Bread Baking Equipment
Published Thursday, January 19, 2006 by Susan Och | E-mail this post
There is a danger here of making things sound unnecessarily complicated. You don't have to go out and buy a whole new kitchen to bake a loaf of bread, but when you are going to be doing a job over and over again for years to come, you might want to work towards collecting the sort of equipment that makes the job less frustrating and more rewarding.
A word about time. Yes, it takes time to make bread, but mixing and kneading and rising can be done in small chunks interspersed with other chores, like laundry or caring for small kids. In fact the bread turns out better when you are not worrying it or rushing it along. You will also find that the yeast has something of its own schedule. On hot days your dough will rise fast, but on cooler days you can choose to be more leisurely. This is my first favorite piece of equipment: a 2 cup clear Pyrex measuring cup. I sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of yeast on top of the ½ cup warm water and wait for the yeast to dissolve.
Old time recipes call for "proving" yeast like this every time you bake. Modern recipes skip this step, but I find it useful as I still on rare occasions find that my yeast is not as robust as I would like.
My mixing bowl is large, about 14 inch in diameter, and heavy enough that I can knead the dough right in in. It is stoneware so it holds heat or cold; on these cold winter days I fill it with warm water in the sink to warm it before I start baking. I actually chose my kitchen sink with this bowl in mind -- I wanted to be able to wash my bread bowl easily.
While I love my bread bowl, it was expensive. I have also made this recipe in the 32 cup Tupperware bowl and found the lid to be handy for covering the dough while it rose.
My final essential piece of equipment could be called "someplace to knead". I am 5'4"; I find that the kitchen counter is just too high comfortable kneading. My kitchen table is the right height, but it is ridiculously rustic. My husband cut and sanded a 17" by 24" piece of Corian that I can lay down on top of a dish towel. This serves for kneading, but also for rolling out all kinds of dough. The dish towel keeps it from sliding all over. If I had a Formica table top, I would use it for kneading.
I either do the first rise in the bowl with the board covering the bowl, or on the board with the bowl covering the dough. Many bread recipes tell you to "cover the dough with a damp cloth", I have always found that the dough sticks to the cloth and makes a big mess. Next: Mixing Bread