Chasing Delicious | Baking 101: Tools & a Lemon Nut Sugar Cookie Recipe
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Baking 101: Tools & a Lemon Nut Sugar Cookie Recipe

Tools. Every profession, avocation, simple task, and Rube Goldberg machine has them. Great men and women will tell you, without the right tool getting the job done properly can be impossible. In cooking there are certain tools you have to have–a knife, a spoon, a whisk–and there are others–a sharp chef’s knife, a stand mixer, a sous chef–that make certain kitchen tasks much easier.

Oh and there is one thing you should know about me. I am not a single function tool fan–I just don’t see the point of spending $20 on a tool you’ll use once a year for one simple task. If you’re looking for shortcuts or specials tools for how to core an apple, slice a mango, get juice from a lemon, finely chop nuts, or remove the pit from a cherry then this is not your blog post. Each can be done with your hands and a sharp knife. Why buy anything else?

I’ve broken the tools into three categories. First there are The Must Have Tools; these tools form the foundation of baking and will let you bake essentially anything. Second there are The Helpful Tools which are not required to make most things but will make your baking much easier and much more precise. Third are The Unnecessary but Fun Tools which aren’t necessary in baking but give you some extra options that are both fun and at times very functional; my all time favorite kitchen tool is in this category–can you guess what it is?

You might notice the very important baking sheets and pans missing. Since there are so many beautiful options, I am going to save this for another post. Besides those are almost more so vessels than tools.

The Must Have Tools

Sharp Chef’s Knife &  Sharp Paring Knife - This is one that is on top of the list for cooking 101 and baking 101. You don’t need a peeler, dicer, fancy chopping tools, a mandolin, etc. You just need a couple sharp knives. One small one for the small tasks and one big one for the big tasks. Brand: I use Wusthof and am very pleased with them.

Glass or Stainless Steel Bowls – Neither of these materials react with food and both can be heated or chilled with no problem–making them great for bain-marie applications and recipes where they are shuffled from heat to the cold.  Why not plastic? Take it from a guy who’s dad was CFO for a chemical and plastics corporation, you pretty much want to avoid plastics and you absolutely do not want plastics around heat or hot foods–they tend to leach chemicals into the food when they are heated. I avoid plastics in my kitchen at all cost.

Wooden Spoons – Wood does not react with ingredients, nor does it conduct heat or scratch pans. Some wooden spoons can absorb strong odors (like onion) so you may want to look into treating your spoon with a safe, edible mineral oil.

Heavy Duty, Low Gauge Metal Whisk – Have you ever tried to whip something with a plastic or thin metal whisk? It’s like trying to cool yourself down by fanning a tissue.

Heavy Bottomed Pots and Pans - Getting good heavy bottom pots pans will not only cook foods more evenly but they will help ensure nothing will burn on the bottom–of course only constant stirring can truly ensure this. Avoid nonstick pots and pans and pots and pans with plastic on them–you want pots and pans you can safely put in the oven.

Kitchen Scale - You should be baking by weight, not volume.  The kitchen scale is the only tool that let’s you do this.

Measuring Cups  - You should have a few glass quart measuring cups at least to measure liquids. As for dry ingredients, you should be weighing those. What about the small stuff? Ok, fine you can use little measuring spoons but you should memorize what a teaspoon and a tablespoon of dry ingredients looks like in your hand and how long wet ingredients take to pour so you can avoid the laborious step of searching for and fumbling with a tiny spoon–more on that in the tips and tricks post.

Spatulas - If you’re like me, or an executive chef, wasting is not an option–call it cost control or OCD. Spatulas make this possible. They also make folding, mixing, scraping, smoothing and numerous other tasks a simple process.

Graters - Graters can be used for numerous tasks including zesting citrus, grating chocolate and shaving spices. Buy a few sizes so you can control the size of what you are grating–small works for spices and zest, large works for chocolate and cheese.

The Helpful Tools

Cookie Cutters - These guys are not just for cutting cookies. They can be used to shape pie dough, tart dough, ravioli, pasta, and even for making pancakes. I have assorted sizes of circles, ridged circles and ridged squares, and I have various flower shapes and a plethora of holiday shapes–can you guess which holiday I have the most shapes for?

Icing Spatulas and Piping Tips - While you can ice a cake with a normal spatula or knife, having an icing spatula makes the task much, much easier. Piping tips are the fun part as they let you customize your cake with nearly endless shapes and designs. They take practice, but the practice is fun.

Silicon Baking Mats or Parchment Paper – Both of these do the same job. They keep baked goods from sticking to the pan and make clean up a simple task. Either spend $30 for each silicon mat up front or $2 every couple weeks for parchment paper. I own a couple silicon mats and still keep parchment paper on hand in case.

