Stacey Greenberg was kind enough to include me in a recent article for the Commercial Appeal on what Memphis bakers consider essential tools and ingredients. It's a great article and you should check it out!
Obviously, Stacey had to edit our contributions down, so below is a more complete list of tools I rely on when baking at home!
Kat's Essential Tools
-oven thermometer. This is the easiest, cheapest way for anyone to be a better baker. No one's oven stays calibrated perfectly and this will ensure that you're baking at the right temperature.
-rolling pin. My favorite thing to bake is pies, followed closely by cookies, so this is indispensable. I know "the pros" like the French pin, but I've always preferred the kind with handles. When you buy, just see what feels better in in your hand and go with that. You want it to be comfortable, weighty, big enough to accommodate the dough you're rolling out, but not too big for your counter space.
-Pyrex. Pyrex liquid measuring cups in variety of sizes, vintage pyrex oven-to-table ware, it's all good and I love mine!
-Food processor. Holding 14 cups, my food processor is a beast. Mom gave it to me for Christmas in college and it is one of my all time favorite gifts I've ever received. I didn't have a stand mixer at home until 2010 (do the math... I started Muddy's in my home kitchen in 2007), but I would've been lost without my trusty food processor. It can do cookie dough, but also help with non-baking tasks like shredding and chopping vegetables. If you have to pick one piece of pricey equipment, go with the food processor and get a cheap hand mixer for icings, etc.
-Pans. Two large sheet pans, two 8" cake pans, one 9x13 brownie pan (use for lasagna too!), one muffin pan, and one 9" pie plate. Get the best quality you can (check Cook's Illustrated for shopping tips); these are the things you'll use the most. Before you buy a novelty pan (madeleine pan, spring form, etc), check with your friends; someone can probably loan you one.