The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What tools do you use?

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breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

What tools do you use?

Since I'm a bread nerd, I have picked up a lot of gadgets over the years, but mostly have old favorites. I thought it might be fun to compare what tools we have and how we like them. It might also be helpful for newbies who are just adding to their collections.

So here's a "survey". Feel free to add to this if you think of more, I was just brainstorming here:

1. Mixer: Which mixer do you use, or are you a hands-only purist? :)

2. First Proof: Do you have a favorite bowl or container for rising doughs, preparing poolish, or saving sourdough?

3. Shaping Loaves: Do you use a scale for weighing ingredients or loaves? What do you use for dividing dough and shaping loaves?

4. Second proof: What are your favorite baskets, couches and pans for rising your loaves?

5. Baking: What kind of hearth stone do you use, tools for slashing laoves, and do you use a peel to transfer loaves into the oven? And ovens--what's your preference: Gas or Electric, convection, or do you prefer the weber grill? :)

 

Don't mean this to be serious (or a competition!) but have fun and show my your toys!  :)

 

 

Darkstar's picture
Darkstar

1. For mixing I use Kitchen Aid Classic.

2. I proof in whatever is clean and will hold my raised dough.  Normally it is a stainless steel bowl from a set I got at Costco.

3. I use a scale for weighing ingredients but not for loaves yet.  I pretty much eyeball the mass of dough in front of me and cut it into halves as best as I can guestimate.  I do use the scale for making rolls so they turn out somewhat similar in size though.

4. I haven't graduated into second proofing devices yet.  The closest I came was an attempt at keeping very loose batards rising up rather than out with parchment paper and kitchen towels.  My loaves turned out pretty odd looking but quite good in the crust and crumb department.

5. I have a gas oven so I use that.  I am peel-less as of yet so I fake it with a cutting board and/or parchment paper.  My stone is a Fibrament and I'm quite happy with it.  3/4" thick and holds heat very well.  My bread is turning out MUCH better now that I have a stone.  Finally my most valuable tool to making nicely done loaves; my instant read digital thermometer.  Floyd is correct about it being the best $7 you'll ever spend!

Darkstar's picture
Darkstar

Not a gadget so much but I also slash with a serrated kitchen knife

Meg's picture
Meg

 

I use my grandmother's bread bowl (it's kind of carmel/mustard colored, with a band of brown around it), an aluminum cookie sheet to cover the bowl while the dough is rising, wooden spoons made locally, a pizza stone which lives in the gas oven, and my hands.   I do own a bread machine, but it's just not the same.  Meg

LibbyinWV's picture
LibbyinWV

LibbyinWV

I am a neophyte to this site, so hello everyone!

I use a hand thrown large bowl and a quart canning jar to mix liquids and dry stuff. I always use a wooden spoon to mix the two together. I hand kneed, on the kitchen table because it is the right height for me.

I use cups and tea spoons for measurements, scales have not made it my kitchen yet.

I proof in the bowl with a tea towel over the dough on the gas oven. It is an old oven and the pilots are always lit, giving a warm place to raise bread or make yogurt. Second proofings?! What is this?

I have a tile in my oven on the bottom, mostly because the oven has a hole in the floor. The tile is ceramic one I bought at Lowes for .99,

I used both glass and metal pans to cook the bread in the oven (gas, only oven I have). Recently I gave my husband a La Cloche for Christmas and it is great! Anyone have experience with this thing?

qahtan's picture
qahtan

 

 I mix my bread in my DLX, but mill in my Kenwood from UK.

 I use scales for my bread that will go into bread tins, other than that I eyeball it.

 I use one of my  stainless steel bowls to proof my dough in, covered .  

 I use a Kitchenaid electric convection oven, but do not bake bread with convection, and hardly ever use a stone to bake on.. ;-) qahtan

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Okay I'll take a turn :)

 

1. I have a magic mill dlx mixer for breads. I also have a smaller kitchenaid mixer too for other baking: I found the DLX loves to mix pounds and pounds of dough, but for little batches (cookies, whipping up a few egg whites etc.) it just isn't practical. I used to hand-knead for years but now I really like the mixer--especially for really wet doughs such as ciabatta. I still make pie crusts and scones and a lot of things by hand.

2. First Proof:

Sometimes I just use the mixer bowl, and I also have a weakness for old pyrex glass bowls. I mostly rise at a cool room temperature, but sometimes on cold days find a sunbeam to put the bowl in, or turn the oven on for a few minutes and place the dough by the vent.

3. Shaping Loaves

I use a scale for buns and if I make a large batch of dough (3+ loaves). Otherwise I eyeball it. I have an old bench scraper I use for dividing.