French Rolling Pin - There is one piece to a french rolling pin: a big piece of cylindrical wood. There are not multiple parts to break. It is not over thought. It is simple and does the job.

The Unnecessary but Super Fun Tools

Unfortunately these two tools are quite expensive but they make certain tasks much easier. Have you tried to whip eggs whites or cream with out an electric tool? It takes a long time and chances are your arm might fall off afterwards. It can be done, but there is a tool that can do both in the blink of an eye all while remaining painless.

Stand Mixer - This is my all time favorite kitchen tool. I use it every time I bake something. While a hand mixer will let you whip with ease, a stand mixer will let you knead, whip and mix all while leaving you to walk away and tend to other tasks–this may be my favorite part about a stand mixer. Seriously, there is no better tool than this! Brand: I use a Kitchenaid Professional 600. (If you are going to spend a few hundred bucks on one I say go for top of the line. The Professional 600 is Kitchenaid’s only all metal unit now–smaller units use plastic motors, drive shafts and gears which can wear out easily. If you are looking at another company take the time to research the motor, motor housing, drive shaft and gears. All metal construction will last years and years–there’s a reason people still have their mother’s 30 year old stand mixer)

Food Processor - When you want to create nut butter, fruit purees, pesto, or even certain doughs, you have to have a food processor. A blender can do some of these tasks but no where near as well as a food processor.

 

 

Now on to the cookies! If you need a conversion from weight to volume you can visit my conversion page. This recipe will yield 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Lemon Nut Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

4 ounces (1 stick) butter
6 ounces sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest from 1 lemon
7 ounces cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces chopped almonds
4 ounces chopped walnuts

Instructions

1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar.

3. Add the egg, vanilla and lemon zest and mix in well.

4. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix in well.

5. Add the nuts and mix until evenly distributed.

6. Spoon the cookie dough onto the baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the bottoms and sides are golden.

I hope you found this post somewhat helpful. If you have questions please feel free to ask! What are your favorite tools or tools you just can’t live without in the kitchen?

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Founder of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, Russell's works have been featured in Southern Living, Men's Fitness, Redbook, TRADHome, and Real Simple magazines and on various sites including Lifehacker, Fast Co., Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, Quipsologies, Explore, and Fine Cooking.Follow Russell on Twitter @rvank and Instagram. Get more delicious @chasedelicious.

55 Comments

  • Miriam @ Overtime Cook

    Excellent post, Russel! I just bought a Kitchen-Aid Pro 600 yesterday! I can’t believe you call it fun but unnecesary! I must be a lot more spoiled than you. ;) In fact, I haven’t baked anything since the Bosch mixer that I stol- er, borrowed from my mother broke last week. Been in baking withdrawal all week. Finally going home to bake something! Yay!

    One thing I disagree with you on: a mandolin sure isn’t a necessary kitchen tool, but it’s totally useful! I adore my mandolin! (It was my birthday present to myself. ;)

    One more thing- I could be wrong but I think his name is Rube Golberg- not Goldberger. :)

    Delicious looking cookies!

    -Miriam

    • Russell

      Haha thank you for catching that spelling mistake. There is usually one hiding in each of my posts! And I’ve never used a mandolin, so maybe I should have put that disclaimer up there. Maybe I will eventually get around to getting one.

      You’re going to love the Kitchenaid. I do use it for about 98% of my baking but I didn’t want to deter anyone from baking if they can’t afford one. I’m glad you’ll be able to get back to baking though! I don’t think I could last a week not baking.

  • Tina@flourtrader

    Very informative post. There are so many gadgets out there, so I am sure people’s homes are cluttered with hot dog makers, donut makers, etc.
    These cookies have some great ingredients and you chose the flavors well. Not much out there in the cookie family that uses lemon. Well done.

  • The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time

    Good tips; all of them. I think fanning with a tissue was the best analogy though. The cookies look absolutely delicious. I love anything citrus.

  • Evan Thomas

    Great list. I was afraid I might not have most of those things but thankfully I do. I do need better knives, though.
    For me a food processor is a must-have. I use it at least once a week if not once a day. I also really love my ice cream maker, though it’s totally frivolous and fun.

  • Spice Sherpa

    I came for the recipe but was intrigued with the list of tools! I have to laugh because for me the stand-up mixer has become a must-have but I’ve never owned a kitchen scale. Hmm, probably why I’ve shied away from uber-precision oriented recipes. Great post!

  • Jo@jocooks

    These cookies look divine! Thanks for all the tips. I have to say I think the silicone baking mats or silpats, are the best invention ever! I can’t remember my life before them.

  • Hester aka The Chef Doc

    Oh my gosh, I consider my Kitchen Aid mixer and my food processor absolute lifesavers in my life! I am in love with my food processor as I make my pie doughs and even my pasta doughs in there! However, I do think all your lists are spot on :-) The cookies are different and unique!

