Baking bread is relatively simple: Mix flour, water, yeast, and salt together, proof it, pop it in the oven, and — voilà! — bread. But as with many culinary pursuits, having the right tools can make even the simplest-seeming a bit easier to accomplish with near professional results. Baking, whether it’s bread or pastries, is as much a science as it is an art. Sure, a lot of the craft is trial and error and getting a feel for how dough should look, act, and feel throughout the bread making process. But equally as important are precise measurements, proper ingredients, and practical tools. Here are Food & Wine Assistant Food Editor Kelsey Youngman’s picks for everything home baker can use to bake their best bread.
Here’s where that science aspect comes into play. First, measuring your flour, water, and starter in grams or ounces will greatly improve your accuracy and consistency. And speaking of consistency, when you’re portioning dough into smaller loaves or rolls, a scale is essential for creating identical batches.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display — $50 at amazon.com
Bench scraper/Bowl scraper
Not only does a bench scraper keep your countertop clean, it’s also the ideal tool for lifting and folding sticky dough from the work surface as well as cutting dough down into portions. A flexible bench and bowl combination can do double duty by also helping get every scrap of dough out of the mixing bowl.
OXO Good Grips Multi-purpose Stainless Steel Scraper & Chopper — $10 at amazon.com
Ateco Bowl Scraper, Set of 2 — $6 at amazon.com
Sure, any bowl can work mixing up ingredients, but for dough that expands in size and can be finicky about when it’s proofed long enough, a clear, graduated container can help you keep an eye on things.
Cambro 6SFSCW135 Camsquare Food Container, 6-Quart, Polycarbonate, Clear — $15 at amazon.com
Cuisinart CTG-00-SMB Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, Set of 3 — $25 at amazon.com
A good idea to have in your oven no matter what, because ovens can vary a reliable and accurate oven thermometer will tell you the exact temperature inside despite what the knob or display says it is.
Taylor Classic Series Large Dial Oven Thermometer — $6 at amazon.com
Once your piping hot loaves come out of the oven, you’ll need a place to put them will good circulation so they cool down as soon as possible (so you can eat them!).
CIA Masters Collection 12-Inch by 17-Inch Wire Cooling Rack — $16 at amazon.com
Especially if you’re planning to make sandwich bread, a loaf pan is the vessel of choice for uniformly rectangular bread. If you’re opting for a no-knead method, then you’ll want to consider a cast iron loaf pan or (for boules) a dutch oven which can be properly heated up in the oven before placing the dough inside.
Lodge Loaf Pan — $20 at amazon.com
USA Pan Aluminized Steel Medium Loaf Pan, Silver — $15 at amazon.com
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven — $385 at amazon.com
A basket designed for bread helps keep your bread’s shape during that final proof and promotes a higher rise.
Fotemix 10-Inch Bread Proofing Basket Starter Kit — $17 at amazon.com
Ensure your bread’s doneness inside, and also double check the water temperature the yeast to do its job in the fermentation process.
Thermapen Mk4 — $99 at thermoworks.com
If you’re looking for sourdough but don’t have your own starter, consider sourcing some from a local bakery or online. Read more about acquiring some sourdough starter here.
Serrated bread knife
You just put all that work into a crusty, fluffy loaf. Don’t ruin it by squishing it with an improper slicing knife. For the truly committed, with a specialty bread knife. Otherwise, any knife with larger serration will do the job.
Victorinox Fibrox Pro Serrated Bread Knife, 10-inch — $55 at surlatable.com
If you’re putting in the effort to bake your own bread, you might as well go all out with the best possible ingredients, and since flour plays the biggest role in any bread recipe using freshly milled flours (and mixing different varieties of them) will make your bread taste even better than the typical store-bought stuff. If you’re really a “from scratch” baker, you can even buy a mill and try making your own flour.
KoMo Fidibus 21 — $399 at amazon.com
Bluebird Grain Farms (price varies)
Farmer Ground Flour (available regionally)
A baking steel or stone turns your oven rack into a flat surface with even heat, basically as close to a professional bread baking oven as you can get at home.
The Original Baking Steel — $89 at amazon.com
For safely sliding in and pulling out loaves from your screaming hot oven, a wooden peel is an ideal tool to get the job done without compromising the integrity of your perfectly proofed loaves.
Kitchen Supply 14-Inch by 16-Inch Aluminum Pizza Peel with Wood Handle — $21 at amazon.com
In a pinch, kitchen shears or a straight razor will do the trick, but the pros use a lame to accurately and quickly slice the top of their formed dough to release steam, add texture, and allow room for expansion as the bread bakes.
Mure & Peyrot Bread Lame — $28 at amazon.com
Professional Stand Mixer
Take the grunt work out of mixing and kneading with a professional-grade mixer. KitchenAid’s ProLine stand mixers have metal gears (as opposed to nylon in other models) as well as a larger-capacity bowl so it can really stand up to big batches of dough.
KitchenAid KSM7586PSR 7-Quart Pro Line Stand Mixer — $480 at amazon.com
Also, check out our list of five bread baking cookbooks every home baker should have on their shelf.