4. Second proof:

I have an assortment of canvas cloths (leftover from a friend who stretches canvas for paintings). Also a lot of tea-towels. I use these for lining bowls or just as a couche when proofing on the counter. I did treat myself to a brotform (from SFBI I think) which is fun and makes very pretty loaves. A good friend is in the antique business and found me a long lined proofing basket, which is very cool. She also gave me a bun proofer, which is sort of a barely-hollowed out board. You could see the marks where buns rose on it (sort of the patina of the wood after years of flour and dough I guess). Those are more for looks but I do use the linen basket ocassionally.

 

5. Baking:

I have a gas oven, with a big fibrament stone--those things are awesome! When I bought my brotform basket I also ordered a lame handle, which is really silly because it's just a tiny piece of metal that holds a razor blade! But, it does work well and is slightly better than the bamboo skewer I was using before :)

This summer we also built a mud oven in the backyard, which I've used a few times. I still have a lot to learn, but it's very cool. I'll have to have a different thread about that crazy project.

 

I like the comments about the thermometer--I have one but rarely use it for bread, I'd like to get in the habit of checking my dough temperatures and loaf temps.

 

 

Teresa_in_nc's picture
Teresa_in_nc

1. Most of the time I use my older model Kitchen Aid Ultra. Now and then I mix by hand in a stainless or crockery bowl with a wooden spoon.

2. First proof is usually done in the mixer bowl or mixing bowl - I do not wash the bowl between mixing and proofing, just drizzle a little oil in it.

3. I have a scales and I could weigh the dough, but I usually eye-ball it. I use either my stainless or plastic bench knife to divide the dough, or just pull it apart, balance the two halves in my hands to see if they weigh about the same.

4. Favorite pans are some heavy tin loaf pans I got years ago. I made my own homemade basket lined with part of a flour sack dish cloth and then heavily floured. It works pretty well, but is small.

5. I use a gas oven with quarry tiles on the bottom rack for pizza and "hearth" breads. I've got a peel and I have used it, but I usually save myself a lot of grief and put my breads on parchment paper for the seond rise, then plop them on a floured/cornmealed peel to slide off onto the tiles. I slash with a small serrated knife or kitchen scissors.

 

Years ago I never checked for doness with a thermometer - now I always do.

You can see I am somewhat of a lazy baker. :o)

 

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

I use a KitchenAid 600 Professional. I bought an 11 qt CuisinArt processor with dough blade, but it seems too rough on my dough. The dough hook in the KA is great.

2 First rise is usually in either my 12" or 10" ceramic bowl. I have used the stainless steel bowls with good effect.  I make and ferment my poolish, biga, sponge and other preferments in some large attractive jars I found on E-Bay. I cover the bowls with the elastic-edged bowl covers that look like shower caps. Very useful for this as well as covering the cut end of loaves. Every source I have found for the covers has them sold in an assortment of sizes when I really only want the 12" and 10" ones.

3 I bought a digital scale but seldom use it. I am still attached to my measuring cups.

For dividing, scraping and working the dough on the table I have a baker's scraper and the $1 bowl scraper from King Arthur Flours. Both are indispensable. I also use the Roll'Pat plastic pad for kneading and shaping. Its non-stick qualities let me use less flour.

4 I have an assortment of bannetons I bought from the San Francisco Baking Institute for about 1/3 the cost elsewhere. I also bought a couple of willow bannetons and elastic-edged linen to line any bowl I want. Additionally, I have a linen couche which I don't use often. I also have, and use a clay double-loaf baker for baguettes and a double, pierced steel form also for baguettes. My prizes,though, are the La Cloche clay bakers I have, one round, the other for batards. With these I can let the dough do its final proof in them, cover them and put into the hot oven. No spritzing/steaming required.

5 I use a standard electric oven but wish I had another so I could tend my loaves standing upright. I, too have the 3/4" fibrament baking stone and swear by it. I had a 1/4" one, but found the thicker one to be much better.

I have a lame, but have found that single-edged razor blades work better for me.

I use a Windex sprayer for spritzing my loaves and oven, and a ketchup-type bottle for putting the water into an old baking pan I keep on the shelf under my baking stone.

I do use an instant-read digital thermometer that I consider to be an essential tool

A wooden pizza peel is most useful for inserting and removing loaves from the oven, and I wouldn't do without the parchment paper.

A cooling rack is necessary. My wife found one that pulls out to 3-times normal size.

