The Bread Baking Essentials Every Home Cook Should Have
Looking to challenge yourself by baking a loaf from scratch? You'll want to know about these tools that make bread-baking simple.
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Sydney Watson/Taste of Home
Baking bread is a uniquely challenging and satisfying task. Sure, there’s a bit of fuss when it comes to proofing yeast and getting picture-perfect plaits, but the smell of freshly baked bread is worth it. The only thing you need—besides a great recipe—are a few bread baking essentials to get you started. And don’t miss the rest of the general baking supplies our Test Kitchen team can’t live without.
If you invest in one bread baking tool, let it be a bench scraper ($10). This tool is great at manipulating bread dough on your bench, dividing it into sections for braids and rolls and for cleanup after all the kneading is done.
Whether you prefer quick breads or yeasted breads, you’ll definitely want to invest in a few loaf pans to fix up your favorite recipes. There are plenty of options out there, but you can never go wrong with a great nonstick pan, like this one from our brand new line of bakeware ($14). Your bread will pop right of the pan with ease.
While we adore our stand mixers, sometimes you need to mix up bread the old-fashioned way. Instead of slogging through sticky bread dough with a wooden spoon, opt for a dough whisk ($13). This tool helps incorporate ingredients quickly and easily.
Dough Hook Mixer Attachment
Your stand mixer is invaluable when it comes to making bread. Be sure to keep its dough hook attachment ($15) at the ready when you start a new recipe or invest in one. It’s so handy, especially for stickier doughs like the one for this twisted babka.
When you make bread with yeast, it’s absolutely crucial that the water you add to the dough or use to proof the yeast is precisely the right temperature. Too chilly and that yeast won’t grow. Too hot and it’s no good. Skip the guesswork and invest in a quick-read thermometer ($34). This will tell you in a few seconds if your water is the right temperature—ideally around 110ºF.
Flexible Bowl Scraper
Let’s face it: Bread dough can be pretty sticky. To make sure you get every bit of bread dough out of your mixing bowl, skip the spatula and go for a flexible, silicone bowl scraper ($7). You’ll find yourself using this handy tool for all your breads and plenty of other bakes.
Getting dough to rise can be tricky business. Yeasted bread dough likes a warm, humid environment—around 75ºF with 60-80% humidity—to get the right lift. Make sure your house is warm and humid enough with an indoor thermometer ($25).
Reusable Bowl Covers
Ditch the single-use plastic wrap! Instead, cover your rising dough with reusable bowl covers ($30). These cotton covers fit snugly around bowls, keeping moisture in for the perfect proof.
Countertop Dough Proofer
As much as we love making homemade bread, getting the right environment for proofing can be pretty tricky, especially when you live in cooler climes. Ensure you get consistent rising results every time with a countertop proofer ($169). It’s a bit of investment but worth every penny if you’re an avid bread maker. If you pass on this gadget, be sure to check out other ways to get a good rise when it’s a bit too chilly.
To get a good slice of perfectly crusty homemade bread, you’ll need a good bread knife. Serrated is a must to cut through any bread without crushing the perfect texture inside and preserving the crust outside. Our Test Kitchen loves this one from Wüsthof ($50).
You can cut out some of the labor of bread making with a good bread machine ($110). Bread makers can help you mix up dough, knead it and even bake the bread for you. Here are some recipes to get you started.
Mini Loaf Pan
Quick bread recipes are easy to convert into mini loaves. Instead of having heaps of small loaf pans, try a pan like this one from Sur la Table ($30). You can bake up to eight mini loaves all at once.
Avid bread bakers swear by these woven proofing baskets called bannetons. They give your breads an attractive shape while rising, plus they really make you feel like an expert baker. Try this one in various sizes ($30 and up).
If baguettes are top of your baking list, you’ll want a couche—a sturdy piece of linen just for proofing—like they use in France. Nestle your loaves into the folds of this fabric ($30) and you’ll have crusty, tasty baguettes in no time.
Wonder how bakeries get those gorgeous designs on the top of their breads? That’s all thanks to a deft hand and a lame (pronounced lahm). These tools ($40) are essentially razors designed for baking. Slice into your bread before baking and you can create neat cuts and designs.