are helpful, and others are worse than useless, but in the end all you really need are a few simple things to start baking. Here is exactly what you need to bake a cake, cookies, or a loaf of quick bread from scratch. This is the prep list; we'll cover pans and other accessories throughout the week. First up, measuring spoons...
1. Measuring spoons - Measuring spoons are for the small quantities: cinnamon, baking powder, salt. We prefer stainless steel spoons. They hold up longer. Look for spoons with clear markings; you don't want to spend a minute or two puzzling over whether this is a teaspoon or 1/2 teaspoon. These RSVP Spice Measuring Spoons ($10.95, Amazon) have the advantage of narrow bowls so they can easily fit into small spice bottles.
2. Dry ingredient measuring cups - Dry ingredients should be measured using standard-sized cups. They usually come in 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 cup sizes. Look for measuring cups that have long handles and wide, shallow bodies that can be easily dipped into deep flour and sugar sacks and canisters. These All-Clad measuring cups are expensive ($49.95, Cooks.com) but are sure to be heavy-duty and long-lasting. Also check out this Miu Stainless Steel Set ($25.99, Amazon).
3. Liquid measuring cup - Liquid measuring cups are calibrated for liquids as opposed to dry ingredients, and for accurate measuring it's important to use a separate cup for liquids. This Pyrex 1-Quart Glass Measuring Cup ($4.99, Amazon) is a kitchen classic. Glass is better than plastic, we feel, since it stays clearer and doesn't scratch. This 1-quart size is also just right.
4. Three bowls - You need two or three mixing bowls: One very large one for big batches of cookies and general mixing, and a slightly smaller one for mixing dry ingredients when a recipe calls for mixing dry and wet separately. A smaller bowl is also handy for beating eggs, although a soup bowl will also do. We like deep metal bowls and we really wish we had this set with lids: Revere 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set with Covers ($13.99, Amazon).
5. Spoon and fork - You need something to mix doughs and batters, and to beat eggs. While a whisk is ideal, a fork works just fine for beating eggs and thin batters. For spoons, a variety of long-handled (for leverage) wooden spoons are terrific. We find some of the bigger silicone-handled mixing spoons too unwieldy. Soup spoons are a little small for mixing dough, but they can also do in a pinch. This Wooden Spoon Set is $2.32 at Amazon. What are your baking prep essentials?