When it comes to bread baking, things can get serious fast. The stages of progression in my personal bread journey have been: Novice, Curiously Obsessed, and All In. Whatever phase you’re going through, there are devices galore that fit your level of interest, experience, and budget.
Whether you’re just starting out, starting to wade in, or have gone entirely off the deep end in your bread obsession, these are the tools I recommend to keep things exciting and to help you become the rock star baker you’ve always known you could be.
Stage 1: Novice
You don’t need many expensive tools to get started baking bread at home. Here are some basics which will set up your home bakery without breaking the bank.
I like using plastic or melamine bowls with tight-fitting lids, so I don’t have to use environmentally unfriendly plastic wrap, and these containers are safer than glass when working with dough that will expand. Having something like this 5-piece bowl set from Target or this 3-piece set from Kohl’s allows you to have a few different projects going at any one time.
Made by Design 5-Piece Mixing Bowl Set with Lids, $29.99 at Target
I am a big fan of using a scale, and once you start measuring this way, you will never want to go back for any recipe! This OXO scale is excellent—simple to use and to clean. It’s nice to be able to switch from standard to metric measure if you need to for various recipes.
OXO 5-Pound Scale with Pull-Out Display, $30 at Sur La Table
An inexpensive, essential tool that will let you utilize every little bit of dough. At under $10, you can’t go wrong with this plastic scraper from Sur La Table.
Plastic Scraper, $5 at Sur La Table
For sandwich-style bread, a non-stick loaf pan makes things easy. Don’t stress too much about the size (9” x 5” or 8.5” x 4”)—but I recommend that you purchase two because you will always use them for banana bread in between yeasted bread baking sessions, and it’s great to share these loaves. Bake Deco offers a range of sizes and prices, including this non-stick 5” x 8 7/8” loaf pan, which is my personal favorite.
Sur La Table Platinum Pro Loaf Pan, $14.96
Related Reading: 9 New Ways to Use Your Loaf Pan
Most no-knead bread recipes call for a Dutch oven of some sort. These can be prohibitively expensive, but they don’t have to be. Look for one that’s rated at the high temperature you’ll need for baking. Look for a 5- to 7-quart size with a round shape (versus an oval) for a typical boule shape. Also, some colors are sometimes less expensive than others. Remember, your bread will not care what color pot it’s cooked in, so save some dough!
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven, $39.94 at Walmart
I always line my pots with parchment for sourdough bread baking. It’s easily found in supermarkets or big box stores. Reynolds Wrap parchment roll is a classic—don’t use wax paper; it will melt in the oven and ruin your bread. As a side note: Parchment is also great for cookie baking.
Reynolds Kitchens Parchment Paper, $6.67 at Walmart
If you’re making bread, you’re eating bread. And unless you’re an animal, you’re slicing it. Knives, like Dutch ovens, range from inexpensive to extravagant.
Zyliss Serrated Bread Knife, $28.99 on Wayfair
Stage 2: Curiously Obsessed
As your bread game improves, you will find yourself looking for ways to develop, and a few new gadgets can upgrade your technique.
Scoring bread is an art form, and while you can keep using that serrated knife, you can get a gorgeous ear with a lame (pronounced lahm), a fancy tool designed for just for this purpose. King Arthur has this black walnut lame, which is fun, and Breadtopia sells this simple model, a favorite of many bakers.
Black Walnut Handle Bread Lame, $34.95 at Williams Sonoma
One of my favorites is the UFO Lames de Boulanger from Tyler at Wire Monkey. These offer fantastic control, and they are so cute and well-designed.
Wire Monkey UFO Bread Journey, $27.95 on Etsy
Another option is the no-frills Xacto knife, which allows you to create precision, detailed scoring patterns.
Banneton Proofing Baskets
For sourdough bakers, bannetons are a way to show some style, but they are also helpful for crust development. There are dozens of sizes and shapes to choose from, but having both round and oval-shaped baskets is useful for proofing different bread varieties. Coiled rattan baskets like this one from Breadtopia are an excellent place to start, and using a liner is also helpful in keeping high-hydration breads from sticking, which is the worst.
Firefly Baking Bread Banneton Proofing Baskets, $6.99+ on Etsy
Stage 3: All In
Are you staying up late fantasizing about bakers’ percentages? Do you follow bakers like the rock stars they are on IG? Then you’re ready to really commit.
Challenger Breadware Pan
This cast iron pan was designed by bread enthusiast Jim Challenger. It’s a big, versatile pan designed specifically for baking better bread. An investment piece for serious baking, it’s the darling of the bread world.
The Challenger Bread Pan, $295 at Challenger Breadware
What About a Stand Mixer?
For many bakers, a stand mixer (like this classic Kitchen Aid model) is an essential tool, but I disagree. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a versatile and useful appliance for many applications. If you have one, you can finally break out that dough hook that you’ve been meaning to try and knead an enriched dough or bagels.
But when you’re starting out as a bread maker, I think you need (pardon the pun) to get your hands into your dough to learn about texture and gluten development. Kneading bread, or even turning and folding a high-hydration sourdough, is a very Zen experience for me. And I wouldn’t want to deprive you of that joy. (See some kneading tips here.)
Related Video: Still Not Sure? Try This No-Knead Bread Recipe to Start
Header image courtesy of Wire Monkey/Etsy