GEAR - Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours - Alanna Taylor-Tobin

Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours - Alanna Taylor-Tobin (2016)


I try to minimize the amount of equipment I cram into our tiny kitchen, but here are some tools and equipment that I don’t like to be without. Having them on hand will make baking exponentially more fun and functional.


These big mixers usually come with three different attachments: paddle, for beating buttery batters; whip, for fluffing up egg whites and whipping cream; and hook, for kneading bread (not used in this book). I bought my KitchenAid mixer used from a friend who was upgrading hers, and I use it often when I want to get a batter started and keep my hands free, whip up cream without breaking a sweat or churn ice cream in the ice cream making attachment. I’ve given alternate instructions for recipes that can be made in different ways.


At the very least, have in your kitchen two rimmed baking sheets. Called “half-sheet pans” in commercial kitchens, these measure 12 by 17 inches (30 by 43 cm) and are the ones I reach for most often. Having a pan half that size (called a quarter-sheet pan) often comes in handy for toasting smaller amounts of nuts and the like. And if you have a couple of rimless cookie sheets, these are handy for (obviously) baking cookies because, if you line your pans with parchment, you can grab the whole thing and slide it onto a cooling rack to quickly stop the cookies from overbaking. Do stay away from dark pans in favor of good ol’ stainless steel; dark pans can promote excessive browning and result in burnt cookie bottoms.


I have a few different whisks that come in handy for different things, but one will do in a pinch.

A small, skinny whisk is great for getting into the corners of pots when making curds or grits. A medium whisk works well for stirring batters. And a larger balloon whisk is a good thing to have if you like to whip cream or egg whites by hand.


Since my oven is nearly as ancient as some of the grains in this book, I never bake without an oven thermometer (or two) firmly in place. These can be inaccurate, but they’re better than nothing. Replace every six months for the most accuracy. An instant-read thermometer is nice to have for checking that custards and curds have reached the proper temperature to kill any nasty germs.


There are two types of measuring cups: wet (glass or plastic pitchers for measuring liquids) and dry (metal or plastic cups in ¼-cup [60-ml] increments for measuring flours, sugars and other dry ingredients). (See more on measuring here) Measuring spoons are for smaller measurements such as baking powder and salt. Not all measuring cups are created equal! Check your measures against each other (or better yet, against a kitchen scale) to see that everything matches up.


This can be a lifesaver for weighing things like fruit that are hard to get an accurate volumetric measure on. Baking by weight saves time and dishes because you can simply spoon all the ingredients right into the bowls rather than having to dirty a variety of measuring cups and spoons. Plus, baking by weight tends to yield more consistent results.


My number one favorite kitchen tool is my small, offset spatula. It has a skinny, metal spatula bit that sits lower than its handle, and it’s the perfect tool for just about everything—lifting bars out of pans, flipping crepes, spreading icing. A regular, thin metal spatula is another essential tool for cooking things in skillets, lifting oven pancakes out of pans and transferring cookies from baking sheets. A few flexible, silicone spatulas are essential for folding batters, scraping doughs out of bowls, and stirring stove-top custards. I have a couple of standard-sized ones, plus a smaller one for coaxing honey out of jars and that sort of thing.


Look for a standard 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan with a flat lip around the edge; this will give your crust something to rest on and hold it up as it bakes. All pies in this book were tested with glass pie pans; if you have a metal pan, that’s fine, just decrease the baking time, as metal conducts heat differently than glass does.


The two I use most often are a 9-inch (23-cm) pan with a removable bottom and a 10-inch (25-cm) ceramic pan that is perfect for baking clafoutis and cobblers. Smaller 4-inch (10-cm) pans with removable bottoms are nice for individual tarts, too.


Look for cake pans with 2-inch (5-cm) high sides made from sturdy metal and with straight sides. I prefer to stay away from nonstick coating when possible. Having the following will give you the most versatility:

✵ one 6-inch (15-cm) round pan (for making small cakes)

✵ two 8-inch (20-cm) round pans (for making the layer cakes in this book)

✵ one 9-inch (23-cm) round pan

✵ one 9-inch (23-cm) round springform pan (which has a bottom that detaches from the sides)

✵ one 8-inch (20-cm) square pan

✵ one 9-inch (20-cm) square pan

And a couple of specialty pans:

✵ one 8 by 4-inch (20 by 10-cm) loaf pan

✵ one 10-cup (2.4-L) Bundt pan


These are the perfect vessels for baking individual puddings, cheesecakes and crisps. Ball mason jars are quite affordable and can be found at hardware stores. Weck makes an assortment of cute canning jars, too. And ramekins can be found at kitchen supply stores.


Aside from having a sort of old-timey charm, these skillets conduct heat brilliantly and are just the thing for baking cornbread, oven pancakes and tarte tatins. The sizes I use most often are 8 and 10 inches (20 and 25 cm). To season a skillet, rub the inside with a teaspoon of oil (I use sunflower) and place the pan over medium heat until it’s very hot. Let cool. Acidic ingredients, soap and abrasive sponges can all strip away the seasoning, so take care to keep those things far away from your cast iron.


This is your friend for grinding nuts and making frangipane. I tend to use my stand mixer more often (and call for it in recipes), but a food processor can also help pulse cold butter into biscuit and scone doughs.


Ever grate citrus zest on a block grater and spend hours trying to scrape it out of those obnoxious little holes? Well now you’ll never have to again. Microplanes are ideal for zesting citrus and grating fresh ginger and nutmeg.


These come in a variety of sizes and make quick work of portioning out cookies, muffins and cupcakes.


I use my pastry blender, which has a handle attached to four curved metal blades, for working butter into pie, scone and biscuit doughs. It’s the perfect tool for the job, as it gives you more control over the final product without the heat from your fingertips, which causes the butter to soften prematurely. Stay away from the flimsy, wire types, which don’t work as well.


These may seem like a luxury, but for certain tasks, like working with GF pie dough, they’re essential. These come in both plastic and metal, and I recommend having one of each. The plastic ones have a bit of flex and are great when working with stiff doughs, like scones and biscuits. A metal scraper is your friend for scraping fraisaged pie dough off the counter, folding the dough and cleaning off a floury countertop in one fell swoop.


I have a slight addiction to parchment paper that comes from having worked in bakeries and restaurants most of my life. It makes life so much easier: fewer dishes to do, fewer pastries sticking to pans. Additionally, layering baked goods with parchment for storage helps keep them fresh, as the parchment absorbs excess moisture that leads to stale sweets. And it makes measuring things like freshly grated nutmeg or citrus zest a breeze because you can grate it onto a small piece of parchment, then use the parchment to slide the zest or spice into a measuring spoon. Look for natural, precut sheets of parchment paper. To line a pan with parchment, you can either do it the neat way (cutting the parchment to fit precisely) or the messy way (shoving the parchment in the pan, creasing the corners and trimming excess overhang). I’ve given the neat way as the instruction in most recipes, but if you can’t be bothered to measure and trim, most of the time it’s fine not to. To line a round pan with parchment, place the pan on a sheet of parchment, use a pencil to trace a circle around the pan, cut out with scissors and voilà.


This comes in handy for rolling out pie dough and biscuit dough for swirl biscuits. I prefer the tapered pin with no handles, but anything will do. (I even used a wine bottle once in a pinch!)


These are great for cutting parchment paper, trimming pie dough and opening up bags of flour so you don’t ruin your knives!


It definitely pays to splurge on a few good knives. I recommend:

✵ A large, sharp chef’s knife, for general chopping and cutting

✵ A large serrated knife, for sawing away at things like roulade cakes

✵ A small, sharp paring knife for cutting the hulls from strawberries or cutting into oven pancakes

✵ A small serrated knife for cutting delicate fruits


This is the perfect tool for peeling apples and pears or making chocolate shavings.


A medium-mesh strainer is the thing to use for sifting clumpy flours, rinsing berries and straining batters—more useful and user-friendly than a traditional sifter. A fine-mesh strainer works well for straining custards, such as ice cream bases.


These allow baked goods to cool, letting air circulate beneath them. I like to have at least one round rack and one large rectangular rack on hand.


A set of fluted biscuit cutters is just the thing for cutting out rounds of dough for fig bites, cutout pie lids and pandowdies. (But a small glass works in a pinch, too.)


You’ll be glad to have a small pastry brush on hand; nothing else quite does the trick for brushing the tops of scones or pastries or sweeping away excess flour when rolling out pie dough.


This specialty pan makes the pretty little cookies here. If you don’t have one, however, you can bake the batter as little cakes in a muffin pan instead.


These are you friends for making muffins, cupcakes and financiers. Small paper liners can also hold cheesecake bites or other bar cookies for serving.


This not only makes you look like a badass in the kitchen, but it also caramelizes figs for the tartlets.


Never have a soggy-bottomed pie again with one of these. It’ll give your pie bottom some extra oomph, keeping it nice and crisp. (Plus, you can use it to make the alternative flour pizza recipe on my blog.)


If you want to look fancy, pipe frosting for cakes or cupcakes from a bag fitted with a plain or star tip. If you don’t have one of these, a plastic baggie with the top cut off will work in a pinch.