The holiday shopping season has arrived! Here are some suggestions for that bakes-the-most-amazing-desserts person in your life. If s/he is already making fabulous treats, then what could you possibly add to her/his tools? While many items out there really aren't necessary and might end up stuffed away on a shelf, there are some high-quality, "worth the money" items that I am recommending here. You'll need to shop online for most of these, unless you have a restaurant-supply store nearby or a Williams-Sonoma.
1. High quality pans. You might need to do a little snooping to see what s/he already has. I swear by "Magic Line." For layer cakes, 9" by 2" is the classic size, but I also use the 8" by 2" regularly. Other desirable sizes include -
9 x 13 x 2
8 x 8 x 2
9 x 9 x 2
Include parchment liners with the round pans.
Avoid Wilton, avoid dark pans, avoid any type of coating.
2. Instant-read thermometer. They're not just for grilling! You can check the internal temperature of bread, too. It's such a help when making temp-sensitive specialty items such as merengues, candies, etc. Once you have one of these, you'll wonder how you functioned without it. "Thermapen" is the most well-know brand, but retails at $80-$100, so check the reviews for the other options on Amazon.com and you'll find some great laternatives.
3. This one is quite specific, but for baker's who make a lot of cupcakes, this carrier is wonderful. It can hold 36 cupcakes, but each layer is removable, so you could even use it for a regular cake. It's very sturdy, whereas some other brands are so flimsy & difficult to use when you actually fill them with cupcakes.
4. Off-set spatula. I'm always recommending these little angled spatulas for frosting cakes, cookies, and brownies. Once you have one, you'll want at least one more in another size, plus you'll reach for one when you need to loosen the edges of a loaf of a sweet bread or need to get underneath that first brownie. I once nicknamed it the "Dream Spreader" since it made frosting cakes so much easier than with a regular spreaker.
6. Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Again, sooooo worth the money. I've had mine for over 20 years, my mom has had hers for 35. They just don't quit! Any of the models will be better than not having one, but if you can afford it, go for the 5 quart bowl. (The Classic is 4.5 qts and all-around isn't as powerful, in my opinion.) Ooooh, you could also buy this ornament & have the gift recipient open it, first, as a hint.
7. Microplane grater/zester. I try to steer clear of specialty tools, because they often end up cluttering my kitchen drawers. I reach for microplane grater often, though. I use it regularly for chocolate, lemons, oranges, limes, parmesan, romano . . . you get the idea.
8. Fine mesh strainers. Pretty simple stuff, right? But fine mesh strainers get so much use by bakers and cooks. Even though I'm still old school and actually use a sifter for my dry ingredients, these strainers are perfect stand-ins ('cause sometimes you really DO need to sift).
9. Extra-large wooden cutting board. They are perfect for rolling out dough. Sure, many households now have stone countertops that you can use, or at least put down a silicone mat, but I'm still partial to the giant cutting board! Here's one of the largest sizes I've found, measuring 30" by 20". The only drawback is storing it, so make sure your baker's cupboards (or pantry space) can accommodate whatever size you choose. Here's my favorite rolling pin to go with it.
10. Gift certificates! Really, sometimes you have no clue what someone else already has in his/her kitchen, so you need to go with the gift card. Attach a wooden spoon or other helpful utensils to it and your baker will be thrilled! I recommend King Arthur Flour, Penzeys Spices, and Williams-Sonoma.