This post has been long over due. Though this may look simple and straight forward, I can't emphasize how many months have gone over writing this post. And then it went into a hiding. Further to my post on baking essentials in my kitchen posted couple of years ago, I sat down to put another post on the tools and gadgets that I am obsessed with. When I began jotting down this post, I had no clue where to start from. There was so much to put down here that I wondered if I could do all on this post. Here is a humble attempt to share the most of what I thought was essential. This is not an endorsement for a product or brand, but I believe this will give you an insight of what I use in my kitchen and where I bought them from, with a sincere attempt to help all.
Baking Pans: Baking pans are available in various sizes, shapes, heights and makes. Sizes can vary from 3 inches and go up to 9 inches for home use. The pan to be used will depend on the quantity of cake batter you have. For most cakes, the batter should not exceed 3/4th the height of the cake pan, allowing sufficient space for cake rise.
Silicon make, non-stick or aluminium tins are most commonly available in Indian markets today. I commonly use either non-stick or aluminium tins for my bakes. While my aluminium tins require proper greasing and dusting of flour to prevent the bakes from sticking to the pan, the silicons and non-stick ones can be used directly. If you do not have an oven and are using microwave method, use silicon moulds. Most silicon moulds work well in microwave mode, however I suggest you check with your manufacturer.
Ovenproof Glass Bowls: I picked mine from couple of places and these are readily available in most supermarkets in Bangalore these days. Supermarkets like Hypercity Mall, Spar, Total Mall, Hometown, @Home, Jamaals, etc. in Bangalore sell good ovenproof glass bowls, pans in various sizes and heights. You have round, square and oval ones to choose from. I use glass bakeware extensively for baking savory goods. They are great for pastas, lasagnas and au gratins, where you can bake and present in the same dish. These are perfect for puddings, pies and cakes too, the ones that do not require to be transferred to another dish. Ovenproof Glassware generally require longer baking time, hence baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly.
Disposable Aluminum Pans: These are easily available in most Bangalore supermarkets. Infact I have seen many small vendor shops selling them too. So fetching them shouldn't be an issue. They come with aluminium foil base and cardboard paper cover. They are commonly used to pack n' parcel food and help in easy take-along while traveling. Bake your goodies and take them along your travel in the same casing. Mess free and easy peasy! And if you are not a regular baker and do not see the need to invest in bakewares these are cheaper, clutter-free options. I have baked brownies in them and taken them to parties and picnics with much ease.
Springform Pan: A springform tin has a bottom that is separable from the side. A clamp holds the pan together and opens to allow the side to easily be pulled away from the baked dessert. When I first ventured to baking, I almost considered this pan was a must for making cheesecakes and other desserts that are tricky to remove from their pans. Yeah it does help, but buy one if you really intend to bake such complex desserts. They aren't good for baking regular cakes otherwise as the batter may seep out from the pan base edges.
I love my springform pan from a brand called Prestige that I got from Bahrain. It's is a heavy gauze metallic one and extremely sturdy against any wear and tear. Another one I own is from a brand called Nordicware that I got from US, though its delicate and have never really used. Honestly, I craved for my springform pan when I did not own one. However since the past 2 years, I have barely used them apart from baking in them for Christmas. Do you really think you will bake a cheesecake that often???
Loose base Tin: A fabulous replacement for springform pans in Indian markets. I picked mine from Nilgiris supermarket in Mangalore. Grab one if you manage to get your hands on them. Most springform pans in India are imported and expensive. Loose base tin does the same job well. Ofcourse if you have a runny batter, I recommend you against using it.
Tart Pan: Tart pans come with shallow depth and fluted edges. They come in many different sizes and the ones with removable bottom makes it easy to neatly transfer a tart to a serving plate. The ones with deeper depth are used for quiche and shallower pans are used for delicate dessert tarts. Honestly, I am not a tart person and for the one that I own, I have never used it till date, except to bake this Apple Raisin cake once. I love its fluted edges though!
