What Mixing Bowls or Tubs?
I went to a local restaurant supply store and bought round Cambro tubs (3) with lids in 12 quarts, 6 quarts, and 4 quarts sizes. I found them to be very handy, as much as the more common medium mixing or serving bowls I had in my pantry.
Obviously, medium to large bowls are perhaps good enough for mixing ingredients, as many YouTube videos on breadmaking show. But then again, my bread-baking book recommended these tubs.
What 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.
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 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 Ikea kitchen table is lacquered and probably not food-safe.
So, I also bought a large 24′ by 18′ cutting board to work the dough.
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 Aliquot Jar?
A dirt-cheap 4oz aliquot or spice jar comes in handy to track the fermentation progress of the dough.
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.
Do I save money by baking my own bread?
Probably not. The equipment costs money, the flour cost 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 live 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 and satisfaction and 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…