It's been a long time coming, but finally after many years of bread baking and trying different bread baking equipment, I've put together the minimum you need to get started baking bread at home.
Over the years, I have been asked what's my favourite piece of bread making equipment and what I could not be without. So, here is my take on the Bread Baking Starter Kit:
The must have bread baking equipment shopping list
Let's have a look at all the different bread baking equipment and you can decide for yourself what you really need. If I was very frugal, I would say, that you don't need any bread baking equipment! You can mix your bread dough directly on the work counter, shape and let prove naturally resting under a tea towel and bake at the bottom of your oven without a baking sheet. But, there are certain things that will make your bread baking more enjoyable and allow you to create different bread shapes and also make your more efficient.
Serrated Bread Knife
If I had to choose just one piece of equipment, it would have to be a serrated bread knife that you use to slash the top of the bread before it goes into the oven. It's difficult to replace or get the same effect with anything else, so that one is a definite must for me!
I bought one from Victorinox about 10 years ago and I'm still using the same one, as they are such a good quality. Make sure that you don't use this knife on anything else, just on your bread and they will last a long time. This serrated knife is also very sharp, so make sure that you are careful when you handle it.
Bread Proving Basket
To get the authentic rustic look you do need a good bread proving basket. I have tried different types - some made out of plastic or plastic and paper pulp, but I always come back to the traditional cane bread proving basket. Why? Well, it's a natural material for a start and it gives the bread great imprint whilst forming a slightly thicker skin on top of the bread to give a great crust. I have not been able to achieve this with other types of bread proving baskets.
To chose the right type of bread basket, you need to know the volume of your bread. This is not the weight of your bread flour in the recipe, but the total volume/weight of your bread before it bakes. For example this round bread baking basket is suitable for 1000g of dough, which means it's perfect for any basic bread recipe that starts with 500-600g of flour. If you are not sure whether your bread recipe is right, my quick sourdough bread recipe fits in perfectly. You can of course, use smaller amount of bread dough in your proving basket, but not the other way round. The bread dough needs space to prove and grow.
Bread Dough Scraper
Life is much easier when you have a Bread Dough Scraper. This is one of the cheapest bread making equipment tools, but quite essential. It's perfect for taking your bread dough out of a bowl, dividing dough into rolls, marking your soda bread and also cleaning your work area at the end.
Bread Baking Sandwich Tin
If you want to make sandwiches from your homebaked bread, you really need proper bread baking tin. You can improvise with any loaf tin that you might already have at home, such as cake baking tin. But to get the high rise and the right shape you need a proper bread baking sandwich tin. The main difference is that the bread loaf tin will have straight sides, as oppose to cake loaf tin that has slanted sides. This turns the bread into a straight square loaf. When choosing the right size, I would go with something that fits your regular bread recipe well. 2 pounds loaf bread tin is fine for any recipe that starts with 500g of flour (or less). If you buy a large tin, you can always double up the recipe if needed.
Bread Baking Stone
Bread baking stone is nice to have and perfect if you are bread baking frequently or love crusty pizza. It's not entirely essential, as you can bake a decent bread without one, but it does give you slightly bigger rise when you bake your bread. When chosing the right baking stone, make sure it's thick (at least 1.5 cm) and wide enough. Obviously check the measurements, so that it fits into your oven. I use baking stone made from heat resistant cordierite, which is durable material, that's less likely to crack in the oven (unlike some traditional bread baking stones).
Make sure that you always have your stone in the oven before you switch the oven on, so that the stone heats up gradually. Bread baking stones, especially the ones made from natural stone, don't like a sudden change in temperature, so adding a stone to already hot oven is a big 'no' 'no'!!!
Bread Baking Ingredients
There is not much point having all the fancy bread baking equipment and not having the right ingredients to go with it. So here is my list of essential bread baking ingredients.
The first on my list is of course good quality flour. I use mainly Bacheldre Mill flour for my bread baking courses and also Doves Farm Flour. If you are just starting out any strong bread flour will do. But when you get bit more into the swing of things, it's so nice to try different flours to add texture to your bread. The best thing is that you can use the same recipe and just change the flour and you get a slightly different tasting bread every time.
And of course, we can't forget the yeast and good quality salt, because without these your bread would not only be tasteless, but also wouldn't rise much. You can buy the normal type of yeast (quick yeast) in any supermarket, but if you fancy something different I've resourced for you real yeast which is supplied in small packs. Follow your normal recipe (for quick yeast) and double the amount when using fresh yeast.
Recently I started to use Pink Himalayan salt in my bread baking because it's a bit healthier than normal salt. The pink colour comes from magnesium and iron and the salt also includes potassium and other minerals. If you get salt that's more coarse than table salt, let the salt dissolve in hot water first before you use it in your bread.
So, now you have the basic bread making equipment and ingredients, the only thing missing is the recipe.
Or if you would like to venture into sourdough, speciality or sweet bread baking, you can find my new e-book just here.
I've included a whole chapter about bread baking equipment and also how to look after your tools, because I've noticed that sometimes manufacturers don't include equipment instructions when you buy them.
P.S. Here are more bread baking blogs you might like to read...