Almond extract adds a wonderfully realistic almond flavor to all sorts of desserts. My favorite almond flavoring isn't an extract at all--it's called a "bakery emulsion." Unlike an extract, it's not alcohol-based, and the almond flavor is less likely to evaporate during the baking process. It's a strong flavor, so you need just a small amount to get a robust almond taste!
Sure, you could make your own almond meal, but who has time to blanch almonds, dry them, then process them? Plus, even when you make your own, it probably won't be as finely textured as the kind you can buy. I like to save myself some time and effort and buy my almond meal by the bag. I use it in all sorts of baking recipes, from bread, to muffins, to cookies--even granola!
Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips are a great way to add peppermint flavor to any baked good! I love them in brownies, cookies, cakes, and much more! They have just enough mint flavor to make things festive and refreshing, without being overwhelming. They also add a wonderful crunchy texture.
Black gel food coloring is a MUST in my kitchen! It is so hard to achieve a true black color without adding a gallon of food coloring--and even then, you often end up with a dull gray instead. This Americolor gel is the best I've found--it's very intense, and will produce a deep black without the need to add a ton of additional coloring.Pro tip: whenever possible, when trying to achieve a black color, I like to start with chocolate desserts. It's much easier to get to black when starting from brown, versus starting from white! So if chocolate frosting or chocolate cake works with the dessert you have in mind, I suggest starting with chocolate and adding black food coloring to that. You'll thank me for it!
A 3 quart saucepan is the perfect size for many kitchen tasks, like making pastry cream and curds, boiling water to melt chocolate, and frying small batches of doughnuts. This model is a great value for the money: it has even heat distribution, a fairly heavy bottom, and is even dishwasher safe!
This is my go-to cake pan! Ever since discovering the magic of removable bottom cake pans, I use them almost exclusively. I line the bottom with a parchment circle, spray with nonstick cooking spray, and cakes slide out with ease. If you've ever struggled with cakes breaking or tearing when you take them out of the pan, you need to try one with a removable bottom. It's also great for molding delicate desserts like mousse cakes.
Springform pans are a must if you want to make cheesecake, but they're good for so much more than that! The removable sides make them a great tool for molding delicate desserts, ice cream cakes, mousses, and many other desserts. This model is affordable but high-quality and sturdy.
Where would I be without my 9x13 baking pan? Truth be told, I actually have about 6 of them, in various conditions. Nothing is better for baking a family-sized batch of brownies or a sheet cake! These particular pans are amazing--they bake super evenly, have a great nonstick surface, and I looooove the square corners you can achieve with them.
The 9x9 baking pan is one of the most versatile pans I own! I use it all the time for making fudges and caramels, and it's also great for making smaller batches of brownies and bars. I like this version because the corners are actually square--so many pans have the rounded edges that gnaw at my perfectionist soul! It's also just a solid pan that bakes evenly and handles regular abuse like a champ.
These are my favorite baking sheets. They're sturdy and won't easily warp or bend at high heat. They're a large size, so they can hold lots of cookies, and they have a high lip so they can be used for baking thin cakes as well. These sheets + parchment paper gives me great baking results every time!
The #2 piping tip is a workhorse! This small round tip is very versatile, and as a result, it's one of my favorites. It's great for doing detailed line work like vines, makes beautiful petite buttercream dots, and is excellent for piping words. I also use it to outline cookies before flooding them with royal icing. I make sure to keep a number of these tips on hand, because I'm always reaching for them!
This 2D piping tip is a classic closed star tip. It's great for decorating cakes and cupcakes with rosettes, and is especially good at making flower petals and drop flower shapes. It's medium-sized, so it's not great for making big bakery swirls on top of cupcakes, but for mini cupcakes or cake decorating, it's a necessity!
Maybe this makes me old-fashioned, but in most situations, I prefer plastic-coated piping bags to disposable ones. I have a sizable stash of Ateco piping bags I've had for years, and they're still in great shape! As long as you make sure to wash and dry them well, you'll get years of great use from them--it's much more economical than buying lots of disposable bags, plus I just prefer the feeling of the softer bags over the crinkly plastic disposable ones.
