I think everyone will agree when I make the supposition that we’ve all dreamed of one thing or another for our future–the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect house, or even the perfect car. It’s an ideal we build and hope one day to have. In my case, I dream of my perfect kitchen.
It all boils down to how I feel about food and baking. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the idea of creating and savoring food. All kinds of food. And as I got older it turned into a real passion. And this passion drives me to mix, knead, whip and bake up storms in the kitchen. Sometimes it may turn out to be a complete failure. But during those times that I do make it right, there is nothing that can compare to the satisfaction I feel.
So what exactly does it take to get it right? Honestly, I am not an expert, nor will I pretend that what I will write down here is expert opinion, but I will share what I believe are my keys to baking or cooking.
The four things everyone needs in my opinion are inspiration, skill and knowledge, the best ingredients, and the right tools. Inspiration is the first one because I think a big part of success in the kitchen depends on how I feel at that exact moment, which can affect the ideas I come up with. It manifests as an ability to imagine how flavors will interact despite the fact that I have never used two ingredients together before. Unfortunately, inspiration may not come easily to all of us. So when it does come knocking at your door, take the time to apply yourself in the kitchen.
Skill and knowledge are indispensable in the kitchen. One cannot build a house without laying down the foundation. So my tip is to invest in a handy quick reference guide to baking. Learn the basic techniques. Get tips and ideas from experienced bakers and cooks. Invest in cookbooks that not only give you the steps, but teach you how to execute them. The bottom line is to never stop learning and practicing.
Third is to always use the best ingredients. Or at least the correct ones. Especially in baking where structure and texture is key, using the ingredients as specified helps us achieve the desired pastry quality. Understand the effects of substitution before using ingredients. And if you are baking for family & friends, it doesn’t pay to short-change them.
Finally, it is of utmost importance that you have the right tools. The same way that you wouldn’t use a knife to cut a piece of wood, the right tool must be used for the right job in the kitchen. Here are some things you might want to consider in terms of kitchen tools and gadgets:
- In terms of quality of even heating, convection oven > gas-fired oven >> electric oven
- A stand mixer frees both hands to handle ingredients, a hand mixer doesn’t
- Non-stick coating on bakeware affects cooking time, and so does material (e.g. glass vs. light aluminum pans)
- Some tools need not be motorized (e.g. reamer vs. an electric juicer)
- Use a graduated measuring cup for liquids and fixed volume measuring cups for dry ingredients
- Nothing beats a good set of graters
- Pie lovers should have a rolling pin in the kitchen drawer
Those are just some considerations for kitchen tools. Depending on the complexity of the pastry, additional gadgets may be added. That’s why over the years I’ve collected boxes of gadgets and equipment. And one day I will organize all of them in my own kitchen.
Every time I feel the inspiration to cook, or see the latest cookbook by my favorite authors, or see a bunch of plump berries, or even when I browse over an online kitchen gear catalog, I am reminded of my love of baking. It comes as no surprise that whenever I’m imagining what my own place would be like that my thoughts mostly linger on how my kitchen will be like. And there are just so many things to decide on–which type of oven I need, how large the counter area needs to be to accommodate kneading dough, where I should place my mixer for easy access, how I will organize my pantry… The list could get exhaustive. I simply want it to be warm and inviting, inspiring and encouraging. I want it to be a place where I can just forget the worries of the day and create something beautiful.
But since I don’t have my own place yet, I’m focusing on collecting gadgets for now. And last weekend I finally managed to spring for the ultimate kitchen tool. I am now the proud owner of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Yay!
I can’t even begin to express how happy and excited I am about it. So cheers to (hopefully) decades of faithful service from this new addition to my dream kitchen, and cheers for all the kitchen dreamers out there! 🙂