A good mixer is a key element to any kitchen. Especially if you plan do to any type of baking. Sure hand mixers are old school and easy to store but really, what a pain?! Perhaps my first memory of baking is with my mother in the house we grew up in. I can distinctly remember mixing chocolate chip cookies in our old, white, KitchenAid mixer. My favorite part was adding the brown sugar because I loved how it held the shape of the measuring cup before disintegrating into the liquid of the eggs. Not to mention that the dough after this addition was always my favorite. No flour, no chips, just sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla. How could it not be good?
The point is, that a good standing mixer is something that makes life much easier and is ripe for memory creation. I am a bit partial to KitchenAid when it comes to domestic use because I think they are top quality, come in fun colors, and I have a personal relationship with them dating back to my youth! My boyfriend gave me my own first KitchenAid the first Christmas we spent together. It was a huge hit.
Something to be aware of is that the style that locks up and down is useful but takes up a lot more height space than the original version, so keep that in mind if you plan on storing it under something else. Other than that go buck wild! There are so many colors and designs, accessories and add-ons these days its hard not to have fun with it even before you get to the actual baking!
2. Nonstick pan
My lovely sister reminded me of this necessity. A decent nonstick pan is a must have if you ever plan on making eggs, specifically eggs over easy which is the only way I think eggs ever should be made. God made the yolk that yummy for a reason people! But nothing is more tragic then when you go to flip your delicious morning ovum, it sticks to the pan, and crack, your yolk and your dreams are broken! How am I supposed to start my day off right when something that catastrophic occurs straight out of the gate? While one solution is frying your eggs in buckets of bacon grease, this isn't exactly something that my heart is too excited about. So while it may be delicious a healthier alternative is investing in a decent nonstick pan. These come in handy for many other things as well but just remember, invest in a good quality rubber spatula. The only worse than a broken yolk is a scratched up nonstick pan.
3. Bench Knife
The first day on the job at the Denver Bread Company, my boss introduced me to the bench knife. "Always have one of these by your side," he told me, "this will become more important than your own hands. In fact, it will become an extension of your own hand so make sure you always have one at the ready." This was completely true. Bench knives are essential when dealing with bread dough but they are darn handy when it comes to other things as well. They're a great way to scrape anything off of your cutting board including chopped veggies, herbs, dough, flour, you name it. Before I clean off my butcher block at home I always give it a good scrape with my bench knife to accelerate the process. And I'm sure you'll find numerous of your own uses as well.
4. Dough Scraper
A dough scraper is a must have in the pastry world. Like a gigantic spatula, a dough scraper is much more efficient at scooping out goodies from the bottom of the bowl. This goes beyond just dough to frostings, ice creams, ganache, caramel, anything particularly sticky. So if you like to make sure you get every last single solitary drop, a dough scraper is something I recommend you have in your arsenal.
I should have known that something was wrong with Pain de Sucre when there was no music playing. I have never before worked in a kitchen where music wasn't always on. It's one of the joys of not working in an office! (Well that and the open swearing). Music and food are intertwined if you ask me. They're both expressions of the soul that one shares with another. And I find that I work better and the food tastes better if I have some good tunes on. My personal cooking favorites are Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, and other classics, but really whatever gets you in a positive mood and makes you move is something that will help you not only enjoy being in the kitchen but also to make quality dishes.
Scissors are awesome outside of the kitchen and so I'm sure you all have at least one pair in your house. But I highly recommend that you go to your nearest office supply store and stock up on at least one other pair for your kitchen. Scissors can have many different helpful uses in the kitchen. They're great for cutting off the tip of a pastry bag and I use them all the time for cutting up my herbs. And let's not ignore the fact that most kitchen tools come packed so tightly in hard plastic that without a pair you may go insane trying to claw your way into whatever is trapped inside.
7. Large Mixing Bowl
So while a large mixing bowl comes standard with a KitchenAid mixer, I also recommend a large more shallow bowl for hand mixing. Anytime I have a dinner party it seems as if I can't have enough large mixing bowls. Good for marinading, breading, mixing sauces, whipping eggs or batter a mixing bowl is something you should have at least one (well maybe two) of. Plus if you find one that is attractive it can double as a serving dish on your table. I always love a two-fer.
Come on people, if you have a kitchen and you don't have a whisk something has gone horribly awry. Whisks aren't just for baking! I use mine constantly for sauces and gravies. Sure I've had to make do once or twice with two spoons but it just wasn't the same. And besides, I think they are the coolest looking tool in the kitchen. I recommend at least two, one large and one small. And I wouldn't go for the trendy silicone ones, I've found them to be quite disappointing. The good, old fashioned style works the best from what I've seen. There's a reason it has been the same for years.
9. Good Quality Brush
Whether your brushing a turkey with butter and wine, ribs with BBQ sauce, or pie crust with egg wash, a nice brush is a must have. Nothing bothers me more than a brush that sheds while brushing. I may as well use the hair from my head! For some reason it grosses me out beyond belief while simultaneously annoying me because I have to waste seconds trying to gently pick out the hair from my well decorated crust. In an attempt to avoid this I invested in a silicone brush but, again, I found that it just wasn't the same. While it may be good for some things it just doesn't do quite the job that a hair brush will do. It doesn't hold onto the sauce or wash as well and is much too rough on delicate pastries or doughs.
10. Sense of humor
Things go wrong in the kitchen. For me they seem to go wrong all the time, and while I still struggle with just letting them go, I've found that the best thing to do is have a sense of humor about it. Just as I remember making chocolate chip cookies with my mom I can remember laughing in the kitchen over something that ended disastrously. I once fell asleep while waiting for a pie. This taught me two things. 1) Don't start making a pie at 1am in the morning and 2) Pie's really shouldn't be baked for 2 hours. While I was lucky that I didn't burn the house down, I also chuckled as I ate my pear pie that now seemed to be filled with a mushy pear sauce instead of delicate, tender slices of delicious fruit. Perhaps my favorite kitchen calamity is when my parents were throwing their annual Christmas party and because they had just invested in a new, fancy oven, the prime rib sat, still cold, for hours until someone realized that the oven had never been turned on. This resulted in some microwaving and late night eating but all the same it wasn't the end of the world and it's a story my mother still tells twenty years later.
After my horrific experience at Pain de Sucre I know that having a sense of humor is a good thing in every experience. Life is here for us to enjoy it and when things go wrong it's best to find the laughter in the moment. This is especially true in the kitchen because while I take my cooking very seriously, at the same time nothing is more funny or pathetic than a burnt chicken. Laugh at the chicken, laugh at yourself, and order some pizza. In the long run no one will be upset that the chicken got flambeed. They'll just enjoy the giggles and time you spend together.