 

I come now to my best gadget. I bought some 7 DVDs showing baking techniques plus the one from King Arthur. So I could get maximum learning from them, I also splurged on a portable DVD player. Now, I can watch the techniques of the experts at my work table, pause the DVD, then continue at my own pace.

jim2100's picture
jim2100

Hi Willard

I found your post on gadgets very informative as was the others. I do have two questions. One very simple. How to use the parchment paper? Before I started bread baking, only last week by the way. I already had a good 1/2 to 3/4 pizza stone in my oven. As it was said to keep the oven at a steady temperature, so it lives at the bottom. I also use one in my Ceramic Smoker to deflect the direct heat while cooking.

Now I am learning bread. And I do have a peel that I got with the stone. And bought the parchment paper last night. I do not want cornmeal in my oven. So what is the procedure for using the paper to get bread in oven or off peel as you may do.

Then what are the names and where to buy the videos. I think they would save alot of time and mishaps, if I could watch what it is the I am trying to accomplish. I know it helped to watch them for the art of stained glass, when I was learning.

Thanks

Jim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I enjoy cooking with wine. On occasion I even include it in the recipe.

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

First, I want to affirm my support for cooking with wine . . . and even using it in recipes!

I bought the following DVDs from Daniel's Rustic Bread at www.danielsrusticbread.com:

Baguettes and Traditional French Bread

French Country Bread (Pain de campagne)

French Sourdough (Pain de levain)

Whole Grain, multi-grain and seeds

Ciabatta and Rustic Italian Bread

Traditional and Stuffed Italian Bread

Pizza and Calzones

Also available, but which I did not buy:

Mediterranian Delights: Stuffed mini rolls

There are two free on-line videos on www.breadtopia.com

You can also find on-line videos on

http://pbs-juliachild....

Whew! What an address!

About parchment paper:

I find it indispensable now.

I use it most often to transfer proofed loaves from bannetons to the peel. Placing the paper over the top of the basket and the dough, I place the peel on top of the paper. Flip, holding pressure against the bottom of the peel. Voila! The bread is safely on the peel without deflation and is ready to easily slide onto the baking stone. No cornmeal needed. I leave the loaf on the paper for at least the first 10 minutes or until I am ready use the edge of it to turn my loaves for even browning. More often than not I leave the paper in place for the full baking period.

I have read many times that the paper can be reused. My experience has been that the paper becomes brittle and browned after one use. Probably the high temps associated with bread-baking.

A word of caution here. Be careful transferring the loaves and paper to the stone. The paper slides very easily, which of course, is one of the main characteristics you want. The first time I used it, I had a loaf on the oven door . . . messy.

For loaves other than boules, I use a piece of thin board (flipping board) edged with flour to "flip" the dough onto a piece of paper on the peel, or onto the paper then lifted onto the peel.

 

I have never used the parchment paper for any other purpose, but there are many, many uses listed in recipes for other things, such as fish or anything in papillotte and for lining cookie and cake pans.

 

Good luck.

 

Willard in Louisiana

scott lynch's picture
scott lynch

I have had mixed results with parchment: it really does simplify handling, especially with delicate doughs.  But I find that I get a lot of scorched bottoms on the bread, especially with enriched doughs (croissants, sweet doughs, etc), so I do not use it unless I really need to.
Regarding cormmeal in your oven, I have gone away from cornmeal (which does produce an annoying  burned smell when it toasts on the stone) and am using wheat bran.  It gives the same sort of performance but without the burned odor.  I know that a lot of people also like the gritty semolina for the same reason, but I have not used it myself.  And it's always a good idea to clean up a bit--sweep and wipe your stone, and even vacuum out your cold oven every so often.
Of course, if you are objecting to cornmeal because of all the mess it can leave, none of these alternatives do much for you and parchment is the way to go.

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Good points on cleaning up the oven--we just got a dust-buster vaccuum and I hadn't thought of using it in the oven yet!

I'm using parchment less than I used to, but when I was getting started on hearth breads it was a real loaf-saver for me. I was inexperienced with the peel and had quite a few calamaties loading the oven. I had an instructor who insisted the parchment would interfere with oven spring, but I didn't see a huge difference (and it was worth it for me at the beginning if the alternative was a malformed loaf that I flipped while loading).

Now as I've gained confidence I use it less and less, but it's still handy--and I use it a lot for cookies and other baked goods. When I worked at a bakery, we did re-use it quite often for things like this.

 

Also, as I've gained peel skills, I find I use a lot less cornmeal (or flour, semolina etc). Interestingly, I had a lot of problems with my wooden peel at first, and switched to a thinner metal one. It just worked better for me, but now I use both. It's actually nice to remember those problems now, and feel like I've come a long way--hopefully it will also help the folks just starting out too.

ross's picture
ross

hmmmm. avoiding work at 9pm is easy to do when talking bread...

