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Kitchen essentials: Make baking a breeze

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Nothing says happy holidays like a home-baked delight from your kitchen. The smell of holiday cookies baking is one of the highlights of the season. Having the proper kitchen tools will make your holiday baking a breeze.

Today, there are utensils and equipment on the market that Mom and Grandmother may have dreamed of, but never had the opportunity to use. Here's a short list of items and their benefit to make your holiday baking easier.

1. Battery-operated cookie press

Instead of hand-cranking traditional butter cookie dough through a hand-held device, a battery-operated cookie press easily dispenses dough with a touch of a finger. Choose one with a variety of stencil disks. Cookie presses also ideal for making elegant appetizers, filling pastas or decorating cakes, too.

2. Chocolate fondue fountain

Everyone knows the hassle of dipping cookies into a double-boiler of melted chocolate. Cookies always seem to fall in. Or, you run out of chocolate. Yet, chocolate-dipped cookies are some the prettiest and most delicious. Electric chocolate fondue fountains are easy to use. Simply pour melted chocolate into the base and switch on the motor. Chocolate keeps flowing for non-stop dipping. Dip dozens of cookies in half the time.

3. Digital thermometer

Remember those glass candy thermometers your grandmother used when making her famous peanut brittle? A digital thermometer takes the guesswork out of candy-making and allows you to instantly and safely check the internal temperature of the food that you are cooking. Look for one that has a clip to attach to a pan. To use, stand it upright in the candy mixture without letting it touch the pan bottom.

4. Silicone bakeware

From freezer to microwave to oven to dishwasher, food-grade silicone baking sheets and pans are non-stick and flexible. Foods cook evenly and release quickly without having to be greased. These modern miracles are lightweight, easy to clean and easy to store, too. No doubt, you'll start collecting bakeware in a variety of colors!

5. Three-tiered baking rack

When you are busy baking, doesn't it seem like every inch of counter space is covered with racks of cooling cookies? Free up some well needed counter space by using a three-tiered cooling rack. Racks also prevent sogginess and facilitate quicker cooling of cookies. If you're an avid baker, pick up two three-tiered baking racks.

It's important to have the right tools for the job. Treat yourself to a few new kitchen tools and make holiday baking a pleasure.

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