The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Home baking: where to buy the stuff I need without going bankrupt?

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Scone Boy's picture
Scone Boy

Home baking: where to buy the stuff I need without going bankrupt?

Hello, I'm fairly new to baking and have taken it up enthusiastically in my home. So far, I'm working without all the speciality tools like a baking stone, lame, couche, baking parchment, banneton, etc. Now, I want to buy these speciality items to make baking easier and to, hopefully, improve my bread. Here's the dilemma: where do I buy these things? I don't fall into the category of wanting to buy wholesale in large quantities; at the same time I don't want to pay the 'Williams and Sonoma' price. Where can I get good quality home baking equipment at affordable prices? I live in Portland, Oregon. I also would consider ordering on-line if you have a good suggestion from the cyber-shopping world. thanks,Scone Boy

Floydm's picture
Floydm

All the things you mention can be improvised:


  • baking stone - Ceramic tiles from Home Depot. 4 x .99.
  • lame - a double-edge razor on the end of a coffee stirrer stick. About 3 bucks for a pack of 12 razors (stirrer free at Starbuck's)
  • couche - Linen dish towels. I think you can find them at Dollar Tree for a buck a pop. If not, try Target or Walmart.
  • baking parchment - 3 bucks for a 50 foot roll. A handful of corn meal can be used to do the same thing.
  • banneton - I use some baskets I found at Goodwill for 99 cents each.
You can spend a lot if you want to, but you can be fully equipped for next to nothing. If you really want to drop money on gear, get an instant read thermometer, a digital scale, and a baking stone. You could probably drop a couple hundred on those by going to William Sonoma or Kitchen Kaboodle, but you should be able to get all them for under 50 online, at Target, or at one of the kitchen gear places in the Troutdale outlet mall.
Willard Onellion's picture
Willard Onellion

I think you will not find cheaper bannetons or bread baskets than at

http://www.sfbi.com/baking_supplies.html

 

I highly recommend the FibraMent baking stone, 3/4" thick. The 1/4" pizza stones have been less than satisfactory for me.

 

Floydm is correct, most of the items can be fabricated or substituted by you. I do, however enjoy the linen-lined bannetons and the heavy couches made for bread baking.

 

I think the instant read thermometer is essential. The scale might wait a bit unless you are going directly into weighing your ingredients.

 

Baker's scrapers are nice but pricey. Try a wide (5" or more) dry wall spatula from the local hardware store.

 

Despite what some say, stainless steel bowls are fine for fermenting and raising your doughs.

 

A good pair of heat resistant gloves will come in handy. You may pay a lot at bakery sites or go to that local hardware store again.

 

A good plastic bowl scraper, mine is over a year old and holding nicely, may be obtained from King Arthur slour for a dollar.

 

Another thing avail on line but also in Dollar stores is the elastic-edged bowl cover; looks like a shower cap. It's great for use in covering bowls of fermenting doughs, sourdough starters, poolish's, etc. Reusable and saves the frustration of using the Saran-type wraps.

I bought a commercial lame and deserted it for single-edged razor blades; no handle required.

 

Good luck,

Willard

tony's picture
tony

I have two each so that in the inevitable case that I knock one on the floor I can snag one from the drawer without having to wash the dirty one and make my hands wet when I want them dry. A plastic bowl scraper costs under $2 and the steel bench scraper is, I think, under $8 if you don't get a fancy one. The bench scraper can be sharpened from time to time with a file. Make the "cutting edge" square; run the file diagonally across the edge and perpendicular to the blade

Cooky's picture
Cooky

As a fellow new enthusiast, I have to say one of the great pleasures of bread baking for me is its accessibility.

 

Aside from the satisfaction of producing wonderful stuff inexpensively, there is a practical value in developing your technique with a variety of different tools. You can figure out what really works for you without dropping a bundle on accoutrements that you might end up dumping anyway. (E.G., Willard's experience with the lame.) I'm still fussing around with shaping equipment -- towels, baskets, non-stick pads, cornmeal -- and I'm still not ready to commit to, say, buying quality bannettons, and probably won't be until I have more confidence in my skills.

 

The one early investment I found really, really helpful was an instant-read thermometer. It's a huge help and not all that pricey.

 

The good news is whatever you try, you *will* make good bread and all your hungry friends will love you truly madly deeply.

 

 

 

 

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

demegrad's picture
demegrad

A very useful tool is a peel, and even though they aren't to expensive if you want to work with longer loaves the peel to need is excessive large and therefore more expensive than the smaller ones.  But a small one is perfect for pizza.  So I suggest buying a small pizza peel, and then for work with longer loaves, buy a piece of wood at home depot or lowes, about .75 inches thick, 7.5 inches wide and about 18 inches long is pretty good.  I went expensive and got a nice piece of oak at $2.35 a foot, but hey you only need a foot and half.  They should also have poplar and pine which are even cheaper, but just as good for baking, I just think the oak looks nice.  Just go in and ask for "a foot and half of one by eight inch ..." of whatever type of wood you want, and they'll even cut it to length for you.  So no tools are needed on your part, since I know not everyone has a table saw at home.  There is special instruction for caring for wood that will probably need to be washed, just look up instruction on caring for wooden cutting boards, it's the same idea.  But in general just flour up your board like you would a peel and it's perfect for transferring long loaves to your oven!

demegrad

http://www.demegrad.blogspot.com

demegrad's picture
demegrad

An if you're having trouble with loaves sticking to inexpensive towels being used for a couche I made one, to size, from canvas, the canvas is thick and very tightly woven.  I don't know for sure if those aspects of canvas actually increase it's non-stickiness, yes I said non-stickiness, but I always just use some flour and never have had a problem.

