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One of the things I like most about bread is its flexibility: you can bake simple every day loaves using almost no equipment. I have baked flatbreads on a barbecue using nothing but a cast iron pan and a bowl for mixing the ingredients (see our Summer 2014 issue for the full story). I have also mixed doughs with nothing but a bowl and my hands — I don’t think I even had a spoon to mix the ingredients!
This is great when you are just getting started with bread (you don’t need to go shopping for tools to give bread making a shot) or when the bread making itch gets to you in a time and place where you don’t have your tools with you. But once you go deeper and start looking for the perfect crust and crumb, having the correct set of basic tools makes all the difference. While most of us will not get to bake in a real bakery oven, there are many tools you can have in your home kitchen that will bring your bread making to the next level. This is why today, I have collected a list of all the bread making equipment I use in my every day baking as I strive to make great bread. If you have been baking bread for a while, you probably already have most or all of these tools in your inventory, but if you are just getting started, start going through the list from the top, adding tools to your inventory one by one as you progress in your craft.

1. Dough bowl

In addition to a heat source of some kind (most of the time, that would be an oven), a dough bowl is the only tool you really need to bake bread. Pretty much any bowl will do, but I suggest you go with a round stainless steel one: they are easy to clean, and the roundness helps in mixing the dough when working with a plastic scraper (see below). I usually proof my dough in the same bowl I mix it in, but I have seen many bakers use a separate plastic container for the step: A square container oiled lightly before placing the dough into it makes it very easy to do stretch and folds during the first rise — and it’s nice to be able to follow the dough development through the sides of the container. That’s why, more and more, I am also transitioning towards this method.

2. Plastic scraper

A plastic scraper is a very simple tool, but also one of the most important. I first learned about using a plastic scraper in bread making from Richard Bertinet’s book Dough and since I bought myself one from his online store, I have been using it all the time. In his book, Bertinet calls the scraper an extension of his hand, which is a great assessment of how the tool feels. When mixing the dough, you place the scraper in your right hand (or left, if you are left handed). Then, when you rotate the bowl with your left hand, the scraper almost automatically mixes the dough’s ingredients: with the help of these two simple tools, you have become a human mixer! I have tried two different kinds of scrapers: some are quite rigid and others more flexible. For my purposes, the rigid one works better — and you can also use it to cut the dough, so I think it’s the one you should go for.

3. Kitchen scale

A kitchen scale is often the first tool new bread bakers find themselves shopping for as the get started. This is for a good reason. In bread making, small changes in measures can make a huge difference. So much so that bakers around the world have realized that it’s better to just get rid of the often not so precise volume measures and simply weigh everything. Weighing ingredients also makes the calculations related to bread formulas more straightforward. Finally, there is the practical reason that most bread recipes in good bread making books are expressed in weights. With all of these reasons, having an accurate kitchen scale in your kitchen is a no-brainer. Get a digital scale that can be reset to zero in between measures. This way, you can use different bowls without worrying about the bowls’ weights. Or, if you have a steady hand and won’t have to pour ingredients out after measurements, you might even measure them all straight into the one dough bowl…

4. Proofing basket

A proofing basket — also known as banneton or brotform — is a handy tool when making slowly rising bread such as sourdough. The basket helps the bread keep its shape during the long final rest, while also giving a nice texture to its crust. While not mandatory for making great bread, I recommend that you add a pair or two of these to your bread making tool box. My favorites are wooden cane bannetons but I have also used ones made of wood pulp with good results. If you have trouble with dough sticking to your baskets, you might want to consider baskets covered with linen cloth. This helps especially when working with wet doughs.

5. Baking stone

A good baking stone helps by storing heat in the oven as you open the oven door to place the bread in the oven. It also helps by quickly sealing the bottom of the bread and pushing heat from the bottom into the bread so that the oven spring is directed towards the top of the bread — which is just what we are looking for! When picking a baking stone, look for a high quality, thick rectangular stone that fits your oven as perfectly as possible. Thinner baking stones, often sold as pizza stones, will not store as much heat — and will break sooner or later.

