What Mixing Bowls or Tubs?
I went to a local restaurant supply store and bought round, see-through Cambro tubs (3) with lids in 12 quarts, 6 quarts, and 4 quarts sizes. I found them to be very handy, more than the common metal mixing or serving bowls I had in my pantry.
In any case, I prefer round mixing vessels over squares or rectangles, as there are fewer corners to attract and keep flour or dry dough.
Obviously, medium to large mixing bowls are perhaps good enough for incorporating and mixing ingredients, as many YouTube videos on breadmaking show. Does one need a stand mixer? Nope, unless one perhaps aspires to become a commercial cottage baker.
What Stand Mixer?
Is a stand mixer really necessary for a small-time cottage baker? Perhaps not. I mixed dough once or twice weekly by hand for over five months in a 12-quart Cambro tub with a Danish dough whisk (see below). A large metal mixing bowl could have done as well as the plastic tub.
Alas, a NutriMill Artiste dough mixer sale caught my attention as all that manual mixing started to become a bit strenuous. I am just not 28 anymore.
Using a good stand mixer seems to mix the ingredients much better than my manual efforts, although I lost an exercise here. However, my shoulders told me that they appreciated the purchase.
The Artiste is quite a good little beast. After only 6 minutes of mixing some ~1800g of whole wheat sourdough with 80% hydration, the dough looks and feels supple, and a nice windowpane holds as well. But no, the mixer does not make coffee.
What Cast-Iron Dutch Oven?
I started by purchasing one Victoria 4-quart cast-iron Dutch oven at around $45 on Amazon. Glad I did. It is not the most expensive Dutch oven out there; rather, it is an inexpensive cast-iron pot that seems to do the baking job perfectly well.
With only one Dutch oven at hand, I could only bake one loaf at a time. However, the kitchen oven is large enough to hold two 4-quart pots on the middle rack.
So, I got myself another Dutch oven. There are now two of them baking loaves of bread next to each other in the kitchen oven. That is a bit more efficient than baking one loaf after another with only one Dutch oven.
Eventually, however, I was told by my family that bread shaped as a round is not as convenient to slice as bread shaped as an oblong. This is the battle of Boule versus Batard, really. What can I say? The customer is always right.
It is not possible to bake elongated batards in a round pot fit for boules. So, I emptied my wallet for two additional cast iron ovens from Cuisiland; each shaped more like a rectangle. The nice thing about them is that I can also use them to bake two short baguettes in each.
A scale that can measure in grams is essential for baking bread. I do not eyeball the amounts prescribed by a bread-baking recipe as even slight variations in weight make surprising differences. A dough too wet is a pain to work with.
This OXO scale is nice in that the display can be pulled out so as not to be covered and rendered unreadable by a large tub. However, the capacity of this scale is only up to 5 lb or 2.25 kg. A heavy tub with all the ingredients for two or more loaves might actually outdo this scale.
I kind of have come to measure the weight of water and flour in a separate bowl without taring.
Well, I had regular mitts for handling hot pots and pans already, but they were on the short side − meaning, they did not cover my arms. Reaching into a 500 F hot kitchen oven to remove or place a heavy Dutch oven is better not taken too lightly.
So, I spent the money to purchase extra long silicon mitts to not get myself into trouble.
I did not know what bannetons were before starting this baking hobby. They are little proofing baskets to hold the shaped dough overnight in the fridge. I bought 9-inch round baskets (2), as well as a Danish dough whisk, a dough scraper, and a bread lame.
I already had a good bread knife and some spatulas, measuring cups, linen towels, parchment paper, bowl and bench scrapers, and smaller jars with lids. All these come in handy to keep organized and prepared.
What Silicone Spatulas and Scrapers?
Preferably multiple tools to stir and scrape, and stir and scrape some more. Silicone spatulas are a must. Most folks, perhaps, already have some of the various sizes in their kitchens.
What Work Surface?
Some folks may have a large enough counter space in their kitchen. My granite counter surface is a bit small, and the tall kitchen table is probably not food-safe.
So, I bought a large 24′ x 18′ cutting board to help shape the dough. But it slid on the table.
So, I bought an even larger 36″ x 24″ silicon baking mat. This thing works wonders: cheap, no sliding, and it rolls up for easy storage.
A lame is a kind of scoring device. A razorblade on a stick, if you will. It works well to score the proofed dough before it goes into the oven and helps to pinpoint in what pattern the crust will break open.
What Scouring Pads?
Wet flour is sticky, and it will dry and adhere like crazy to bowls and pans and jars and spatulas, etc. Heavy-duty scouring pads are a necessity for a baker. So are hard-bristle brushes.
The sooner the utensils are cleaned, the easier it is. Caked-on dough is hard to remove, so don’t procrastinate with cleanup.
Do I save money by baking my own bread?
Probably not. The equipment costs money, the flour costs money, the oven’s energy costs money, my time costs money, and so on. I will have to bake and eat my own bread for many years to break even. Now, if you have a large family to feed and/or live far out in the countryside, baking your own bread might be more of a necessity than a hobby.
But a hobby is not about breaking even or making a profit or not spending any money. This hobby is about quality time, satisfaction, nutrition, and all these ephemeral things.
Some years ago, I rode my 700cc Honda motorcycle up and down the West Coast between San Francisco in the north and Santa Cruz to the south. It was about quality time and satisfaction and all these ephemeral things. It did not make any money, either.
Life is a hobby, and I only have one shot at it…
I might earn a tiny percentage from a purchase of yours via referral links on this equipment page − at no additional cost to you.