Did You Know?Bread is one of UK's most favorite and staple foods, with over 200 different types of bread being made and sold across the nation.
Baking bread, like any other culinary endeavor, is an art involving science. Making homemade bread is a great skill to master, and once you've perfected the art, you're sure to impress your family and friends with freshly baked loaves of utter goodness. However, before you jump forward to making homemade bread, you need to check if you have the basic bread-making essentials.
Baking bread isn't just about combining flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and some wet ingredients together. You need the help of certain tools, without which your efforts can go in vain. It doesn't take much for a baking session to turn into a frustrating one. So, let's take a look at which are these bread-making tools, with the help of which you can dole out some fresh, brown homemade bread.
Basic Bread-making Tools
Baking is all about precision, and even a spoon here and there can make or break the bread. While many use measuring cups to measure the flour and other dry ingredients, such measurements aren't accurate. Often novice bread makers give up this endeavor due to failed attempts, stemming from incorrect measurements. Approximations don't guarantee success, and if you want your bread to be consistently perfect every single time, invest in a measuring scale. A digital measuring scale gives accurate measurements, thereby, reducing any scope for error and giving your culinary efforts the right start. This tool is useful in every baking endeavor―cake, cookies, pies, pizzas, etc. Thus, it's definitely worth investing in.
Large Mixing Bowl
Now that you've weighed your ingredients, it's time to combine them. Large, stainless steel mixing bowls are perfect for kneading bread dough. They are sturdy and make a lovely surface to work with. However, you can also go for the ceramic, glass, plastic, or even wooden bowls available. It's best to purchase two large mixing bowls; one for mixing the dough and another for allowing the dough to rise in. Since the dough doubles in volume as it rests, you need a nice large bowl. Some don't like the restrictions placed by the edges of the bowls, and prefer to use the kitchen countertop to knead the dough.
If you don't wish to be bothered by kneading the dough yourself, then get hold of a stand mixer. These mixers come with blades for making dough, and all you've got to do is add the ingredients and wait for this appliance to dole out beautifully soft dough. However, baking bread in a mixer puts a lot of load on it, and hastens it wear and tear, so you need to purchase a powerful one to keep it running for longer. The other option is to use your hands and some of your elbow grease to knead the dough.
Instant Read Thermometer
Baking is again about temperature precision―a little too hot or too cold can affect the final outcome of the bread. So, invest in an instant read thermometer that will help you monitor the temperature of the wet ingredients, to the temperature of the final loaf of bread. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water before you add it to the yeast. Monitoring the temperature is important, because hot water can kill the yeast, while cold water will leave the yeast inactive, which is why water of the right temperature must be added.
This little tool is not a must-have, and you can make your bread in its absence, but its presence makes your job a lot easier. With the help of a pastry scraper or dough divider, you can handle the dough easily. It helps you pick up bits of dough that have stuck to the work space. It also allows you to cut and divide your dough easily. This pastry scraper will be your all-time dough-making companion, and whether you are making cookie dough, pasta dough, etc., it's sure to help you through all of them.
Moist Towel/Plastic Wrap
Once the dough has been kneaded, it needs to be set aside for about 2 hours, so as to allow the yeast to work its way into the dough and allow it to rise. Before you set it aside, cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. During this time, the dough will double in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough to handle the increase in volume. Use nonstick cooking spray to oil the plastic wrap. This is to prevent the dough from sticking to the plastic wrap when it doubles in volume.
Also referred to as a banneton, a proofing basket can be made from cane, plastic, or wicker material. It is used to hold the dough as it rests. In cane baskets, as the dough rises, it gets the impression of lovely spiral lines made from the cane. On baking, these impressions give the bread a rustic look and improve its aesthetic appeal. While preparing artisan loaves, these baskets prevent the dough from spreading and help maintain shape. This tool is meant for beautifying the bread and is not a must-have bread-making tool. You can use a simple bowl to allow your dough to rise. A piece of linen can be used to line the bowl or proofing basket to prevent sticking of any kind.
A sharp serrated knife helps score the dough beautifully and efficiently. While some recommend dipping the blade in water before every cut, others claim that dipping it in oil helps make neater slashes. Find out what suits you. This tool is also useful to cut beautiful slices from your freshly baked bread. Improper knives can macerate your lovely creation. You can also use a razor blade to score the dough.
A coating of egg wash will give the bread a nice and shiny crust. To apply this egg wash, you need a basting brush. Although the traditional ones made from synthetic fibers do the job, there's the risk of a strand or two getting stuck to the bread. Use silicone brushes which are easier to wash, maintain, and don't leave strands behind. A spray bottle can also be used to mist the surface of the dough for a crispy brown crust.
A stainless steel or aluminum 9" bread pan is ideal because it's sturdy, durable, and distributes heat evenly. The silicone ones aren't preferred because they do not hold shape. During the course of baking, the dough tends to rise sideways rather than upwards. Ceramic and glass pans can also be used. The type, shape, and size of your loaf pan will vary depending on the kind of bread you intend to bake. Baguette or French breads require different kinds of W- or U-shaped pans, so purchase accordingly.
Dough, in general, is very sticky and can be difficult to keep it from sticking to the work surface. To avoid this problem, get hold of a silicone baking mat, which allows you to work on the dough―shape it, roll it, etc., without having to worry about it sticking to the work surface. They are available in different sizes, so purchase one according to the size of your baking sheet. When lining a baking sheet, you can use a silicone baking mat instead of parchment paper.
Once the bread has been baked, you need to take it out of the loaf pan and allow it to cool on a cooling rack. Leaving it in the hot pan will result in a soggy bottom. A cooling rack ensures proper circulation of air, thereby, allowing the bread to cool evenly from all sides.
This is a specialized kitchen appliance that has been designed to bake bread. The machine does everything from scratch; for example, it kneads the ingredients into a soft dough using its paddle attachments, and then proofs the dough before baking it to perfection. If you have this appliance, you don't require any of the above-mentioned tools, because this machine does it all. This appliance can be used for making several other foods like meatloaf, cake, etc. Some bread makers also come with dispensers to add nuts, fruits, spices, etc., into your dough.
You will also need a pair of oven mittens to help you take the hot bread pan out of the oven. The list of requirements vary depending on your interest and preference. Purchase the basic tools, and once you get a hang of bread making, you'll know for yourself what you need to enhance your skill set. Happy bread making!