6. Dutch Oven

While a baking stone is great in storing and directing heat, it doesn’t help with moisture — which is very important when going for a bread with great oven spring. Bakery ovens solve this problem by injecting a big cloud of steam into the oven after the breads are in, but at home, as our regular ovens don’t have the steam button, we need to look for alternative methods. Many bakers have got great results by heating a cast iron pan at the bottom of the oven and then pouring water on it. Others use a spray bottle to get steam into the oven. While both work OK, I have always had my best results using a dutch oven or combo cooker. I pre-heat the cast iron combo cooker in the oven and then, when the bread is ready to be baked, I place it in the pan and cover with the lid or pot. This creates a small well-sealed, wood-fired oven like oven inside your regular oven, capturing the moisture that escapes from the bread as it bakes, thus giving the bread more time to expand before the crust starts forming. The good thing about cast iron pans and pots is that with the right care they can last almost forever. This is why, you can do great finds at second hand shops and flea markets. Just keep your eyes open!

7. Some tool for scoring the loaf of bread

Before you bake your loaf of bread, you have one last chance to turn it from good to great by scoring or slashing the top of the loaf. In some cases, like with the baguette, the right pattern is what differentiates one type of bread from another. In others, it’s just about giving your bread your personal signature — and directing the oven spring where you want it to go. I use what the French bakers call a lame, a razor blade attached to a stick of some kind. For good results, it’s important to keep the blade sharp, and using a razor blade, you can easily replace the blade when it loses its sharpness. Some bakers prefer serrated knives and I know some even use a razor blade with no handle at all. I suggest you first try a knife but at some point, also give the lame a try. You might enjoy it!

8. A note book (or a computer)

Deliberate practice, by baking bread over and over while taking notes and analyzing the results is the only way to reach greatness in the craft. I’m still far from greatness, but I think the small notebook I got when I started baking bread has been one of the best bread related purchases I have made so far! These days, I often use my computer (with the help of the BreadStorm application) to write down bread formulas, but when you have your hands covered in dough, nothing beats a simple paper notebook.

9. Bread tins

I debated with myself whether I should have placed bread tins higher on the list or not: after all, many bread making books start by teaching simple tin loaves — this makes sense as they are easier to make than self standing, more artisan loaves. However, I prefer the other types of breads: boules, batards, and so on, and thus left this item at the end of the list. A few good bread tins are great to have, especially if your children prefer a soft sandwich loaf (or maybe you like it the best yourself!).

10. Thermometer

As a lazy baker, I usually just measure dough temperature by using my hands’ feel. However, a lot of bakers recommend being careful with temperature, especially if you are looking for consistent results: a good handheld thermometer will help you know exactly how warm or cool your ingredients are and to decide the temperature of the water used accordingly.

11. Flour sift

A flour sift is mostly used together with a flour mill, but even if you don’t have your own mill, you can find some use for a sift. In Tartine Book No. 3, Chad Robertson suggests making your own high extraction flour by buying wholemeal flour and then sifting it yourself rather than buying a bag of white flour. This is definitely an extra item. Nice to have for experiments but not necessary for great bread. So, get one if you like the idea — but don’t worry if you don’t.

What do you use?

Now, I’d like to hear your thoughts: what are your favorite bread making tools, and why? What tools you couldn’t live without.



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Comments (43)

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  1. I am having a hard time finding a tool used in the making of Naan, Flatbread,etc. It looks like a pillow, and it’s called a Cotta I might have the spelling wrong it’s used to slap the flat dough onto a Tamal and Camal or the inside of a clay oven. If you could give me some idea of what I could do to find one I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank You, Dennis Keefe ciao

  2. Hi Wilma,
    While you can bake in any baking dish or pan. A dutch oven with a lid works great. For really wet batter type doughs,like quick breads, or ryes, i use bread pans. If it is a artisan bread dough and wet you may need to develop the gluten better with long ferments and stretch and fold techniques.