I often like to make my own homemade fondant, but there are 2 colors I always prefer to buy, whenever possible: black and red. It is really hard to get a true black (or a true red) when making your own fondant at home, and you end up having to use so much food coloring, the taste and texture are both negatively impacted. So I'm a big believer in buying black fondant, both for flavor and simplicity reasons!
Brown petal dust is a matte decorating dust used in cake decorating. It's helpful for making realistic flowers and plants, and anything else that needs a brown color but no sparkle (like you would get from a luster dust). It's flavorless, so you can safely brush this dust on your creations and enjoy!
This 3D skull candy mold is what you need to make realistic candy skulls for Halloween! Use it with chocolate or candy coating make mini edible skulls. You can make solid chocolates, hollow chocolates, or fill them with caramel, ganache, or marshmallow fluff!
Have you ever said to yourself, "Self, I'd like to make a ball out of chocolate...but how?" Well, wonder no more, my friend! All you need is a ball chocolate mold! This affordable plastic mold can be used to mold chocolate hemispheres. Make two of those, stick them together with some melted chocolate, and baby, you've got yourself a chocolate ball! I actually recommend using this to make my famous Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut Mousse Cakes, but that's just a start--get creative and see what other round desserts you can make!
Black Candy Melts are an easy way to make black candies at home. Black can be a very hard color to achieve with food coloring, so whenever possible I always recommend buying black candy coating or black fondant--it's just much easier to get a true black without having to add a gallon of coloring! These wafers melt easily, have a pleasant taste, and are great for dipping and molding.
This candy bar mold will produce thin candy bars about the size of a Hershey's chocolate bar. It's inexpensive, so it's perfect for the beginning candy-maker, but with proper care and storage can last for year. Each bar holds approximately 2-3 ounces of chocolate, so they're substantial but not too much for a single serving.
Candy coloring, food coloring, what's the difference? Well, if you're making colored chocolates, there's a BIG difference! Traditional food coloring is water-based, so if you add it to chocolate, it can cause the chocolate to seize up and become a grainy mess. Candy coloring, on the other hand, is oil-based, so it can flavor chocolate with ease. Try it the next time you want to transform your truffles!
This is a small, self-produced cookbook from my former home, Pasadena. It is so charming, and packed with interesting cookie recipes! The Bungalow Heaven neighborhood association has a home tour every year, and during that tour they sell cookies. From their yearly cookie sales some of the residents compiled this collection of customer favorites. The concept is simple, but the cookies are so much better than the standard chocolate chip and oatmeal you might be imagining! I love the honey-walnut bars, and the apricot-blackberry-cheddar foldovers are like nothing I've ever tasted before. Some of the recipes and ingredients are adventuous, using Chinese five spice, curry, anise, and baker's ammonia--in other words, these aren't your grandma's bake sale cookies!
Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the writers of Baked and owners of a bakery of the same name, are building a Baked empire. They now have 4 cookbooks out under the Baked name, but this one, the first, is still my favorite. It's full of classic comfort desserts with a modern spin (and a fun woodland photography vibe). The chocolate chip Tollhouse pie is a classic, and I live for their root beer bundt cake!
This is the book that made me fall in love with Dorie Greenspan! I've literally made almost every single one in here--I'm probably only missing 6 or 7 of the hundreds of recipes. This is the book I would recommend for anyone searching for a baking primer. Dorie covers tons of ground and has a chapter for basically any type of dessert you want to make, from muffins to pies to ice creams. She does a great job of providing basic recipes and introducing classic techniques, but she also has more creative and original twists on old favorites. I've given this as a gift countless times, and cannot recommend it enough.
