Bake Impressive Desserts This Valentine’s Day

This week we gathered our favorite baking tools so you can whip up something sweet this week.

I often show love for my friends and family through baking, making cakes on their birthdays and sweet treats for special occasions. And on Valentine’s Day I usually bake my wife something chocolaty and decadent. When I’m baking—especially when I’m baking for someone else—I want the final product to taste delicious and look beautiful. Having the best equipment is the first step in ensuring that I’ll be successful in the kitchen. Our winning tart pan produces perfect golden-brown tarts with crisp, professional-looking edges. And our favorite small offset spatula is sturdy but nimble, making quick work of icing cakes.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

Our winning spoons had a simple design that allowed for a continuous, bump-free sweep, with a ball-chain connector (similar to what military dog tags hang on) that was easy to open and close. This set's metal construction felt remarkably sturdy, and ingredients didn't cling to the stainless steel. And while the 1-tablespoon measure did not fit into all spice jars, it was a minor inconvenience for an otherwise easy-to-use set.

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Coming in a variety of useful sizes that nest for compact storage, our winning set performed ably on almost every test. Its wide, shallow bowls were easy to hold, fill, empty, and clean. They can be used in the microwave and the oven. While the bowls in this set were the only ones to break when dropped, the heaviness of the glass with which they’re made makes it unlikely that they’ll easily fly off the counter.

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The redesigned version of the OXO scale is accurate and had all the features that made the old model our favorite: sturdy construction, responsive buttons, and a removable platform for easy cleaning. The screen can still be pulled out nearly 4 inches when weighing oversize items. Instead of a backlight setting, the screen now has brightly lit digits on a dark background, which we found even easier to read than the old model’s screen. OXO also added two display options for weight. Users can choose to view ounces only (24 oz), pounds and ounces (1 lb 8 oz), grams only (2500 g), or kilograms and grams (2 kg 500 g), which comes in handy when doubling a recipe. The scale now uses decimals rather than fractions, so it’s more precise and easier to read.

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These precut parchment sheets, which come in a large plastic zipper-lock bag, are the only ones in our lineup that are stored completely flat. They're also sized just right to slide easily into a standard rimmed baking sheet, although we did have to use two overlapping sheets when rolling jelly roll cakes into coils. Their superior convenience made them the runaway favorite. Don't let the purchase price distract you: The per-sheet cost falls squarely in the middle of our lineup.

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Our previous favorite still excelled with power; precision; and a compact, streamlined design that takes up less space than most food processors, despite having one of the largest capacities, all at a moderate price. Its smooth, simple bowl and blade design are easy to handle, monitor during use, and clean. Its unusual feed tube placement allows for increased bowl visibility. It comes with just three blades for chopping, shredding, and slicing that can all be stored inside the bowl, with no accessories box to deal with. However, since we last tested it, the chopping blade was redesigned and leaves slightly bigger gaps between it and the bottom and side of the bowl, so it couldn’t effectively incorporate egg yolks into single-batch mayonnaise. We didn’t discover any other adverse effects from these slightly bigger gaps, which were still narrower than those of lower-ranked models. It did chop mirepoix uniformly and was one of only two models to give us perfectly green-colored yogurt in our dye test. Although it lacks a mini bowl for very small jobs, a double batch of mayonnaise worked well.

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