What is a baker without her tools? Still a baker! Here’s the deal with bread gear – there is nothing you really need except water, flour, salt, an oven and a bowl. You can check my beginner recipe here where I explain how to make bread with the mere basics. However, the beauty of bread-making is that you can keep perfecting it untill the end of time and that is where all the various bells and whistles come in handy. Like I said, you do not really need much hardware if you’re after no-nonsense bread that’s good to eat. This is not how I live my life. Hello, my name is Anna and I’m a bread perfectionist. If you wan to follow me into the crumb hole, come along on my tour of non-essential essentials.
None of these links below are affiliate. Everything is for your information only even though I highly recommend each and every item.
My first little helper is a a Mockmill 200 grain mill that you can get here. I am often asked in a conspirational tone “does this thing really make a difference?” Let me be honest – it absolutely does. Of course a mill is not magic and it does not infuse your dough with fairy dust. Its true value lies in allowing you to ditch the rancid store-bought wholegrain flour and explore the aromatic world of heirloom grains and flavorful strains of wheat. And yes, the storebought stuff does taste and smell rancid after you’ve tried the real deal. Whether you buy a sack of wheat berries and grind them into your dough or you go wild with emer, farro and einkorn – this mill is the friend you didn’t know you needed.
Boy oh boy has my life changed after I got this miracle box! And no, I’m not exaggerating. I used to go to bed at all hours of the night waiting for my dough to ripen in the cold kitchen. Now my loaves are never underprooved and, what is more important, I have completely eliminated guesswork from the process. Before, I had to wonder whether the dough is ready or not as the weather fluctuated and threw wrenches into my schedule. Now I know exactly how long my bread needs to proof at my preferred temperature of 81F. I really cannot overstate how happy I am to have made the leap and bought the proofer. I now also use it to get my starter to bloom in four hours. As a bonus – it is collapsible! It can easily be stored in a drawer or a cupboard for the few hours when you’re not making bread. Check it out here!
Proofing baskets + lining cloth
This was one of my first acquisitions on my bread journey and an impactful one at that. Can you just use a regular kitchen bowl? Yes, if you line it. Will you get the same effect? No. A good quality banneton will not only help your loaf maintain shape, but it will also absorb extra moisture from the surface of the dough allowing it to not stick. This drier surface is perfect for scoring too! I have tried many different kinds bought from all sorts of websites, and I believe that those from breadtopia are the best. Because I mostly bake to score, I always line my baskets with floured kitchen towels that are reserved for this purpose. I also find that the towel saves from sticking incidents, because if the dough sticks, just spray the spot with water and peel away the cloth!
Dividing and shaping the dough without a bench knife is possible, but boy is it tricky! Sometimes it’s not easy even with a bench knife as the dough might stick, especially if it’s high hydration and/or improperly proofed. That’s why I really love this non-stick Campbell’s Dough Knife. I dust it with a little bit of flour and it works like a charm in addition to looking sleek!
If you know anything about me you know that I love love love the handy little blade-holder from wiremonkeyshop. It allows me to have a good grip on the blade while staying close to the bread when scoring. Wach me use it here, where I also put my thread to work.
When it comes to actually baking the bread I have tried a dutch oven and a baking stone before arriving to this baking steel. I like how it holds the heat well, while allowing my bread to spread, opening up the scores. My crust comes out golden and delightfully crunchy! Baking the loaf uncovered also allows me to maintain thee stark contrast between flour and baked dough, like so:
If scoring is not your thing, you might want to stick with either a dutch oven, or invest in a challenger pan that has been making waves among those who like a blistered crust.
In addition to scales, oven and mixing bowls, these are the bread tools that have improved my bread-making experience. You don’t need most of them but I bet you want at least a few things on my list.