Reliability and Repeatability
There are a number of tools for bread baking that I recommend that you acquire, but the lack of any of them will not stop you from baking. Having them though will greatly increase the ease of your baking, and the repeatability. I’m going to list them in the order that I myself would buy them were I starting today, and I’m leaving out things like mixing bowls which are likely just around the kitchen.
When working with high hydration doughs, nothing beats a dough scraper to get the wet mass up off of the work surface. These can be had from Amazon on the cheap. Here’s a link to my dough scraper.
Since we’re working in weights rather than volumes, we need to be able to weigh ingredients, and nothing beats a digital scale for ease – that old school balance from chemistry class is better but way too expensive. Any scale that will weigh grams up to 10 pounds (which you’ll never go to) is good, and that it will do ounces and pounds is a bonus. Here is a link to my digital scale.
Unless you have an oven that actually measures it’s temperature accurately (ie., accurately), get an oven thermometer. They are cheap and can save you a lot of heartache.
Baking or Pizza Stone
A stone is key! For Pizza and Bread (though some bread can be made in a bread pan). They come in round and rectangular, the latter of which would be a better choice but make sure either will fit in your oven! They’re all over Amazon….shop around for a good stone at a good price. For Pizza and Focaccia I use two with one right above the pizza to distribute heat without burning the ingredients.
I didn’t have one of these for a long time, then my teenage son gave me one and now I’m constantly using it, because it’s a groovy one with a spoon on the other side. It’s really hard to get everything out of the bowl without one (and it makes cleaning the bowl a breeze after). Here’s a link to an old school dough scraper.
Cloche or a Dutch Oven
A dutch oven is something a lot of people have in the kitchen, and you can use it to bake many things. The purpose is keeping steam in to develop a great crust. The shape of the cloche, or shape of the dutch oven will affect the shape of the bread. Makes sense. Here is a link to a clay cloche like the one I use to make boules, or round loaves of bread.
Proofing baskets are great. First, if they’re floured up right nothing will stick to them. Second, where do you think those groovy designs on the surface of some of the loaves come from? I use both oblong (loaf shape) and round (boule) for my bread. I’d get two of both kinds. Here are 8″ round and 9″ oblong, both are good for an average size loaf of bread. I would, however, shop around for these. They can be had in pairs really cheap! These links are just examples. What I used before having baskets was an appropriately sized bowl with a clean floured cloth lining it. Improvise.
Instant Read Digital Thermometer
With one of these thermometers, getting your water temperatures, mix temperatures and bake temperatures just right is a snap. These can be had for reasonably cheap, though you might shop peoples reviews…mine is just OK
Yes, this little thing is handy.
OK, I know, this is over the top, but if you can, do. I was fortunate to be given one, and my wife has one, too. I have seen them at garage sales for $40. They just keep on going! I’m not providing a link.