  • Dee at Deelicious Sweets

    Great post and very informative for a newbie. I have to say that my favorite kitchen tool would be my chef’s knife. Great recipe too.

  • Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having

    Great post! My favourite kitchen tool is my whisk. It has “saved” more than a few pastry creams from curdling. I do think that the rolling pin is essential, but that might be because I think pie is essential.

  • Kim Bee

    I’m missing the scale and french rolling pin. Thanks for this post. I always love to see what other foodies like to use. Your cookies are so moist and yummy looking. Just want to reach in and snag one right out of there.

  • Viviane Bauquet Farre

    Russel, your post is as thorough as it is accurate – really a great resource for beginners. Not to mention that the recipe is scrumptious.

  • Salama

    this recipe is on my to make lists and thanks for sharing details on tools. Just a couple of hours back my hand mixer broke and I feel helpless already.

  • Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    Great post and these cookies are calling my name something awful, they sound absolutely perfect!! I adore lemony things and nutty things but rarely do the 2 collide, these just sound wonderful :)

  • Candy

    What a great post! I totally agree with you about gadgets that only do one thing and what a waste they are. Your must have list is my must have list too, although I would have to add a stand mixer and food processor! I can’t imagine being without them at this point in my cooking journey!

  • Susan

    I love to see what other folks priortize when thinking about their kitchen tools … I pretty much agree with you list! I am a parchment paper girl, though. And I could do without a really good sieve/colander … or my set of measuring spoons … or my handblender. Okay. I’ll stop now!

    By the by … great cookies!

  • Erin @ EKat's Kitchen

    Thanks for swinging by my poblano mac. It was spectacular! :) These cookies look gorgeous as well… and I love this post! My pyrex and ceramic bowls are among my favorites… and my food processor may just be my best friend! I love my stand mixer too, but it doesn’t fit on my counter so it’s often neglected.

  • Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family

    I love this post. I always find it interesting to see what tools each baker, chef, etc uses. I fall close in line with you. I prefer to just use as little as possible…mainly because I hate doing dishes. I have a stand mixer, but it is rare that I use it. I really like to get a good work out by doing, almost, everything by hand (except whipping egg whites for an angel food cake).
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the lemon cookies and cannot wait to try them out. I do have a confession and that is that I just started weighing my ingredients…I am hoping maybe I will have more successes then failures as this is uncharted territory for me.
    Thanks Russell for the post and I look forward to future gadget and tool posts.

  • Borislava @ Sharemykitchen

    The cookies look absolutely delicious, I’m going to try your recipe these days…As for the tools, I totally agree with you about the kitchen scales, especially when it comes to baking. Well, one still can stumble upon an incorrect recipe, but that’s inevitable.
    I also didn’t believe a mandolin can be one of my favorite tools, but it turned out to be quite useful.
    Love your photos!

  • Magic of Spice

    Fantastic post and list! The cookies look wonderful :)

  • jeannette

    I have a KA 600 profesh mixer and I love her so much. Not a must-have, but dang am I glad I have it. Cookies look amazing!

  • Tres Delicious

    That’s a good posts. I’ve been thinking lately how to make the most out of my kitchen tools.

  • Emma

    Beautiful recipe, really like the flavours in this, I can imagine they would be really delicate and subtle in flavour. I definitely want to give these a try down the track.

    I adore my Kitchenaid stand mixer (it’s fun and pretty) but have to say nothing beats really good quality saucepans and knives which I’ve invested in over the past few years. I also love the Le Creuset French oven I bought online on sale a few years back, it’s something I use often and it cooks things so well.

    Great post :)

  • Rowena @Saraplicious! Kitchen

    I love your pictures! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my site. I’ll be coming back on here…

  • Leslie Uhl

    Wow, those cookies look and sound delicious! I will definitely be baking them as soon as I can eat sugar again : )

  • TasteHongKong

    I can see how skillful you are with your knife.

  • Kim Bee

    Congrats on top 9!

  • Maya

    Russell, unlike you, I’m the ultimate gadget lover when it comes to kitchen tools. Most of my stuff are under Category 3 although I have all those things listed under Categories 1 & 2 too. As I said, I’m a gadget girl and everything that makes my life fun and easier are totally necessary. We both made cookies this week, how about that! Your tarty, nutty ones (cookies) look gourmet-licious, no wonder you landed the Top 9 :-).

  • Nava Krishnan

    fantastic tips and it will do a whole lot of good for someone like me who is just beginning the journey of baking. Btw, the cookies looks so tempting.

  • Ellie | Gourmand Recipes

    Thanks for such an informative post, Russell. Glad to discover your blog. Love it. Gorgeous photos and full of wonderful recipes.

  • Elyse @The Cultural Dish

    These cookies look delicious and thank you so much for all of the helpful hints!

