Baking trays are a great example of my belief that everything matters in a kitchen—they aren’t just vessels that hold things during baking; they are a factor in how evenly and controlled the baking process is. I’m not going to name names, but when I visit people’s homes, I’m sometimes shocked that people who have otherwise top-notch kitchens treat their baking pans as an afterthought, using paper-thin aluminum trays, sometimes crusted with baked-on food. These don’t conduct heat evenly, and cooked-on food will throw smoke in a hot oven. (And that smoke will contaminate whatever you’re baking with unwanted flavor.) I suggest you have at least four pans: two regular 13 by 9-inch pans and two nonstick.
If you don’t want to buy a nonstick pan, you can purchase a Silpat, a silicone liner that can be laid over the pan. (For a 13 by 9-inch baking tray, you want a Petit Jelly Roll Silpat measuring 11 3/4 by 8 1/4 inches.) I recommend that you purchase pans with some kind of rim because you will need it for some recipes, and even when you don’t need it, there’s no harm in having it there. (The rim also makes a pan easier to grab.) The pans should be made of heavy-gauge metal and be light rather than dark in color (dark material tends to hasten burning), and you should keep them clean by scrubbing with warm, sudsy water; use steel wool on the regular pan and a soft sponge on the nonstick.
Similar to my suggested specs for baking trays, cookie sheets should be medium to heavy weight and light in color but also—this is important—rimless, so that heat can evenly bathe the cookies as they bake. (Some sheets have a sloping end that makes it easier to grab them, and to slide cookies off the tray and onto a rack, and that’s fine.) Rimless pans don’t just allow for better airflow; they also make it easier to check on cookies when they bake, allowing ease of access with a spatula. (At Carlo’s, where our oven has rotating shelves, the pans themselves basically circulate, so we use rimmed baking trays for just about everything.) A good, readily available size cookie sheet is 17 by 14 inches, although other sizes are fine so long as they fit in your oven without blocking the flow of air from top to bottom.
Mini Muffin Tray
For making Rum Babas and Butterflies, a nonstick mini muffin tray with 24 wells is essential.
Most of the pies in this book are made in a 9-inch pan. Two notable exceptions are the Frutti di Bosco, which calls for a fluted tart pan, and the wheat pie, which calls for a 10-inch pie pan.
A double boiler, which keeps heat from coming into direct contact with the bottom of a pot, is the smart choice to use for melting chocolate and making icing, and for keeping them warm without the risk of scorching them. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can set a metal or heatproof glass bowl (such as Pyrex) on top of a pot of simmering water; just be sure the bowl completely seals the top of the pot so steam and heat don’t escape, causing the water to evaporate. Sealing is hard to do, and you risk giving yourself a steam burn, so if you plan to make recipes that call for a double boiler, just invest in one rather than using a makeshift one. You’ll use your double boiler for nonbaking recipes, too, eventually.