'm just a beginner like you, Cala, ........

Have you seen the stuff this man bakes? :blink: Feh! A beginner, he says. If he's a beginner, I'm a newborn. :wink:

Um, thanks, I guess! I really am a beginner, except when it comes to bread. Just about all my other pastry experience has come since this past Thanksgiving. If the stuff I've made looks decent, eGullet and Dorie Greenspan deserve the credit.


"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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