How to Bake in Your Vacation Rental

So you're going to rent a beach house with your significant other's family? Brave soul. I just made this trip, and made it home in one piece, albeit sandy. Since I'm a pastry chef, of course, I was asked to make goodies for everyone.

A generic list of available kitchen equipment was on the website for the beach house rental, but I was unsure of what else could possibly be included. Did they have a mixer? A microplane? A chef knife? No one knew. I couldn't exactly bring mine on the airplane, so what do you do now?

Here are some tips and some kitchen hacks for those of you considering doing some cooking and baking in your vacation rental.

See also: Bakeware Maintenance Basics

Tips for the baker in a rental beach house kitchen:

Find out what equipment the rental has, if you can. - We arrived to a hodge-podge of cooking equipment and a hand mixer that didn't work. I operated on the premise that there was no mixer, and made sure to select recipes that wouldn't require a mixer.

Plan out your menu. - This trip was great because everyone pitched in for meals and took turns cooking or bringing in food. My in-laws brought BBQ from Memphis. His aunt made paella one night. I baked cinnamon rolls, a birthday cake, and made pineapple mint mojitos. My sister-in-law made a shrimp salad for lunch. It's much easier to pack some equipment if you know what you're making. Run your ideas past everyone and figure in advance what everyone will need to bring.

Pack some essentials. - A digital scale, measuring cups and spoons, thermometer, microplane, baking pan, some parchment paper. I placed these items in a Ziploc, inside a baking pan, and tucked them into our checked luggage. We use the TSA approved locks, which I recommend if you are going to be packing any equipment. I also had wished I would have packed some rubber spatulas, a sharp chef knife, a whisk and a pastry brush.

Ship equipment ahead. - Thinking about it later, I wish I would have packed more supplies and shipped them ahead to the rental company, leasing the house to us, or to one of the relatives who were coming from driving distance. And don't forget the wine opener!

Hacks for the baker in a rental beach house kitchen:

Potato masher = cake batter mixer/whisk - Without a standing mixer, and a broken hand mixer, I went in search of a whisk. There was a limpid plastic whisk that was useless, so I dug around in the drawers and found a potato masher. Hmm, perfect!

Wine bottle = rolling pin - This is an amazing hack for when you need a rolling pin for those cinnamon rolls. It can be a full, closed bottle, or an empty bottle. If you need to keep the dough cool, consider using a full, closed, cold bottle.

Your clean hands = creaming butter and sugar - No mixer, no rubber spatula, no problem! Clean hands can get the job done. Hot water and soap to clean it up. It's just like digging in the sand.

Damp paper towels = plastic wrap for cinnamon rolls - I needed to put my cinnamon rolls in the fridge overnight, and found myself without plastic wrap. What to do? Dampen some paper towels, and cover the cinnamon rolls. Don't forget to spray a little pan spray on the tops of the rolls, to keep the paper towels from sticking as they dry out.

Enjoy your vacation rental and again, don't forget the wine opener.

Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.

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