 

let me see here:

1. I have an old kitchen aid k5a made by hobart (actually two, one for parts) that i've hade to work on to keep running and a newer viking 7qt mixer. both are nice, the k5a i use more when i'm making smaller cakes, the viking i use for small batches of bread when i'm in a rush and stickier doughs that i don't feel like mucking my hands up with. but the majority of the dough i knead is done by hand, since sunday's i'm usually making 20-30lbs of dough at once. i like to knead on a granite slab that was originally intended for pastry/chocolate work. a bowl of water next to my dough (for dipping my hands in) is indispensible, as well as a plastic bowl scraper $.60.

2. if i'm proofing small batches that i'm not stretching and folding frequently i like/prefer to use graduated plastic containers that have tight lids. for the bigger batches i just proof on the granite covered with couche/duck cloth and a bit of flour.

3. When shaping and scaling i use a digital scale and again my plastic scraper (if i'm selling the bread), otherwise it just depends on my mood, but i never weigh ciabatta.

4. For the second proof i'm almost always using a couche/duck cloth. i also use brotforms and occasionally line a bowl with linen.

5. I live in an apartment and have become rather fond of my very basic and analog, electric oven with the one vent plugged with aluminum foil. i bake on quarry tiles cut to nearly fill my rack, and use a roasting pan for pouring water in/on (at the top of my oven). i also use a bottle that allows me to spray a stream of water into the oven, not a spray bottle. oh, for scoring i use double-edged safety razor blades mounted on a handle i made. and an old pizza peel that i trimmed the sides off of for easier maneuverability in the oven.

6. and of course, a digital thermometer.

7. and what i really want, a nice bread knife, ala 9" or 10" wusthof....

longlivegoku's picture
longlivegoku

1.  I started off making bread in my Kitchenaid Pro 6-quart but have since starting making much larger batches than the mixer can handle.  I now make 30-50 lb. batches of bread and mix all by hand.  I am sure to utilize an autolyse as it drastically cuts down my kneading time.

 

2.  My mother-in-law, in August, bought me 2 bus-boy plastic containers for my b-day.  I didn't know at the time what I would use them for exactly, but when I moved up to larger batches (brought on by the finishing of my brick oven) those were perfect.  40 lbs. of whole-wheat with grain soaker fits perfectly when fermenting in there.

 

3.   I have 2 My Weigh scales that I use to measure all ingredients and loaves when shaping.  I try for uniformity when making loaves so it's best for me to weight them as my "eyeing" just is not accurate I have found.

 

4.  I have 14 Norpro nonstick bread pans (10-10", 2-8" and 2-12") and I can't say enough good about them.   I found them relatively cheap and they work great.  Never had a loaf stick in them.  When it comes to free-form loaves, I tend to use an old beach towel we have and put lots of flour on it.  I'm planning to get some couches soon and could use ideas for that actually.  I was planning to order several from KA around X-mas time, as a gift to myself (oh and everyone that eats the loaves) ;-) 

 

5.  As for baking I started off baking in an electric oven.  I had unglazed quarry tile, 2 deep, on the bottom and also a layer on the top shelf.  I would use a small spray bottle to steam before hand.  I always had pretty good results doing it this way.  Now that I have the wood fired brick oven going, it's all I use.  I have some custom made peels (from the R&D department at work) that I use for loading/unloading.  2 aluminum for moving the loaves and taking them out and also a large wooden peel for loading.  I use a 1 gallon sprayer to steam/pre-steam the oven.  I also have mops/brushes/rakes that I use in the oven.  I have a non-digital instant read thermometer that I use for checking the doneness of loaves.  

 

Steam=hot in a brick oven...I have lost my eyelashes TWICE now  LOL.

 

Ed 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Ed,

Are you making such large batches of bread simply to take advantage of all of that heat in the brick oven?  Does that put you on a once-a-month baking schedule, with freezing the bread for use between bakes?  Or are you edging into a small-scale commercial baking operation?

Gotta watch out for those steam burns!  If they have taken off your eyelashes, or even your eyebrows, you are really close to cooking your corneas, too.  How about slapping on a pair of safety goggles just long enough to load or unload the oven?  Blind baking and baking blind are two very different things.

PMcCool

longlivegoku's picture
longlivegoku

PMC,

 I'm not really sure where I'm headed at this point yet, although I am thinking a bakery sometime in the future.  Most of the bread I make at this point is going to family and friends.  We do freeze a decent amount for ourselves as well.  I decided it really isn't any more work to do 3 loaves than it is to do 30 loaves.

