Dutch oven - Not sure where to include this item, which I just used yesterday for the first time. The bread was amazing, but I will have to see what happens with the test of time and more breads. I bought an Emile Henry dutch oven because it weighs less than cast iron dutch ovens. I was surprised that the heat was so intense, much more than my la cloche (read below). I had to use a pot holder and oven mitts it was so hot. Though my aim in getting my dough into the center of the preheated dutch oven was not good, it somehow settled on the bottom and blossomed with lovely oven spring into an incredible bread. I will definitely be using the dutch oven again, perhaps quite often. Might have to buy better oven mitts.
La cloche - must-have for making breads that are as good as, and sometimes better than, bread from an artisan bakery. Premise is that the clay top, which covers the dough, creates a primitive oven within an oven that seals in the steam from the dough's moisture, thus creating magnificent oven spring (rising), good interiors and luscious bread.
Baking stone - uses the same ancient technology as the la cloche, for the bottom of the bread. Can also roast vegetables on this surface. The advantage of a baking stone over the bottom of a la cloche is that when placing a dough, which can be sticky, into a 500-degree oven, one need not aim for a particular spot, as the stone covers most of an entire oven rack.
Kitchen timer - breads bake relatively quickly, some parts of the dough process are short, so make sure to use a timer to avoid ruining a bread by getting caught up in a conversation, movie, game, laundry, or cooking project.
[Photo shows the well-used la cloche in the baking drawer along with a large metal spatula, the danish whisk and the digital scale.] Nice, though very seldom used casserole baking dish sits in the back.]
Digital thermometer is wonderful, especially if you remember to set the oven to the correct temperature and not forget that you have a bread in the oven. See aforementioned kitchen timer as essential item. I purchased a thermometer at half price from Thermaworks, maker of the expensive top-of-the-line thermapen, but a few degrees (no pun intended) below the thermapen. It was easy to use and took roughly six to 10 seconds for temperature reading to stabilize.
Digital scale - Easy to use and clean. Measures
in grams, ounces and pounds. Has the wonderful feature of putting
weight back to zero to cancel out the weight of the bowl or previously
added ingredients. Note: The photos show the small size of the scale. It
is also lightweight. The lower photograph displays the on/off/tare
(scaling back to zero) button and the grams/ounces feature.
I am entertaining doubts lately of my digital scale's reliability, as arbitrarily adds or subtracts small weight amounts. Continue to wonder when I will get to the point of replacing it. Since this is not happening consistently, yet, I am holding steady.
A reliable digital scale that can weigh in small increments is critical.
A beautiful bowl - make sure to have on hand a large bowl that you love for mixing dough. I never tire of watching the dough rise and it looks so pretty in a favorite bowl.
Danish whisk - looks so cool it could be hung in the kitchen as an object of art. Love this so much. Totally addicted. Actually works better than a spoon or a regular whisk. Mixes dough beautifully. Caveat: be sure to clean right after use. Considering getting a small one as well.
Lame - a French term that I do not know the derivation of. No matter; it's basically a small razor blade connected to a handle and is used to slash the dough right before baking. Use carefully. Very cool and works like a charm.
Immersion blender - can be used for any mixing that one would use a blender for. Don't be bothered if bread making is sporadic; this tool will not go to waste. An immersion blendler is perfect for anyone who is lazy or pressed for time. No need to transfer to a blender or large bowl the ingredients to be blended. Just stick the immersion blender into the pot, jar, bowl or whatever and blend away. Easy to clean if rinse quickly before ingredients dry.
Loved this whisk so much that I added a small Danish whisk. It is wonderful with smaller batches of sponge, dough or anything else to mix.
Not really necessary
This category requires buying stuff that I eventually decide are not really needed. Fortunately, many dough-related and baking-related products are not too expensive. As my parents used to say about helpings of food, my eyes are big; so the temptation is to purchase. In my defense, there are entire catalogues and websites full of stuff I have not purchased.
or silicone dough scraper (basically the same thing) - a bargain at less than $3. Fancy one is $5. I purchased the expensive one because I happened to see it in a store while visiting Northampton, Massachusetts. Hence no shipping cost. No doubt, however, that one could make dough for years and years without this. Though the dough scraper/spatula is useful, if money is any concern, save it here.
To avoid plastic wrap or plastic bags, use bee's wax covering, made by Bee's Wrap,
which operates as a reusable plastic-like wrap. It is made of cotton
and treated with bee's wax and jojoba oil. Bee's Wrap is a small business in Vermont that seems like a cross between a commune and Santa's workshop. The bee's wrap works wonderfully, can be cleaned easily, and makes one feel quite satisfied as an environmentally-correct human being (until one finds oneself driving two blocks to the store when one could easily have walked).
Someone smarter than me on the Fresh Loaf online forum recommended using a shower cap as a bowl cover. This works incredibly well and I have not used plastic since I tried this technique. For anything larger than a bowl, I use the large size Bee's Wrap, which will cover a cookie sheet or large cutting board. The one downside to these reusable products is that they have to be cleaned and dried before being put away. No more one-second to chuck a piece of plastic wrap into the garbage. At least I get to feel proud that I'm helping the planet and all that.
More stuff on my wish list
Products and tools will be included here as soon as they go from the wish list to the kitchen. Gifts are welcome. Just kidding; not so much, really.