Pie Tins/Pans: Generally, pies are baked in a relatively deep pan with sloped sides that can hold a large amount of filling. Pie plates come in varieties, ranging from ovenproof glass, ceramic, heavy foil, aluminum, stainless steel and nonstick. I use a Tramontina brand pan that I bought from Jamaals, Forum Value Mall, Whitefield. I also bought a couple of mini pie pans that I bought randomly at some sale shops.
Muffin Pans & cases: Available in 24-, 12-and 6-cup pans, the standard muffin cup holds a scant 1/2 cup batter. Muffin pans are available in various sizes and come in capacities holding about 1/2 cup to 2 tablespoons batter.
I bake muffins and cupcakes quite a lot and hence these pans are definitely one of my most used items in my bakeware list. Muffin pans are very easily available in Bangalore, especially in most malls and supermarkets. I use a silicon mould with 6-cup pan, but you can go for aluminium, silicon or individual moulds. I often love using my jelly moulds to bake my muffins. I get my muffin pan and cupcake papers from Jamaals. I am not biased towards Jamaals here, but then I do buy a lot from them since they sell quality stuffs, hence recommend them for your purchase too.
Loaf Pan: Aluminum loaf pans can turn out tender cakes, while dark, nonstick or glass pans will produce a crunchy-chewy crust. Mine is a legacy aluminium loaf tin I borrowed from my mother and I love it. Apart from that I have a smaller sized loaf tin, again in aluminium for smaller bakes. Either ways, I use them a lot.
Bundt/Tube Pan: Also known as an angel food cake pan, this deep pan has a hollow tube in the center that promotes even baking. Mine is a standard aluminium bundt pan. Demoulding a bundt pan can get quite tricky, especially if you are impatient with it. Be sure you grease your pan really well and dust liberally with flour before baking. If you want to avoid this hassle of demoulding with butterflies in your stomach, opt for a non stick bakeware.
Ramekin: Ramekins are usually made of porcelain or earthenware and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes - either baked or chilled. I use ramekins from Clay Craft brand that I bought for a reasonable price of Rs. 70 per piece. It works like a charm in making individual 2 min cakes, warming butter in microwave or baking creme caramel.
Aluminum Sheets: Aluminium baking sheets are great for barbecues and grills as they are good heat conductors and will produce evenly baked and browned goods. I use them often to line my oven and keep it clean. They are great for packing food, especially parathas, tortillas and rotis.
Parchment Paper: These sheets are great substitutes for non-stick pans and are used as disposable non-stick surface. It eliminates the need to grease and re-grease pans for repetitive batches of baking like cookies or cakes. Do not confuse this to the wax paper, also commonly called as the butter paper that's commonly used in crafts and tracing. Wax papers are not great for baking as they can cause smoke in oven. I have personally tried this and can vouch for that! However you are good to use them in microwave cooking since the paper is mostly unaffected by microwaves, hence safe.
Electric Stand Mixer: I get several requests from my readers on this one. Understandably, stand mixers are not so common in India and not of great help in our traditional Indian cooking. Often I am asked if it's worth that investment. I can vouch that it's not an essential for a home baker, especially if you have a hand blender at hand and you are not a professional baker. Yet, my Hamilton Beach Stand Mixer has been a fabulous companion in most of my bakes. It helps me whip up cream, make homemade marshmallows and knead my bread dough effortlessly. It's stand mixer with detachable blender option makes it space effective and an investment worth the dollars spent. I bought mine from the US. You can get one locally too, however, I am not sure how well they perform.
Kitchen Blender: I swear by my Hamilton Beach blender for most of my bakes. I pull it out for almost every cake, bake, whip or dessert I make. It's handy and makes my job easy. I certainly recommend this one.
Mixer Grinder: A must in my kitchen, especially in Indian cooking. Prior to owning a blender/stand mixer, I've used my Morphy Richard mixer grinder to whip creams too. That apart, it does an excellent job in mincing and grinding both wet and dry ingredients. I use it to grind the toughest of ingredients including cinnamon bark and nutmeg effortlessly. My life wouldn't be the same without my favorite mixer grinder. That's how much I adore it.