I am learning to keep my face away, although it's a tough lesson to learn.  I have started wearing a pair of glasses as I work.  Didn't want to take any more blasts to the face. 

 

Ed 

Cooky's picture
Cooky

1. Mixer: As a relative beginner, I am so far sticking to hand-kneading. Since I am concentrating on mastering classic French bread, most of my doughs are pretty slack, so it's not a hardship. (Plus: Autolysing rocks!) I lust for a KitchenAid mixer, but I'm holding back because (a) this is supposed to be an inexpensive hobby, and (b) my counter space is cramped and a big mixer would have to live out there.

 

Willard, I was interested in your comment on the Cuisinart, because lately I'm weighing the idea of buying a proper food processor to handle heavier doughs, such as whole wheats. And I'd use it for a lot of other things besides bread. If anybody else has any observations to share on this topic, I'd love to hear them.

 

2. First Proof: I have searched without luck for a reasonably priced old-fashioned stoneware bread bowl of the size and type I remember my grandmother using, but that's really just for sentiment. In practical terms, I'm doing fine with a trio of mixing bowls -- one glass, two stainless steel -- plus a lovely oversized Pyrex measuring cup (more like a squat pitcher) that I often use for poolish. I mix with a silicone-covered spoon. I did just buy a cheapo plastic dishpan that I have used to proof a couple of large batches. I usually cover the bowls with plastic wrap, but I like the idea of those shower-cap covers.

 

3. Shaping Loaves: No scale yet, although I'm coming to see that value in them. For scraping, I have been using a plain old metal spatula, although I just treated myself to a wider silicone version that works fine. For dividing, I'm still trying various tools, but I've had the best luck so far with kitchen shears.

 

4. Second proof: Shaping is still my biggest problem; I've tried baguette pans, rolled up towels and a couple of lined baskets. I'm not completely satisfied with any of them so far.

 

5. Baking: I have been baking on a large piece of slate that has worked well, although it has some cracks and some flaking. I can see it won't last forever, but at $5 I figured it would do for my elementary-school period. I put the loaves on parchment paper on a big cutting board and use that as a peel to slide the loaves and paper onto the slate. Slashing is another skill I am having trouble mastering. With soft doughs, it seems never to work out right, regardless of tool.

 

I'm still looking for a small cast-iron pan for the bottom of the oven to make steam; meanwhile, I'm just using a junky aluminum pan. (Although in her Julia Child master-baker appearance, Danielle Forestier just threw a cup of water into the bottom of the oven, no container involved. Looks dangerous to me. (I love PMMcCool's idea of wearing safety glasses!)

 

In a perfect world, I'd cook in a wood-fired oven, but in real life I have an electric convection oven that works well enough. Lately I have started baking some loaves without the convection fan just to see if there is any difference. Too early to tell so far.

 

Oh yeah --  the instant-read thermometer I bought last week is now an absolute must-have.

 

"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

1. Mixer: I bought a couple of dough whisks, which I love. Here's a pic. I mix up the dough with those initially, and then I go to it with my hands. I don't own a mixer, so if I'm making something really wet like ciabatta, I use the "wet hands" technique that Peter Reinhart describes in the BBA.

Before mixing, however, my favorite gadget is my Wondermill. Since I bake almost exclusively 100% whole grain breads, and since I bake 3-4 loaves every week, I decided it would be more economical (and tasty) in the long term to buy a grinder, buy a bunch of food-safe 5 gal. containers, a bunch of gamma seals, and a couple hundred pounds of hard red spring wheat berries, soft white wheat berries and rye berries. It really does make a huge difference in the taste and performance of the bread, especially for the rye. And cost? A 2 lb bag of organic whole wheat flour costs me about $2.19. I can get organic wheat berries for about $0.45 per pound. It'll take a while before I earn back the cost of the grinder and the gamma seals, but it'll be worth it.

The metal bench knife I got for my birthday is also extremely handy for cleaning up surfaces, picking up sticky dough off the bench and dividing dough.

2. First Proof: I've got a nice ceramic bowl that I like to use these days, white with blue and orange fruits on it. I'd love to have a big terra cotta bowl, mustard-colored, with a fitted top just like the one that was in the rental house we took in Maine over the summer, but the ones I've seen have been a bit pricey. Until then, I'll just settle for my bowl with plate or some Saran Wrap on top.

3. Shaping Loaves: I got a fairly cheap Salter digital scale, and it's become indispensible. The tare function is my very best friend. Not only have I gotten more consistent results, but it's faster than using measuring cups.

