Bread making equipment? What equipment? If you believe some TV shows, all you need to make bread is a suitably large table, your hands, and perhaps a handy wood-fired oven.
But for most of us who don’t have a TV crew to clean up in our wake, and when daily life doesn’t leave much room for a ‘Take Two’ when things go wrong, its good to have a few tools at our disposal. Of course we don’t need these items (like fish don’t need bicycles), but they sure do make baking life infinitely more enjoyable.
Here’s my top five bread making must-haves, and where to find them:
Electronic Scales — Electronic scales are the most important piece of equipment in my kitchen. Even professional bakers swear by them. And remember, there’s no shame in not being able to measure out a 73% water-to-flour ratio by eye. I’ve been a fan of Salter scales for years — reliable, easy to clean, and the batteries are easy to replace. Argos have a good range and good prices.
Bread Scraper — My second favourite piece of kit. Especially when working with wetter doughs, nothing makes you feel more like a really competent baker than the occasional sweep of the bread scraper to keep the dough exactly where you want it (i.e. in one lump and not all over your kitchen counter). They’re also useful for getting all the dough out of your mixing bowl and scraping dried dough off surfaces afterward. Depending on how many you’re buying, Bakery Bits (higher price, lower delivery charge) or Nisbets (vice versa, unless spending over a certain amount) is your best bet.
Serrated Bread Knife — An alternative to razor blades for scoring/slashing the dough before baking. Added bonus: you can cut your finished loaf with it. I got my current Victorinox knife from Nisbets — its sturdy, well-made and, well, I’m a sucker for the gorgeous dark wood handle.
Bannetons / Proving Baskets — This is my personal must-have for making sourdough. The cane banneton supports the dough during its long fermentation, and leaves beautiful floury marks on the loaf surface. When I first learnt to make sourdough, I used to prove the loaves free-form on baking sheets and wondered why I was producing frisbees. Bakery Bits have a good range of both cane bannetons and lined wicker bannetons (not tried). Amazon also sells bannetons.
Oven and Fridge Thermometers — These definitely fall in the optional category of bakery kit. Oven thermometers are great if you’re curious about the difference between what your oven is telling you and what it’s actually doing, and useful if you’re moving house and want to calibrate your baking times your new oven.
Fridge thermometers are handy when you leave dough to rise in the fridge overnight — for example, the temperature between two shelves in my fridge varies by at least a few degrees, leading to a slower rise on the cooler shelf (thrilling, I know). Okay, these are gadgets for the bread geeks amongst us, but at under £10 (or much less), they’re unlikely to break the bank. I got both my thermometers from Amazon. Or go straight to the source at ETI (Electronic Temperature Instruments).
Argos – Where they store it all, I really don’t know.
Bakery Bits – Artisan bread equipment paradise. Send this website to all your relatives, in time for Christmas.
Nisbets – An online Argos for caterers. I call their catalogue ‘The Book Of Everything’. Very swift delivery.
Amazon (UK) – ‘Nuff said.
ETI (Electronic Temperature Instruments) – What it says on the packet. Click on ‘Catering Thermometers’.
Creeds Direct – Another bakery equipment supplier. I’ve not used them yet, but they stock scrapers, bannetons and lots more.
[And sadly no, none of these companies are paying me to talk about them.]
So what’s your favourite piece of bakery kit?