  3. Can you bake your bread in pirex bowl? I’ve been doing some recipies with very goey batter… They need a bowl to go to the oven.

  4. I usually get by with a plastic mixing bowl, a big spoon (or a tablespoon if I can’t find anything else, though its a bit hard on my wrist), a cup measure (I don’t own a kitchen scale), a jug for the lukewarm water, a bread baking pan and some cooking spray to spray into the bread pan. I put the bread pan with the bread dough into a big plastic bag for proofing. I’m still a beginner baker and haven’t tried baking other bread recipes. I just do the quick brown bread recipe and for that I don’t really need any other tools.

  5. I’ve been living on a boat for 3 months, travelling in places where bread is difficult to find, so I’ve been baking my own everyday.
    It took some time to bake it correctly in the small gas oven (without ventilation), it burnt the outside of the bread and the inside wasn’t fully baked.
    Then I tried baking bread in a pressure cooker, but the results weren’t really good, it is impossible to get a nice crust.
    A finally I stumbled on this: http://www.tupperware.fr/produits/314/W37UltraPro35l
    The owners had this on the boat, and I tried baking the bread in it to prevent the outside from burning. And it worked really well!
    Since then I’ve been baking good bread on the boat 🙂
    At that time, I didn’t know about the dutch oven method, I’ve learnt this technique a few days ago, but it is quite similar, apart from the fact that the dutch oven retains heat whereas the Tupperware does not. But the Tupperware lets heat go through more quickly, and that’s nice because we were trying to save gas on the boat (in places where it’s difficult to buy more, and during the Atlantic Crossing), so no preheating the oven before putting the bread inside.
    I’ve been using a simple recipe to have bread in less than 3 hours on the boat, 15 minutes to reactivate the dry yeast, 2 hours of proofing, 45 minutes in the tupperware in the oven (cool start) with lid on, then 15 minutes with lid off 🙂

    1. That’s awesome, Raphaël! It’s great to see bread baked in such special conditions.
      The Tupperware is a great idea. After all, the most important part about a dutch oven is how it keeps the moisture trapped inside, so yes, your Tupperware clearly does that. 🙂 Would be great to see some photos of your results.
      Thanks for sharing the tip!

      1. I’m sorry I won’t be able to send pictures, my USB key is unreadable 🙁
        I hope that this will help people on boats make bread, as it is really the more convenient way to have good bread on a boat!

  6. Thanks Jarkko. Just discovered your site via the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook page. Are you a member? Lots of great ideas there!
    I agree with the parchment on pizza peel being the best for slipping a loaf onto a baking stone. I found that a mixture of rice flour and all purpose flour works well for making a banneton less sticky.

    1. Nice! Welcome, Kate! I hope you’ll like it here 🙂
      Yes, I follow the Artisan Bread Bakers page on Facebook. It’s a good one (UNIVERSALBREAD is great too, have you seen it?)
      Happy baking, and thanks for the comment!

    1. That’s a great question, Gary! I have seen some Excel sheets and such online, but not a full BreadStorm like app so far… But I would imagine someone must have made something like it.
      Maybe the BreadStorm creators would know?

      1. Hi Gary, thank you for the compliment! This is Jacqueline, co-creator of BreadStorm.
        To your question, I know of no comparable tools for non-apple devices. (BreadStorm’s on Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch.) If you learn of one, I’d be most curious to know.
        A number of bakers with PCs have shared with me that they get far with a spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel) and the web tool http://www.calcmasa.com/. That could be something to try.

  7. If had not a DOUGH WHISK in my hands, I could be made to own unique method bread.

    1. Actually, I think I had a notebook and pen on the list 😉
      But the camera, I forgot. I agree: recording what you did and the results is important so you know what to differently (or the same way) the next time.

  8. An instant read thermometer – not only for the desired dough temperature (I hardly ever use it for that), but for testing the done-ness of a baked loaf, especially of a bread I tried for the first time.
    Just going by the look can be deceptive, and knocking on the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow isn’t very exact, either.