4. Second proof: Well, my second proof is usually in the bowl described above, because I usually do two bulk rises before I shape the dough (a lesson I learned in making whole-wheat bread from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (I'll have a review up within a week). But the final proof usually happens in some 4.5"x8.5" metal pans. I bake sandwich bread most often.

If I'm baking hearth bread, I proof it either in a Brotform or a blue glass bowl with a linen napkin or some of that very nice baker's linen my wife bought me for Father's Day.

Baguettes or Ciabatta? In the baker's linen, with a couple of coffee mugs to weigh down the edges.

5. Baking: I've got a gas oven. For many reasons, I wish I had an electric oven (see here). As far as the baking surface,I splurged for a Hearthkit. I figured that it costs less than a lot of stand mixers, and since I had no plans to buy one of those, I might as well go whole hog for the stone. It's awesome.

I also couldn't do without my digital read thermometer. I've not yet cut into a loaf of bread with a gooey center.

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I was excited to see the dough whisk..but it's not working!!

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

How's this? Not sure why my other King Arthur link died ....

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

for reposting the link. Very interesting looking. My mixer doesn't have a paddle for mixing, I just have dough hooks. Doing the initial mix is tough with a wooden spoon. Do the whisks really facilitate mixing ? If so, I've gotta have one!

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Well, I'm sure a stand mixer is a lot more efficient that these, but they're also a *bit* more expensive. :-)
I like them because the wire allows me to mix together ingredients into a dough more quickly than with a spoon, but because it's wide open, dough doesn't get stuck inside like it would with a conventional whisk. I use the dough whisk until the ingredients come together to make a very lumpy dough, and then I start working it with my hands.

lurk moar's picture
lurk moar

1. Mixer: Which mixer do you use, or are you a hands-only purist? :)

Wooden spoon, bench knife, dining table (thank you, yard sale, as my floors are tiled or carpeted), and hands.

2. First Proof: Do you have a favorite bowl or container for rising doughs, preparing poolish, or saving sourdough?

Biggest plastic bowl I've got, about 6-cup and plastic wrap. My sourdough or leftover doughs go into a recycled food container.

3. Shaping Loaves: Do you use a scale for weighing ingredients or loaves? What do you use for dividing dough and shaping loaves?

I use a cheap mechanical scale. The pointer off-sets easily if the wrong part of the scale were moved the wrong way but it does get the job done. Bench knife and my hands for dividing and shaping.

4. Second proof: What are your favorite baskets, couches and pans for rising your loaves?

Boule - same bowl I used for the first proof.

Baguettes/batards/other long loaves - old parchment paper (usually the same piece I used to wrap the last loaf of bread I baked) almost folded in half, dough placed at the fold, opposite edges folded up and clipped or taped together at the top.

Sandwich loaves - tin foil pan saved from take out.

Everything else - oiled, floured parchment on the bottom, plastic wrap on top.

5. Baking: What kind of hearth stone do you use, tools for slashing laoves, and do you use a peel to transfer loaves into the oven? And ovens--what's your preference: Gas or Electric, convection, or do you prefer the weber grill? :)

Tiles from the hardware store as baking stone. Cleaver for slashing. Shaped dough is transferred onto parchment paper if it isn't already on there, then onto a sheet pan. Dough and parchment then slide onto preheated stone with help of pan. My stove/oven is electric. The oven elements aren't hidden so I can't use the oven floor. All the controls and switches are at the back and can't be reached if either of the 2 stove top elements at the back have a pot or pan sitting on it. Worst of all, at least 2 of the elements must remain uncovered and off while the oven is heated or strange smells and smoke would appear. Haven't tried putting bread on my George Foreman though.

 

I do have a wish list, and it is looooooong like cat.

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

1. Mixer: KitchenAid Pro 6 qt. - Santa brought me this last year, before that I mixed and kneaded by hand. I find that I do a lot more baking now with the mixer because it is fun to use and I can get a lot of different things going at once - bread, muffins, and brioche all in the same morning when I'm feeling ambitious.

My father-in-law is a retired 3-star executive chef from France, he chose the Professional 6 qt. for me because he knew if I wanted to make bread with it, that it would have a strong enough motor not to burn out after awhile for kneading dough. In his opinion, the less expensive KithcnAid models probably work fine but if used a lot for just bread, they may not last as long.

I also agree with the mention of the instant-read thermometer - invaluable for gauging pre-ferments and water temps.

