Chow just printed a list of top ten baking essentials that they suggest - you can see it here.
Looking at it though, I see several items that even experienced bakers don't often use (the blowtorch comes to mind) and I noticed several items missing that really are essential for basic home and professional baking. Some of these I learned about in culinary school and some I already used at home. The best part is that most of them are very inexpensive!
1. A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (they got this one right.) The bigger the better - especially if you like to make bread. An extra bowl is also very helpful.
2. A plastic dough scraper/cutter - great for scraping out the mixer bowl, scooping ingredients off of a cutting board, dividing dough, folding batter, leveling measuring cups, you name it. A metal bench scraper is also handy for dividing dough when baking bread and scraping work surfaces.
3. A mesh strainer - for sifting flour and dry ingredients together, straining fruit juices and sieving custards and cooked fillings - lemon curd, chocolate mousse, etc.
4. A large, flat cool smooth surface for rolling out buttery doughs and pie crust (such as the puff pastry dough Chef Foran is schooling in this photo) and for kneading and shaping bread dough. A granite or marble countertop is ideal, but if you don't have that a large cutting board can work. (I have been meaning to go to a countertop place and ask for a "sink cut out" - supposedly they will give them to you for free!)
5. A small offset spatula for spreading batter in pans and spreading frostings and fillings - also handy for picking up or loosening things like cookies and crepes, and for cleaning up edges.
6. A digital probe thermometer for cooking sugar syrups and for heating eggs and sugar for meringues or sponge cake.
7. Shallow metal bowls - for whisking dry ingredients together, folding delicate batters, using on the stove as a double boiler for melting chocolate or making custards and curds, and for chilling down ice cream custards, pastry cream, mousse or buttercream in the refrigerator or freezer or in an ice bath (large ones can also be used to make an ice bath.)
8. A cake turntable - indispensable for cutting and decorating layer cakes
9. Sheets of parchment paper (better than a roll) - great for keeping work surfaces clean (collecting scooped and leveled flour/sugar, etc.) and of course for lining pans. I also put them on the counter under cooling racks to collect crumbs, etc.
10. A smallish (half cup or so) metal scoop - for scooping dry ingredients out of bags and into measuring cups, and for adding sifted dry ingredients to the mixer while running.
Other things I find very helpful: deep stacking bowls, for separating eggs, storing measured ingredients, melting butter and blending wet ingredients; a tupperware-style cake dome - for storing and transporting the goodies to willing co-workers; some of the items they mention, such as the microplane zester, the scale and a pastry bag (if you know how to use it and don't mind having to clean it); a silicone coated whisk - for us non-stick cookware users; a good flexible spatula; tongs - probably the most used tool in our entire kitchen; and a few decent knives - a 8-10" chef's knife, a 3 1/2 inch paring knife and a serrated bread/cake knife are the most useful.
I think it is fairly easy to get along without a blow torch (though it is fun!) Silpats are only really helpful for baking cookies, and parchment does the job almost as well. The one thing silpats are essential for is making tuiles - because you have to peel them off while they are warm and flexible. I don't have the necessary molds for making tuiles (nor do I own any silpats) so I haven't been able to demonstrate that yet. Soon, I hope!