Tortilla Maker: I bought my Jaipan Roti/Tortilla Maker a few years ago when I was staying alone. It did help me avoid the hassles of rolling the dough thin or the need of separate tava to roast them. But I admit, nothing beats the art of making rotis the traditional way. Yet, if you are the one who avoids making rotis and tortillas because you hate rolling them thin and round, then this one will help you for sure. They make excellent papads and khakras .
Miscellaneous and et al.
Pastry Brush: I have spent minutes wasted over brushing glaze on bakes with spoon, fork, blunt knife, fingers and what not! My thumbs up for this one. Certainly helpful to brush milk, butter and egg whites on baked goodies.
Pastry Wheel: This rolling-bladed tool works well to cut pizzas, pies, pastry sheets. Not a must, but will be of great help! I use them in cutting shankarpalis.
Citrus Zester: If you are a lot into zesty bakes with citrus fruits, then this one is a must have. The zester peels away only the zest part of the fruit avoiding the bitter pith portion. Add the zest in your bakes and you'll totally love it's refreshing citrus punch.
Cookie Cutter: If a fancy shape is not what you crave, go ahead and use the rear of a glass bottle cap or the rim of a small steel glass. Cookie cutters are available in aluminum and plastic in various shapes, sizes and designs.
Rolling Pin: You would never find an Indian kitchen sans a rolling pin! Though this kitchen tool is used mainly to roll out dough, it's also handy for a number of other culinary tasks including crushing ice, crackers, flattening bread and shaping cookies. Rolling pins can be made of almost any material including brass, ceramic, copper, glass, marble, plastic and porcelain. The favored material, however, is good quality hardwood. The heavier pins deliver the best results because their weight and balance produce smoother doughs with less effort.
Grater: I own a couple of them and am huge fan of good graters. I have from micro to mini to noodle sized ones and use them extensively for cheese, chocolate shavings, ginger, nutmeg, coconut flesh, vegetable noodles, and butter. A must have in my kitchen.
Whisk: Whisks have been one of the most essential tools I use for whipping ingredients such as eggs and cream to incorporate air into them. The more wires a whisk contains, the more effectively it will incorporate air into a mixture.
Wooden Spoons: These are essential for my non-stick pans. Apart from this it's easier to mix batter because it does not cut into the batter, but rather, stirs or mixes it. I keep a variety of wooden spoons specifically for my baking projects. Always wash and dry wooden spoons after use. Allow them to air dry to avoid molds on them.
Measuring Cup and Spoons: are indispensable tools for the accurate measurement of dry and liquid ingredients. I highly recommend a good set of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons that will last long and are safe for prolonged use. Plastics ones are cheaper good alternatives if you are a beginner at baking.
Skimmer/Strainer: I spent several years not owning a strainer assuming that I would barely use it as I disliked sweating over pot of hot oil and frying batches of fried food. I sincerely wish I hadn't waited so long. Having a good strainer at hands eases out all your frying frills. It drains away excess oil and saves your energy from flimsy frying. Additionally, its a great skimmer for soups and stocks. It not just drains away water, but acts as a ladle for noodles and pasta. Occasionally, I use mine to drain away excess water from washed greens too.
The above list is quite extensive and I have jotted down common items I use regularly in my kitchen for baking purpose. I have probably not covered some basics like kitchen scales, rice cooker, pressure cooker (my lifeline), sandwich maker, steamer, chopper, knives, microwave, OTG and their brands I use, because I assume the list can go on and on and this holds true for most homes where you accumulate a lot over years. My gadgets and tools are not limited to the above, though this can sound quite an exhaustive list in itself. Over years I have collated enough and more than I desired to and it would put me to shame if I put them all here in a single post. Some of these have been my most trusted, beloved tools - a wise purchase, while some were just impulsive purchases. I do hope this serves as a guide for you and not a rule book in any sense. What works best for me may not work for you and vice versa. So, happy owning and happy baking!