The Baker

Bakeware, quality ingredients, and treats for your sweet tooth.

There are a lot of artisanal jams out there, some good and some grossly overpriced. Though we've tasted hundreds of them, we still haven't had any as good as those made by Oakland's June Taylor, who has been making what she calls "conserves" out of superb Northern California produce for more than 25 years now. The Dapple Dandy pluot conserve tastes like you're taking a bite out of the juiciest pluot in the world, with just enough acidity to offset the sweetness.

Most piping sets include a vast array of tiny tips that never get used, but these tips are large and versatile enough to be put to work on a near-daily basis. Whether you're using them for classic cupcakes, swirls of whipped cream, deviled eggs, or twice-baked potatoes, these tips will make every piping job more beautiful.

By the time you're done reading BraveTart, you'll not only know how to make Stella's favorite brownies (or Little Debbie's favorite Oatmeal Creme Pies), you'll have been sufficiently schooled in the underlying science and technique to be able to make your own favorite brownies, whether you like them fudgy or cakey (and, because of Stella's infectious infatuation with history, you'll note that the cake-fudge paradigm shift occurred sometime in 1929). Where Willy Wonka relied on magic to bring his creations to life, Stella relies on science, history, and fanatical testing and devotion to her craft. This is good news for us. You have to be born with magic, but science, history, and technique are lessons we can all learn.

Whether you're baking cakes from scratch or from a mix, giving the batter more room to grow will minimize doming, for thicker, more level layers. Light, reflective metal also minimizes browning to keep the cake crust delicate and pale. Because the pans are nonreactive, they can also be used with poke cakes that involve acidic liquids, like lemon juice.

Whether you're waffling something silly, like s'mores with Halloween candy, or something traditional, like Stella's perfect vanilla buttermilk waffles, you'll need a good iron to get the job done. We like this one from Cuisinart. It heats quickly and evenly, and the non-stick plates make it suitable for all sorts of experimentation. What will we waffle next? Only time will tell.

Global Goods Clear Vanilla is a blend of natural and synthetic vanilla, formulated to be crystal clear. While admittedly a strictly cosmetic feature, clear vanilla is a prized ingredient among bakers obsessed with snowy white royal icing for snowflake cookies, or an angel food cake as white as a cloud. Since it's not completely synthetic, this extract has an unexpected depth of flavor when compared to other clear brands, and the fancy bottle makes it great for gifting as well.

Homemade ice cream tastes better than almost anything you can buy in a store, and it's a snap to make. This ice cream maker, from Cuisinart, is all the gear you need: an easy-to-use workhorse that makes delicious ice cream every time. The simple construction means that there are few moving parts to break, and the wide mouth at the top makes it easy to add mix-ins and scoop out your ice cream when it's at its fresh, creamy best.

Used in many baking recipes, but difficult to find in the US, a bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup makes a great small gift for an avid baker. Cases in point: Stella's Homemade Oreos and DIY Cookie Butter, both of which call for the subtle caramel notes golden syrup provides.

A good ice cream scoop is worth keeping in your kitchen utensil drawer. This one works for both right and left hands, and features a specially designed handle that transfers heat into the scoop, helping it slide into more solid ice cream without too much trouble.

Level up this year's pecan pie by giving the bakers in your family or social circle a big bag of fat and buttery wild pecans. Their freshness, flavor, and tender texture will ruin everyone for those limp and withered supermarket brands.

Whether we're making a lattice-top pie, a batch of homemade Biscoff, or fresh ravioli, it's amazing how much a fluted pastry wheel can spruce up simple strips of dough.

With their smooth surface and cool temperature, marble pastry slabs are a baker's best friend. They're great for rolling out pie crusts, laminating doughs, and tempering chocolate. This marble version is pretty enough (albeit heavy) to use as a serving platter.

A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using it. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.

If you've ever been given a homemade birthday cake, return the favor by buying your favorite baker this iconic cake stand. Its heavy base keeps cakes secure and makes all types of decorating techniques a breeze.

These thin chocolate disks have a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a complex, pleasantly fruity bitterness. But it's the scattered cacao nibs on top that take them from memorable to exceptional. The crunchy bits of bean are toasty and flavorful in their own right, but Recchiuti goes the extra mile, tossing them in caramel and fleur de sel for a brightly salty-sweet finish that electrifies each bite.

It's almost impossible to find good-quality Dutch cocoa in supermarkets, so make it easy for your favorite baker to whip up the best possible chocolate treats. This cocoa powder is unusually dark, with an earthy chocolate flavor for out-of-control brownies, devil's food cake, and ice cream.

We can't fathom decorating a birthday cake without this sturdy, heavy-bottomed stand. It speeds the process of crumb coating and decoration, while allowing for a whole new array of finishing techniques. It can also double as a lazy susan on the dinner table, piled with condiments and toppings, even when there's no cake in sight.

A combo cooker is the key to getting a gorgeous shattering crust on homemade bread. It acts as its own little steam chamber, like what you'd find in a professional bread oven, and it costs way less than a kitchen renovation.

If you ever plan to tackle homemade pie crust or rolled sugar cookies, you'll need a rolling pin. Tapered French rolling pins are more maneuverable and more durable than other styles, and they're easier to clean as well.

These fluted cookie cutters add flair to any basic cookie.

Sorghum syrup is made from the pressed juice of sorghum grass, which grows prominently throughout the American South. This amber-colored syrup has a unique, nutty flavor that's both sweet and savory. And since the 1960s, the Guenther family of Muddy Pond, Tennessee, has been making some of the best.

For the baker who has it all, embossed rolling pins can make even the most traditional shortbread seem exciting again. We love this large, open paisley pattern so much. Its design works well with many styles of dough, so it's a great starting point before you experiment with pins that have a more intricate pattern.

This epic set of stainless steel pastry tips is perfect for the home baker with professional-grade aspirations...or the food-enthused, arts-and-craftsy kid in your life. With this kit in hand, nothing but practice stands between you and gorgeous piped flowers, leaves, stars, and beyond.

You don't want your pastry brush to shed its hairs (or get nasty rust) all over your pie dough or homemade Cheez-Its We like this one by OXO because it holds its bristles longer than most other brands and it's easy to clean.

A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. This one comes with an easy-to-clean, removable stainless steel weighing surface; great accuracy and precision; and a backlit pull-out display to make measuring easy, even for large or unwieldy items.

Docking provides steam vents so doughs lie flat. Sure, you could stab your raw pizza dough a thousand times with a fork. Or you could just give it a quick pass with this tool, perforating the whole thing quickly, evenly, and perfectly. It's also our favorite way to dress up cookie and cracker doughs, as the uniformly spaced polka dots add an undeniably professional touch to treats like chocolate-filled shortbread cookies, DIY Wheat Thins, and chocolate digestive biscuits.

A stand mixer is obviously great for mixing batters and doughs, but we also love the range of KitchenAid attachments available for purchase—once you have the base, there's suddenly a whole world of homemade sausages, ice creams, pastas, and fresh juices at your fingertips.

A rad cake stand will make any layer cake look like a work of art (and make any occasion feel special).

The Magimix impressed us with each slicing, chopping, grating, and pureeing test we tossed at it, especially with pizza dough, which it combined so well no additional kneading was required.

More Gift Guides