2. First Proof: I use a 30-year-old gigantic maple wooden bowl from the Weston Bowl Mill in Vermont that belonged to my Dad for breadmaking. It has been well-seasoned with vegetable oil over the decades and has a pleasant yeasty smell. I oil the bowl, add the dough, flip once to lightly coat dough with oil, and cover with a large warm damp linen towel for the first proof. If I am doing a very long slow-rise at very cool temps, I cover bowl with plastic as the towel would dry out before proofed. We keep a very cool house, esp. in winter, so the slow-rise methods from BBA work great for me. If I do need to do a quick rise like for brioche, I place the bowl near my woodstove.

3. Shaping Loaves: I use a scale to measure ingredients but I just eyeball the dough when it comes time to divide and shape.

4. Second proof: While I would love to bring home some nice willow bannetons next time I visit France, for now I just use some very cheap baskets from the dollar store that I douse liberally with flour - no linen, they have worked great and also leave a nice design.

5. Baking: I have a gas range. I used pizza stones many years ago but they too broke easlily and were not big enough for baguettes. I now use 12 x 12 clean, untreated granite tiles leftover from my countertop construction. By assembling about 2 12x12s with some odd shaped scrap pieces I was able to pretty much cover one of my oven racks while leaving about an inch all around open for heatflow. I read on another post here where someone warned of granite being radioactive - my husband is a geologist and has assured me granite is no more radioactive than any other natural rock like slate, or the clay used to make tiles or bricks (minute radioactivity occurs naturally everywhere in our environment - oven heat will not bring out radioactivity in stone). The important thing is that the granite be untreated with any type of sealer or wax. The tiles are about 1/4 inch thick, are porous to water, and have given me some great crusts when misted with a spray bottle, no cracking yet. I would, however, like to try buying a single large slab of local Catskill bluestone (very cheap here) to fit my oven rack, as the numerous pieces of tile are difficult to clean and are messy with the cornmeal.

I've been using a bakers peel, no parchment - just cornmeal, for about 15 years to transfer the loaves to the hearth. I use a small, very sharp serrated tomato knife to slash the loaves.

sewwhatsports's picture
sewwhatsports

I am new here and this thread looked interesting.

1. I have 2 KA mixers, a Classic and a Professional 5+.  Depending on the amount of loaves I am making determines which mixer I use.  I love the spiral dough hook on the bigger lady. For those that desire this type of mixer, KA has lots of ways to get them at a reasonable cost.  I paid less that $200 for my professional level machine new from the KA store in Ohio after their big Annie Oakley Day sale (July or August of the year) and there was free shipping.

2. First proof is always done in the bowl I just mixed in.  I took a class in sourdough from Jeffery Hamelman a few months ago and he said there is no need for oil in the bowl or to change bowls.  I had always proofed in a glass bowl or proofing container sprayed with olive oil.  Now I no longer add those calories. I have seen no difference in my loaves with the loss of the olive oil...

3. Shaping loaves.  After my class I have been converted to scaling.  It is so much more accurate and the consistancy of the dough is wonderful.  I was addicted to my measuring cups until someone showed me the wisdom of scaling.  I always do it for rolls but when dividing the dough for shaping I used a bench knife to cut the dough and eyeball it.  If I am doing 3 or more loaves, I do scale the dough then.

4. Depending on what I am type of bread I am making determines the container for the 2nd ferment.  I preshape, bench rest and then final shape.  I have a stoneware loaf pan and a few dark aluminum pans.  A recent addition is a Pullman pan for making sandwich loaf breads.  I have found that to be a lot of fun.  I have 2 brotforms, a round one and a batard style one.  I like to retard my dough with the sourdough I make.  Right now I have a 7 grain dough retarding until later today before I bake.  I will take it out of the refrigerator and do the final hour on either parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeat or the pizza peel I have or both, depending on how many loaves I am making.

5. Baking I have a new electric oven that has convection.  It also has a split shelf built in one of the shelves.  I put the split shelf in the bottom rung and the next shelf 2 rungs up.  I have a pizza stone for my round boules and unglazed terra cotta tiles I found at the local Home Depot.  I put my oven on at 480-500 degrees beforehand to preheat with the stones in the oven and a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven under the open split. I put a small aluminum pan in with some water to moisten the air in the oven while it preheats. I was taught not to throw ice into the bottom of my oven as it may warp the oven.  When it is time to bake, I have an inexpensive lame' I bought and have been trying to perfect my slashing. I quickly load the loaves onto the hot stones using the pizza peel and then put about a cup to cup and a half of boiling water into the cast iron pan for a flash of steam. 

I have 4 small tools that I could not do without.  The first is a dough turner from King Arthur flour.  We were given them after we finished our class.  The second is the bench knife, the third my scale and last is the instant read thermometer. Water temperature, dough temperature and baked bread temperature are all so important to the finished product that this tool is invaluable.