  • RavieNomNoms

    Oh I am in love…they look amazing and totally steal the show. YUM!!! Love the Lemon and Nuts. Fantastic take on the classic

  • food-4tots

    This post is excellent!! So many important tips for me to digest tonight. Thanks for your kind sharing!! The cookies look so yum!! ;)

  • Karen @ superfinefeline

    Hi Russell,

    This is an awesome post especially for people who are not skilled/knowledgeable in baking, like moi! It helps to demystify baking and inspires me to try baking more often.

    Have a good weekend!
    Karen aka superfinefeline

  • Lilly

    Great post! My all time favorite kitchen tool are hands down superdoeper sharp knifes. I can’t live without my knifes. Love your cookie recipe!

  • Becky

    Russell,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. My husband loves anything lemon, so I’ll have to make them for him. There really aren’t too many lemon cookie recipes, except for lemon bars. My favorite kitchen tool, is my microplane zester.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I am enjoying perusing yours- such gorgeous photography and food! I look forward to following. This is a great post and a good guide for someone who is just stocking their kitchen. People should take a copy of this with them when they get their first apartment or go to register! :)

  • Kathy

    These cookies look delicious. They look so light and lemony!

  • RChristopher

    Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a kitchen gadget junkie. Got a few drawers filled with do-dads I use every now and then. As for my all time favorite tool…it would have to be the Silpat. Love how cookies and other baked items never stick to it. Thanks for another great post Russell.

  • Amy

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I love certain tools, but to be frank, you don’t need all the fluff! Plus, agree with you about the french rolling pin. I absolutely love mine! BTW your photos look fantastic and your cookies absolutely delicious!

  • Angie@Angiesrecipes

    Love those tangy nutty cookies! Beautiful photos too.

  • Cassie [Bake Your Day]

    Awesome post Russell! I agree with your thoughts on the single purpose tool. I was floored when I recently saw a mango peeler, really?! I enjoy the art of peeling and carving and chopping! My KitchenAid is definitely my favorite kitchen tool too!

  • Ally

    My mom is crazy about anything lemon – I’ll have to make these for her!
    xo
    http://allykayler.blogspot.com/

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more with all of your points and these cookies wouldn’t have been the same without the use of all of the tools you mentioned :-)

  • Emily Malloy @Cleanliness

    I absolutely adore this! The photos are so lovely, too!

  • Jen at The Three Little Piglets

    I think I might add a good quality dutch oven to that must have list. Right next to my knife and my mixer, it’s one of my wouldn’t want to be stranded without items!

  • Jessica @ Cajunlicious

    Russell, this is such an amazing post. I love all the tools you provide! Thanks for sharing this one!

  • Aunt Clara

    I am more inclined to agree with you than to disagree. However, for certain type of cakes a stand mixer is a must. Nothing else would do. OK, something else would do, I am sure, but I am not about to find out.

  • Jessica

    Hi Russell! I am addicted to your blog! It’s clean, beautiful, informative, and so delicious of course! Thanks for visiting mine. I am looking forward to reading more from you!

  • Jessica @ Cajunlicious

    Wow Russell, these flavors are great!

  • SP

    Russell–LOVE the blog, looking forward to following it. Just discovered you via FoodBuzz (congrats today!). Wondering, all these categories are helpful, but what I’m always looking for is recommendations for specific brands, items, etc. Any chance you plan to start an Amazon Store of your own? Or, at least do a post on the specific tools you best like (ie, which french rolling pin? which silicon mats?). Thanks so much!

    • Russell

      Thank you very much! I hadn’t thought about covering specific brands but I can definitely do that. I’ve been wanting to do a couple more baking 101 posts soon so i’ll be sure to include that. Thanks again for the kind words and the suggestion!

  • daksha

    Hi Russell! lovely blog It’s beautiful,informative, and so delicious of course! Thanks for visiting mine. I am looking forward to reading more.

  • Elsa

    I really love your kitchen 101 series! I’ve never seen such a well-organized, compact version of cooking/baking techniques in one place before.

    If you haven’t already, you should check out On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. (http://books.google.com/books?id=bKVCtH4AjwgC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false)

    I really enjoyed it and it would be right up your alley.

  • Tyson Avent

    Popular models of the mixers is the Kitchen aid artisan mixer. This mixer has a variety of features that allows you to blend and mix a number of different items and variable speeds. This allows you to easily adjust the mixer to the type of food that you are using. When you want to find the best deals on Kitchen aid mixers and stand mixers, you can go online to the web site and discover all of the best models that are available. You can also compare each of the models to see which ones are going to give you the options that you need. There are a lot of great choices available with any of the Kitchen aid stand mixers and you can find the one that is best for what you are going to be using it for in your kitchen. ‘`-:

    http://www.calaguas.orgTake care

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