    1. This makes sense. I usually bake my sourdough loaves quite dark (I like the crust)… so I don’t need to worry about doneness 😉
      However, this sounds like a good idea when working with a different type of bread. Like a sandwich bread.
      Thanks, Karin!

  9. The one tool I recently purchased and found very useful was a bread proofer box by Brod & Taylor bought on line. It is good for both proofing breads in the different phases of the process as well as for sourdough starters. It is collapsible and easy to store and very simple to operate.

  10. Plastic tubs with lids for fermenting , storing starters, other stuff
    Dough whisk
    Heavy linen you can get from a fabric store for use as a couche
    Boards to transfer dough to the oven
    Optional but nice – parchment paper

    1. Thanks, Kevin! Do you use parchment paper for transferring breads into the oven?

      1. yes,
        To get my bread out of the banneton baskets , I place a piece of parchment over the top then cover that with a pizza peel, then I invert the whole thing and I have my bread on a peel on the parchment which I slide onto the oven stone.

  11. Bench scraper.
    Electric mixer–allows me to mix dough without risk of changing proportion of flour and water.

  12. good list starting from the boat you are writing in, I do not have baskets to let dough rise, use a stainless steel scraper with plastic handle, would like to have good razor’s edge to score my loaves …… I like the neat accativante way you have in writing about bread!!

    1. Thank you, Maddalena!
      A stainless steel scraper is nice to have too. I use one for cutting the dough and cleaning the work surface 🙂

  13. I think you should try replacing the stone with an 8mm steel plate. Metal gets warm quickly, which allows for some power savings (I used to preheat my oven for over an hour with my stone). Metal gets hotter, therefore contributing to a great spring (really spectacular). And metal keeps warm for a long time, distributing heat evenly and allowing you to throw some dinner into your oven even after having turning it off.

    1. Great idea, Pablo! Considering how well my dutch oven works, I can imagine that this will work wonders.
      Where did you find such a plate?

      1. Hi Jarkko,
        I found this at a local metal workshop. The only problem was, these guys they’re used to working with big quantities and they’ll charge you with a minimum of one plate. Their plates come from the factory in 4 sq meter or even bigger sizes, so that’s sometimes an obstacle. Anyway, I met a few coleagues who were also interested in trying these and we bought one of those as a group. The workshop cut these to measure at around 40 € each. Metal plate baking is getting quite hot in Spain lately, so some providers are offering these plates through their websites as well. Below you may find a couple of options.

        1. Thanks for the information, Pablo! Very interesting!
          I’ll have to look into this and see if I could find someone here in Finland who’s willing to do something similar.
          The products you linked look very exciting too!

    2. Hi Pablo. I’ve seen the stuff about steel baking plates too, though I haven’t tried one. Just one question: how can a steel plate get hotter than a ceramic or stone one, if they are both in the same oven? I suspect you are confusing thermal conductivity with thermal capacity. High conductivity means that it gives its heat up quickly, which may well contribute to oven spring. It is also the reason why touching a steel plate will raise a blister, while touching a stone or, indeed, the baked bread, will not. They’re all at the same temperature, but have very different thermal conductivity.

      1. Jeremy, you’re absolutely right. I meant metal gets hot quicker, not hotter. Indeed all these materials are in the same oven, but still I can use my steel plate in 30 minutes, whereas I used to need over an hour to get the same results with a stone.

  14. Good list, although I question the need for measuring dough temperature unless you are being super-finicky. I would also add clean tea-towels for when you need a couche. And reusable parchment paper is an absolute gift for sliding bread onto a baking stone.

    1. Yeah, I agree, actually. Measuring temperature is probably something that becomes more useful when you have to replicate the same formula again and again — I almost never measure or think about temperatures when baking myself.
      A couche and the tea-towels should have been on the list. Forgot about them! 🙂
      Thanks for the comment, Jeremy!

    1. Good addition, Suryo! I still have a lot of work to do with my croissants 🙂

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