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Building a better bakery

Now that you’ve perfected that sourdough starter and honed your scone recipe to pure pastry perfection, it’s time to upgrade your kitchen.

By Barry Kaufman

If there’s one trend no one saw coming before 2020 reared its head, it was baking. For decades it was the providence of housefraus and kindly old Parisian gentlemen, but with the advent of statewide lockdowns, suddenly everybody was jumping on the carbo train and becoming their own cake boss.

If you’re one of the many people who spent this past year working on your biscuit recipe, frantically googling why your cookies came out looking like deflated beach balls and generally making Dr. Atkins spin in his grave, you’re in good company. Millions have discovered the subtle science of baking over the past year – part art, part chemistry, where a few grains of baking powder or butter that’s a few degrees too hot or cold can make a world of difference.

If you’re ready to get serious about your baking game, step up to some of these amazing
innovations for your kitchen.

Space Kitchen counters get cluttered, and even a good-sized center island finds itself serving as a catch-all at times. If you’re going to bake, make sure you’re giving yourself at least 12 square feet that can be floured at will. The obvious solution is, of course, to install a second kitchen island. And while that may seem like a drastic addition for simply a baking hobby, just remind your spouse what it will do for your home’s resale value. If that doesn’t work, roll out some fresh dough and bribe them with cookies.

Double oven The problem with turning your kitchen into your own personal bakery is that everyone still insists on using your workspace to create other less exciting foods like couscous or casserole. That’s where a double oven comes in handy (yes, we are aware you don’t cook couscous in an oven. We just like the word couscous). “It’s not only great for having multiple temps if you’re baking a few things at once, it’s perfect for big holiday meals,” said Brantley King, owner of Billy Wood Appliance. “When you have three or four pies going in one and your turkey in the other, you’ll be glad you have it.” One example she points to is the Rise 30″ double wall oven by Jenn-Aire, a power-packed workhorse with five cubic feet of space, dual-fan convection and multiple heating modes. It even offers one feature that bakers thought was the stuff of science fiction: No-preheat baking.

A good mixer A baker without a stand mixer is like a barber without a set of clippers. Sure, you can mix everything by hand like they did back in the stone age, but it’s so much easier to let the motor do all the work. “I recently figured out how to make soft-bake pretzels just like Auntie Anne’s using the dough hook on my mixer,” said King. Your mixer should come with the holy trinity of attachments – the whisk, the paddle and the dough hook. While Kitchen Aid has long been the standard bearer, King points to a European line called Smeg that combines function with flair for an appliance you’ll be happy to show off.

Build out your arsenal Beyond appliances, you’re going to need a drawer full of utensils to get the job done. To your checklist add whisks (multiple sizes), a pastry brush (and no, not the same one you use for barbecue. Gross.) and a rolling pin. “I use a French rolling pin that’s tapered at one end,” said King. “It’s fantastic.” You’ll also need a good baking sheet. An aluminum pan will distribute heat evenly but can tend to warp if you go cheap. The key phrase you’re looking for is vacuum insulated, which puts a cushion of air between two aluminum layers for perfectly even heat.