As the head baker at Studio and Simon & The Whale in the Freehand Hotel in New York City (after stints at Milk Bar and Sadelle’s), Eater Young Gun semifinalist Zoe Kanan has developed a reputation for beautiful, inventive breads and pastries with unique flavors and textures (think cardamom-nectarine danishes and sourdough challah).
Although baking at home is a rare treat given her schedule, Kanan still has a few unexpected favorite kitchen tools for home bakers, all of which go beyond your basic mixers and measuring cups.
Victorinox serrated paring knife
“Bakers aren’t necessarily known for having the sharpest knives, but you do need a knife to bake. I have larger serrated knives for slicing bread, and at a certain point I realized I was using those to do the prep work for produce. I found a smaller version, which is perfect for slicing through delicate fruit and juicy citrus. I love the way this fits in my hand, and I don’t have to worry about maintaining a super sharp edge.”
Buy Victorinox Swiss Classic Paring Knife with Serrated Edge, $9.95
Nordic Ware geometric cookie stamps
“The geometric pattern on these stamps takes any cookie baking session to the next level. They are deceptively easy to use and work best on shortbread doughs, or doughs that don’t have a lot of mix-ins that will spread in the oven. Chocolate chips, for example, will melt, and you won’t be able to see the pattern, but these are perfect for something like sables that will hold the imprint of the stamps.”
13-inch dowel handle-free rolling pin
“I prefer a smaller 13-inch rolling pin when working with pastry dough at home. It’s easier to maneuver on my limited counter space, and the shorter length helps with more precise work. I found this one at a 99-cent store — it’s meant to be used for rolling dumpling wrappers, but it’s perfect for making a single pie or rolling tart dough at home. It fits in my silverware drawer, too, so I don’t have to find a special place to store it.”
Expandable cooling rack
“A cooling rack is essential to avoid soggy-bottomed baked goods. Use it for anything that you want to remain crisp on the outside, like, say, a fruit tart filled with juicy blueberries. If I leave that in the pan, as the berries cool, the condensation will make the bottom soggy, which has, especially in the age of The Great British Bake Off, become known as a big no-no. I like this expandable version for more (or less) ambitious projects, and it’s also great for storage.”
Buy Sur La Table Expandable Cooling Rack, $25
Mauviel copper jam pan
“This is my most prized kitchen tool. Copper conducts heat quickly and evenly, so it’s ideal for jam making. You’re able to coax out the natural pectin in the fruit without having to cook it down so much and lose its integrity. This is an investment piece, but your beautiful fruit preserves will thank you a million times over.”
Buy Mauviel M'passion Copper Jam Pan, 9.5 qt, $280