The strict requirements for making bread are fairly humble: flour, water, salt, yeast; a container to mix the ingredients in; an oven-safe pot to bake in. But there are some tools beyond the mere essentials that will help any bread baker up their game and get more consistent, more pleasing results.
Below you'll find a list of some of my preferred tools.
- A large mixing tub. You'll want a large tub with a lid to mix your doughs in; maybe even a couple, in case you want to try different techniques in tandem. I own a couple of these 5.5L tubs and corresponding lids. You can get by with a large mixing bowl and cling wrap to act as a cover.
- Smaller tubs/containers with lids. In addition to a large, main mixing tub, you'll probably want a couple of smaller ones—about a pint or so, preferably transparent—for mixing sourdough starter. You want it large enough so that you can easily mix the ingredients by hand. Old plastic ice cream tubs work well for this.
- A bench scraper. These are tremendously useful both for scraping up odd pieces of dough and flour from your work surface, and for dividing large, prepared dough into smaller pieces for shaping. I have a flexible one similar to this option from Nesbits.
- A lame. Lame is just the french word for blade; a sharp knife is needed to score the bread, which in turn helps ensure a good rise in the oven. I have one of the UFO lames from Wire Monkey.
- Rising baskets or bannetons. Usually a wicker or rattan basket lined with a linen towel, these baskets help keep the bread’s shape while going through their final proof. I have a couple of these in oval shapes.
- A combo cooker, dutch oven, or bread oven. You'll want to invest in good bakeware that will help trap steam and heat. I've tried a few different options, and found the specially-made Challenger Bread Pan to be the best tool for the job. It's not cheap, though, so for a budget or entry option, the Lodge 3.2 quart combi cooker is an excellent choice as well. A regular old dutch oven works too, but their high walls make dropping a loaf of bread into it challenging once it's pre-heated.