 I got the canvas at wal-mart's sewing section, it's sells in a 3 foot wide roll for aobut $4 a foot.  Again a foot and a half is good but you can get the size to whatever you want.  The tricky part is finding someone with a sewing machine to fold the edges and sew them up.  Luckily it's an easy/small job and any friends with a sewing machine probably won't mind doing it for you.

 

demegrad

http://www.demegrad.blogspot.com

buh's picture
buh

Caroline: You don't need a thing except 2 bowl--one large, one medium, the medium for when u only make a 3-cup size loaf. Get a plastic one twice the size for when u make 2 loaves at a time. Nothing's worse than stirring a slurry that slops over the too-small bowl.

That's it! I have a KitchenAid but i don't use it much. I like to manually knead my bread. I did acquire a 23"X23"X1" slab of marble that perfectly fits my work area. I love it but I didn't pay for it. Just have bread flour, all-purpose flour, sea salt and instant yeast. Period. I must admit I just came across some malt syrup at $6 a jar, which I had to have. Have fun.

T4tigger's picture
T4tigger

I made myself a bread board for kneading for about $10......bought a 2'x2' block of 3/4" birch plywood for $6 at  Menards,  cut it down to 18"x18" on the table saw, sanded it down and doused it with food safe mineral oil ($4).  It is wonderful to not have the dough stick to my counter tops, and beats a $20 12"x14" wooden cutting board!  I use a double edge razor blade taped to a shish-ka-bob skewer for a lame, and Tupperware bowls work great for bannetons when lined with a $1 tea towel! 

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I found a small kitchen scale with an LCD readout panel and a 5Kg capacity on Amazon.com. Even better was the fact that it was on sale for about $12+S&H. It has gone from a novelty to a kitchen essential. Keep an eye on that category and you might find that kind of bargain.

Mustang 51's picture
Mustang 51

All of these things can be wonderful, but remember need has a particular meaning. It has been mentioned several times on this website that our ancestors worked with very little. We have a place in Wiconsin called Old World Wisconsin where they reenact life as it was many years ago. I watched a woman baking with a wood stove. She explained how to tell the temperature for baking. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with how long you could keep your bare hands in the oven without burning them. Perhaps you have a place like that near you. I found it very interesting.


That being said, have you considered rummage sales, estate sales and second-hand stores for the items you would like to have? The problem is you have to take what you find rather than finding the item you are looking for.


As much as it is in my nature to improvise, I would caution you to be careful to use food-safe materials when you are considering making something on your own. We have too many bad things thrown at us, trying to make us unhealthy. If you save $2 but it makes you sick in any way it was not worth it. Be very careful with plastic items. Many of them are not food-safe.


Enjoy your new hobby!


Paul

turosdolci's picture
turosdolci

Get tiles (this you can get at Home Depot) and reminent pieces of marble at companies in this business. Sometimes they will cut the marble for you at a small price or maybe for free. This way you can get the size you want. I also went to a cabinet company and got a large hard wood cabinet door (before it was treated) and it works great for working dough. Look for restaurants going out of business for other baking items and wisks, pans etc. Also textile departments for canvas you can always find textiles on sale. If you are looking for packaging when you give some of your delicious bread to friends you will find many on line wholesale companies. Some sell in small quantities. Always buy after holidays when these items go on sale. We make biscotti so I need pastry cutters and molds and have found some very unique pastry cutters at flea markets. They are very old, but brass with different cutting edges. You don't have to give the house away. Don't go out and buy everything you think you need before you have had time to really understand what you are comfortable working with. Buy one thing at a time, try it out and make sure it works for you. 

mredwood's picture
mredwood

There are several restaurant supply stores that handle used equipment in portland. I don't have much space so the one dollar I spent for a used half sheet pan was a real find. My bread on parchment can be easily moved and the pan can be slid into a plastic bag.


I too ditched the lame for the plain razor. I consider my short handled bakers peel a necessity. I bought mine I think at Boxer downtown for cheap. 


I have heavy canvas I used to raise dough on but I ditched it for linen dinner napkins I bought at the goodwill bin store. At a large garage sale I bought linen dishtowels for a dollar a piece. Those towels with a calendar on them are all over in the second hand stores. They are linen. Never saw one that wasn't.


I bought my scale at Mirador for around 23 dollars. It has a tare function. A good instant read digital thermometer is a necessity for me. Mine was made by Best manufacturing here in Portland. It's 5/8 inches thick and weighs a ton. Buy the largest you can afford with leaving an inch all around for air. Many times I don't feel like preheating my oven so I will bake it in some cast  iron pot or some such with a cover. 


The only thing I have been unable to find in portland is Durham flour. 


The hunt for supplies on the cheap can be as much fun as using them and baking. Have fun.


Mariah