Rena in Delaware

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Rena - what is a dough turner? Is that how you avoid oiling the bowl for first proof? I'll have to check out the KA Baker's catalog. I've always needed a small amount of oil just to keep the wetter doughs I use from sticking to the wooden bowl too much when folding or removing. I agree about the scale, I love my digital Salter scale, it makes it so easy since it you can zero out the container and anything in it for each subsequent ingredient you add.

gardenmama's picture
gardenmama

<>I've been baking bread for years, but just in the last two years have graduated from simply using a bread machine to experimenting with my KA mixer and getting a little more creative with my baking.  So I found this post to be very informative!

 

1. I have a 1929 KA professional model mixer. It only has three speeds, no transmission (have to shut it off to change speeds), and there's a spot in the back to add oil ;) I love it though.

2. I have my mom's old huge ceramic bowl that she used for baking a week's worth of bread at a time. I usually only make two loaves at a time though, so I use a Pyrex glass bowl sprayed with oil and then cover the dough with plastic wrap and a towel. I like to put my dough on a heating pad set to low to rise.

3. For measuring ingrediens I use measuring cups, and for dividing dough I eyeball it and weigh by hand.

4. Mostly I use my trusty bread pans for the final rise and make traditional loaves as we eat a lot of sandwiches and toast. For freeform breads I usually bake on a cookie sheet, although I just got a pizza stone for Christmas that I'll be experimenting with.

5. As mentioned above, I just got a cheapo round pizza stone for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with it. So far it makes excellent pizzas! I don't have a peel and I'm wondering if it will be essential or if I can make due using parchament paper and my imagination. I might end up getting one though. As for ovens, we have a gas stove and wouldn't have it any other way.

My other essential tool is a set of nice cooling racks. I finally upgraded and got some nicer ones this Christmas.

Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

Just an update.

I bought two new gadgets:

Keep It Fresh Vacuum Seal Food Storage Box from QVC.

Item Number K3466Boxtp://www.qvc.com/qic/qvcapp.aspx?app=detail&params=item^K3466,frames^y,from^se,cm_scid^srch,cm_ssi^Item:%20K3466

Works on batteries or converter from AC.

Clear plastic top; pumps out air to keep the bread at near vacuum.

I have found it increases the life of my breads by at least a week! No mold, no wrapping.

Pricey at 49.96 plus 6.97 shipping and handling but I would buy it again and may yet buy another as soon as I find more room on my desperately crowded counters.

Next:

Steam Bread Baker from www.steambreadmaker.com

There is a whole thread of discussion about this on here somewhere, including some great posts by the manufacturer.

It enables the home baker to come closer to replicating the professional steam injection and retention of professional ovens. Also pricey at about $200, I find the improvement in my breads, without spritzing or other methods of attempting to steam is certainly worth the price. Even beats my beloved La Cloches.

Willard in Louisiana

Cliff Johnston's picture
Cliff Johnston

Ooftie, I feel like the odd-man out here.  I've got a KitchenAide ProLine mixer, etc., but I don't use it anymore.

Now I use the slow rise method for my rye bread dough.  As it is quite wet and sticky I mix it in a bowl with a large Pyrex silcone spatula so that I don't get my hands all mucked up - there are few things more tedious that having to wash rye dough from the hair on the back of my hands.  The large spatula works beautifully!

I searched and waited for ages, so it seemed, until I could buy an old 12" diameter x 6+" deep Red Wing dough bowl.  I use it to let my dough rise in.  As my loaves are on the large size (8 cups of flour) this works just right for me.  I've got some 10" Longerberger bowls that I still use for mixing, but for rising they are just too small.

Another gadget is a 7 qt. Lodge, cast iron, Dutch oven.  I love the crusts that I get when I use this. 

I'm waiting for a remote digital thermometer to arrive any day now.  I'm hoping that I can use it to monitor the bread as it bakes for the last 30 minutes.  When the middle of the load reaches 200°F. it's done.  I don't like opening the oven door and checking the temperature by hand.  Perhaps this will help.

Lastly I've got a couple of Pampered Chef cooling racks.  I really like them.  They are substantial, but then fold when I want to put them away.

That's it for gadgets - rather simple, but effective.  Well, not quite all...I'm looking at buying a Nutrimill to mill my own flour.  Too often I can't find what I need locally.  I've also talked with some people who own one, and they say that it's the best move that they've made when it comes to baking.  I'll find out soon...

Oops, almost forgot my steam generator - an old stainless steel pan with a brick - works great!

Cliff. Johnston
"May the best you've ever seen,
 Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay