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Baking newbie here looking for advice

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hello all. '

I have recently caught a sudden fascination with pastry, baking and bread making and want to SERIOUSLY pursue this.

I would LOVE the idea of just baking Fresh, GREAT tasting breads, cookies, cakes, pies, muffins and pastries for my family.

I am so enthralled by this beautiful art that I am thinking about going to culinary school so I can REALLY get good with this stuff.

Since I am new, I am looking for advice on what type of baking/ pastry equipment I should I buy...

I have a family of four-- a mom, dad, and little brother, and I am willing to shcuk out bucks for anything that is ESSENTIAL and GREAT-- key word is ESSENTIAL. 800$ is the highest I will go for a single appliance, unless convinced otherwise. And am seeking to bake on a whim, anything that sounds good -- so VARIETY is also another keyword

And also, folks. I am a fan of the more "traditional" ways of cooking. I tend to want to stay away from elecrtical appliances as far as needed and believe that the Old Tried and True ways our fore-fathers and fore-mothers before us usually tend to always impart a better quality, than the more convenient appliances made today for the increasingly lazy cookers -- so I am DEFINITELY going for QUALITY over CONVENIENCE here. But I do nderstand that for some things -- such as merengue or making stiff peaks in egg whites-- may require such appliances.

Please help...

Thank you.. It is all much appreciated.
post #2 of 13
The nicest thing you could do for yourself is a convection oven. But ... out of your price range.

A stand mixer is a very nice thing to have. There are five or six on the market, in your price range, which might or might not be appropriate for you. The choice depends on the quantities you bake, and how much bread dough you intend to knead by machine.

So... how much?

If you're really serious about machine kneading a lot of bread dough by machine, the best choice is probably the Elextrolux 8 qt. I hear the Bosch mixers are also pretty good. That said, you probably learn more about baking and certainly exercise a greater degree of control hand mixing and kneading. Up to two loaves a day, machine kneading won't save you much time.

If you don't expect to macine knead tons of bread dough, the "better" "heavy duty" stand mixers from Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, and DeLonghi are plenty mixer -- and somewhat more versatile with their attachments. Without a better idea of your plans, it's hard to handicap them for you intelligently.

Over a couple of decades, I've had two KA stand mixers. As far as I know, the first one (lost in a marriage split up) is still going strong. Right now I'm a little sour on them, since the newest (about 6 years old) broke for the second time this year.

Do you need a blender for baking? Probably not. If you do, don't cheap out. Get a Vita-Mix or something else you can grind grain in. Even if you just use it for daiquiris, you can't have too much blender.

Food processor? Cuisinart or Waring. You probably can live without it, but if you get one get a big one. Once you step into the world of small commercial processors, Warings are better than Cuisinarts. Don't bother with Robot Coupe -- not that they aren't good, they're just too much money.

I'd hold off on the big appliances for the time being -- at least until their absence makes itself known, and invest in quality small tools like baking pans, sheets, thermometers, molds, spoons, pastry cutter, a decent lame, spatulas, etc. Always choose good handles. Get things that fit your hand, and don't hurt you.

Depending on your kitchen, you might need a board and/or a slab. Get the biggest ones you can get to fit.

Bread and pastry making covers a huge amount of ground. Don't jump into the deep end of the equipment pool quickly. You'll know when the lack of something is making your life worse.

post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
AH! Thanks for this great post, my good man.

So a convection oven I should look into. Thank you so much, sir.

Would you suggest I go to culinary or baking school to get really knowledgeable about this stuff?
post #4 of 13
Look into, but don't buy. Take a class at a JC or see about getting a job as an apprentice at a bakery before hitching your wagon to that particular star by commiting to a rather large student loan.

Also, let me give you my non-credentials. I'm not a professional bread maker, nor a pastry chef or cook of any sort. I cooked for money a long time ago which included some catering, and that included a little general baking, and am a decent bread maker -- but that's not the same thing as actually having real expertise.

I should have been simpler with my advice.

Although a convection oven is a wonderful thing because it bakes quickly, evenly and with very consistent times -- anything other than a counter top model is well out of your price range; and counter top models are too small for regular home-size sheet pans. So, you lose the volume which is a big reason for the purchase.

A stand mixer and/or a processor are the best kitchen investments. BUT, I question whether you need (pun intentional) either at this point.

The stand mixers you'll hear the most about and for which you'll receive the most recommendations are the Kitchen Aids, Cuisinarts, DeLonghis and the Viking. If you're serious about using a machine to knead heavy doughs though -- which seems to be implicit in your first post -- you'll bypass these and buy an Electrolux or possibly a Bosch. The Electrolux especially is better for the task.

But... my suggestion is that you knead by hand at least for the next several months -- unless you're making an overwhelming volume of breads. Say, more than 8 loaves a day. At two or three loaves, a machine isn't even really much of a time saver.

Some people do some mixing and kneading in a processor. If you have the volume, you may find one a necessity. If you puree or chop large amounts of ingredients, you may also find it a necessity. The larger home Cuisinarts and the smaller and more affordable Warings are the best choices. Kitchen Aid processors aren't as good as Cuisinarts for baking, and Robot Coupes (including their home brand) are over priced.

If you buy a blender -- get as good a one as you can afford. Unless all you're using it for is pureeing soft fruits and vegetables, you'll be surprised at the quality difference a big motor and a well designed jar make. I have a professional blender, and wish I'd bought even better. However, afaik, a blender is not a big part of most bakers' arsenal if it's a part at all.

Do a lot more baking before spending a ton of dough, and especially before getting into something that's hard to get out of. If you absolutely must buy something, make it a stand mixer. It will last.

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Just... ONE LAST QUESTION... Can you recommend me a VERY SUPERIOR convection oven?
post #6 of 13
Price range? Minimum capacity?

post #7 of 13
I make a lot of different dough's each week and used a Kitchen Aid for 4 years (went through 6 Kitchen Aid's in 4 years) to mix the dough, then kneaded by hand.

I just switched to a Bosch mixer and love it, however like BDL said it really only saves you time when you are working with large batches. Most of my batches use 11-15 cups of flour. But it does handle all dough types very well (pizza, breads, bagels, crackers, tortillas, etc.).

Good luck!
post #8 of 13
BDL really has to learn to bold face his more important comments.

In this case, if you truly want to learn how to bake bread, forget the stand mixer altogether. Mixing, and especially kneading, by hand quickly teaches you everything you have to know about dough---because the dough tells you all about itself.

Once you've learned what dough is supposed to feel like, and act like you can, if you want, switch to a stand mixer. But even then, the last couple of minutes of kneading should be by hand.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #9 of 13
Good point. I really should've.

More good points.

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Price Range?

Preferablly lower than 6,000$

Will this be enough?

I just want something thats really good and reliable.

I have also hearsd about something called Bread Ovens, that can reach temperatures of 700 degrees and above.

Can those do the trick too?
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Why Thank you!
post #12 of 13
In that price range, probably a small Blodgett.

You don't need 700* for any of the things you're talking about.

But, you really don't need a commercial convection oven at all, unless you're baking multiple batches per day. Expensive residential/professional appliances are much more for hobbyists than serious cooks or bakers. Real pro equipment has costs and drawbacks that don't fit well in a home kitchen; but it does the job for a professional job. These ovens are made for producing commercial amounts, with improved consistency, lower times, and lower energy costs. However, the slight bumps you get in these areas will not compensate a home baker for the cost in money or space.

I think you're better served by hand kneading than using a machine -- but if you really feel compelled to drop some serious change get a stand mixer and make it a Bosch or Electrolux; and/or get a food processor from Cuisinart or Waring; and/or get a serious blender like a Vita Mix. Whether or not you go on to become a food professional, those at least will give you a lifetime of service -- and their cost is justified by the better job they do, even for the home cook.

Returning to KY's point -- I bake a fair amount of bread, am a fairly accomplished bread baker, and develop bread recipes for people who like to bake at all levels. I always mix and knead by hand until I've perfected a recipe; and usually knead perfected recipes by hand unless I'm making an amount larger than I can knead by hand in one batch (more than 14 cups of flour), or am extremely pressed for time -- because the results justify the extra work.

One aspect of "results" comes in the mixing and kneading of formulas still under development. I develop a much better sense of what the dough needs in terms of dry/moisture ratio to achieve its best development and texture if I'm in touch with the dough all the way through the process. In your case ... It's not only the doughs which are being devolped and perfected, but you and your technique as well. So, the sense of touch is doubly important.

Another part of becoming a good baker is patience. Hold off on spending for awhile. In the meantime, here's a recipe for you to try: http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/227668-post1.html This recipe will provide a very good example of what you gain by mixing and kneading by hand. Try it and let me know what you think.

post #13 of 13
Good point. When I first started baking bread, I used a mixer and wasn't happy with my end result. I put all the gadgets aside and just used a bowl and wooden spoon.

Finally, I was happy with my breads! After using a bowl and spoon for a year, I made the switch back to a mixer and I'm still happy with my results.

It's been a few years and I forgot about that. . .
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