How Do I Create a Baking Center?
Question: "I would like to make a baking center in my kitchen. As I am 5 feet tall, what height would you recommend my countertops be? And out of what materials? I am also having a problem with where to put all the trays when they come out of the oven. What type of cooling rack do I incorporate into a tiny kitchen?"
Answer: The standard counter height is 36 inches. In a baking center, it is common to drop the countertop where you roll dough, mix and chop to 32 or 33 inches, or even to standard table height, which is 30 inches.
We don't recommend having all your surfaces installed at that lower height for a few reasons:
Taller cooks and bakers (perhaps a spouse or older children) will be uncomfortable.
It might limit the number of potential buyers when you sell the home.
Standard dishwashers are about 35 inches tall and won't fit under a dropped counter.
Having a mix of work-surface heights should ensure that everyone's needs are met. The lower baking surface can be part of either a perimeter countertop or part of an island countertop. To make the most out of the reduced cabinet space underneath, consider installing deep drawers with full-extension slides instead of base cabinets. Drawers hold more than vertical cabinets, and the items stored inside will be easier to access.
As far as surface materials go, natural stone and quartz both tend to be smooth and cool to the touch, which is good for working with dough. Because baking involves a number of ingredients that can stain or corrode (think vanilla extract and lemon juice), if you want stone you should choose granite, use a sealant, and clean up promptly. Marble is a traditional favorite of many bakers, but it does stain easily and need more maintenance than granite. Engineered quartz surfacing offers the same benefits as marble or granite, but without the maintenance requirements.
Finally, we can suggest a few solutions for cooling multiple trays of cookies at once. The first idea is to look for stackable cooling racks, sold singly or in sets. They can be stacked two or three high-maybe more, depending on how accident-prone you are. Makers include Wilton, Nordic Ware, Danesco and Pampered Chef. Our second idea is to purchase a folding or collapsible baker's rack that can be stored in the basement or a closet and pulled out when needed. Jonas Baker's Mate has four tiers, can sit on a countertop or table, and could be stored in a cabinet.