The holiday season is upon us! It should come as no surprise that in my house this is a time of year for desserts and baked treats (as if there is a time of year that isn’t). It’s also a time for gathering with friends and family and sharing some of your favorite meals and baked goods.
I always feel like the best gifts are ones that share experiences with others, and food is one of the best ways to share. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of my essential tools for baking—to add to your wish list or to gift to the bakers in your life. If you ever wonder what I use in my own kitchen, head on over to my Amazon shop to find absolutely everything.
The Kitchenaid Mixer is one of those must-haves for every home baker. It may be the most recognizable stand mixer around, and it comes with almost every attachment you’ll ever need and a beautiful mixing bowl. It’s powerful enough for all kinds of baking and something I use all the time. Learn more about the Kitchenaid and my other favorite stand mixers here.
One of the simplest ways to improve your baking is to get more precise with your ingredients. A nice kitchen scale will help you in that mission. Weighing your ingredients is really a must to get your doughs just right, and this scale is accurate, easy-to-use and has multiple measurements.
If you’ve never used a blowtorch to get the beautiful browning on your desserts, you are truly missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures. I love toasting meringues, marshmallow and creme brulee with my torch, and it really is as functional as it is fun to use. If you don’t have a blow torch, this is the time. There are all sizes and types, so you don’t have to start with anything too big and powerful.
Medium Blowtorch – this is the one I used in my demo and it’s awesome!
Of course you’ll need some nice non-stick pans to bake. This bakeware set from Wilton comes with all kinds of shapes and sizes from cookie sheets to a loaf pan to a muffin tin. It’s a great starter set for anyone looking to get into baking and will last long after you’ve mastered your craft.
If you only need a few baking pans, this set from Nordic Ware is durable and comes with three sizes. Nordic Ware makes some great products and often sells out around the holidays so get these while you still can.
A good set of metal mixing bowls is not only great for combining ingredients, you can also use them to make a double boiler. This set is compact and stacks easily, and is as good for storage and serving as it is for mixing.
I use this dough bucket to make bread. It is great for proofing dough and storing a large batch so you can pull from it for a quick loaf of bread or pizza night. Pair it with my new book, The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and a danish dough whisk!
A springform pan comes in handy for a bunch of baked goods. It’s especially good for cheesecake, which I love making. This one by Fat Daddio’s is excellent, sturdy and will help you bake treats that keep their shape.
Homemade pizza nights call for a pizza stone and the Emile Henry version is my favorite. This one is large enough to give you space to work with, heats up fast and evenly and delivers a wonderfully cooked crust. This olive oil cruet would be a lovely addition!
The Le Creuset dutch oven is an iconic piece of kitchen hardware. It comes in all kinds of colors, and is wonderful for baking bread. You can of course do all kinds of cooking in it as well. If you don’t have one that has been handed down through the generations, you can be the first and pass this along to kids or grandkids years from now because these last forever.
The Cuisinart food processor is my favorite because it offers all the functions you’ll need at a reasonable price. It is great for chopping, slicing, pureeing, shredding and more. It comes with attachments for chopping your ingredients to the size you need for any given recipe.
There are so many to choose from, so check out this list of all the books I have baked from recently and for decades. Or choose from one of the eight books I’ve authored over the years:
- Zoë Bakes Cakes (2021)
- The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2021)
- Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2018)
- The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2016)
- Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2014)
- The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2013)
- Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day (2011)
Silk Oak Designs – This list would not be complete without a mention of my mom’s leather and stone handmade necklaces that have become incredibly popular since you’ve seen me wear them. They can be worn as chokers (as I prefer in the kitchen) or as looser single and double strands. Visit and follow her Etsy site to get more ideas and see the selections of designs. She drops new items in limited quantities every 2-3 weeks, so be sure to order early for the holidays. These have become the only jewelry I wear and each piece tells a story.
The gift of food is one of the very best gifts (trust me, after testing recipes for decades, my neighbors will agree!).
Make homemade vanilla now and you can gift it during the holiday season! Package it in pretty bottles and adorn it with a ribbon and tag for its recipient.
Or if you picked up bread making during the pandemic, share the love with friends and family by gifting a fresh loaf with some delicious jam or apple butter tied inside a tea towel. If you use my easy five-minute-a-day method you can have four loaves made up in no time.
You can never go wrong with a cookie assortment. Make a few of your favorites kinds and place them in a lovely tin.