If I had to recommend just one candy book to everyone, it would be Peter Greweling's Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. (Yes, I would recommend this over my own book!) Greweling's book is just so comprehensive, and really delves into the how's and why's of candy-making. He provides in-depth scientific background for many important candy concepts, as well as hundreds of step-by-step pictures of various techniques. If you really want to understand the fundamentals behind many candy techniques, this is the book for you!
Sherry Yard is a pastry genius, and this is my favorite cookbook of hers! In between chapters she traces her culinary career and tells stories from the fabulous places she's worked (including a bit of name dropping!). She's creative and talented and her recipes always just work. Don't miss her Creamy Caramel Sauce, 10-Year Chocolate Sauce, or White Chocolate Buttermilk cake!
I love this book for its focus on clean, classic flavors. Alice Medrich concentrates on some of baking's most popular flavors: milk, honey, vanilla, chocolate, etc. She strips her recipes of any unnecessary flourishes, and every single one packs bold flavor. I love both the brownies and lemon bars from this book, and have about a dozen more bookmarked to try!
If you've been wanting to explore the world of natural sugars, this is the dessert book for you! Shauna Sever demystifies all of the different options (turbinado! maple syrup! agave!) and explains what sweetener works best for what purpose. The writing is charming, the recipes are creative and delicious, and the pictures are drool-worthy. I'm pretty loyal to my refined sugar but Shauna's book convinced me to branch out!
SprinkleBakes is one of the rare blog-to-book deals that totally works. Author Heather Baird brings her artist's vision to dessert making, and this cookbook explores baking through the lens of art. I appreciate the fresh take on recipe creation and decorating, and I love all of her creative ideas! It's also packed with step-by-step photos, which is hugely helpful for lots of the recipes.
I never knew I hated my mixer's old blade...until I tried a Beater Blade. This clever tool has silicone edges that scrape the sides of the bowl while you mix, eliminated the need for stopping and scraping down the bowl continuously. It saves lots of time (and sanity!) and is a necessity for anyone who uses their KitchenAid mixer frequently.
True confession: I've never used this for grinding coffee. But I DO use it for grinding spices all the time! It's more powerful than the miniature spice grinders you can buy, and it does a wonderful job of pulverizing spices like cardamom, allspice, cloves, broken cinnamon sticks, lavender etc.
This is, by far, my favorite bowl to use with my KitchenAid mixer. Not only is it beautiful, but I love being able to see what's happening inside the bowl and make sure that everything is mixing properly. The lid is extra-handy, so this bowl can go from the mixer straight into the fridge!
If a stand mixer isn't in your budget (or your kitchen space!), then a hand mixer is the way to go. Or maybe you have a big mixer, but are looking for a more portable and space-friendly option. Say hello to your new best friend! This diminutive tool does it all, and does it well. Use it to whip up cake batters, frostings, meringues, and all sorts of other delicious goodies.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for this awesome ice cream maker! I've used cheaper ones in the past, and I've used very expensive ones in restaurants, and I happen to think that this Cuisinart hits the sweet spot between value for money and quality. It's reliable, holds a large batch of ice cream, and churns like a dream.
This is the creme de la creme of kitchen torches! The flame burns ultra-hot, it has a wide base so it's sturdy if you set it down while it's on, and (if we're being honest) it looks super cool. A kitchen torch is the perfect tool for making creme brulee, torching meringue on cakes and pies, and even quick-roasting berries and stone fruit!
A food processor is another one of my must-have kitchen tools. It makes short work of chopping veggies, blending hummus, whipping up banana soft-serve, and so much more! I love the different attachments that make slicing and grating a breeze, and I often use it to chop large batches of nuts for my baking recipes.
I love KitchenAid mixers so much, I actually have two of them in my kitchen! They're total beasts, sturdy workhorses that can be counted on to last for years and to handle almost any job you throw at them. I like using mine with a glass mixing bowl and Beater Blade. They come in a million different colors, and have tons of attachments available, including an ice cream maker, pasta maker, meat grinder, and more! The 5-quart size can handle big batches of cookie dough or bread dough without breaking a sweat. This is my #1 recommended kitchen appliance!