Basic Stuff You Need to Make Sourdough Bread
To make sourdough bread, you don't need fancy appliances - just a few practical bits and pieces, most of which you can buy from any supermarket. There are some special and very handy bits you'll only find in a kitchen specialist store, or possibly something workable in a hardware store, but these are still inexpensive. Sourdough breadmaking can be very cost effective, and while over time you may want to improve your kit, to get started you'll need only the basic things.
You will soon be able to buy some of these basic utensils right here - I have sourced good quality stuff and will be offering them for sale through this site. You won't need to go running around for specialist things. I will also offer them at competitive prices. If you would like to get a bit of a taste for what I'll be offering for you, go to the contact page and make yourself known! Stay tuned!
Everything you need for most of my sourdough bread recipes:
- A plastic box or bowl large enough to knead dough in, but small enough to fit in your fridge. It should have a close fitting lid, but not an airtight lid. My favourite kind is rectangular, about 45 cm long by 30 cm wide, and 20 cm high. This container serves a number of purposes; it's for kneading in (though lots of recipes don't require much kneading at all), for resting and refrigerating the dough, and for proving the dough in the tin when it's ready. You should be able to hold about 5 kilos of dough in your container - though you will rarely make that much dough! But you can, and later, when I show you some really light breads, the extra size will come in handy.
- Two or Three bread tins - mine are smallish at about 30cm by 10cm by 15cm. They need to be able to handle about 800g to 1kg of dough. Bear in mind that sourdough grows by only about 1.5 times in volume - a bigger tin can make the finished product look small!
- A plastic 'blade' for scraping dough down the sides of things, and a stainless steel spatula for cutting the dough. If you can get your hands on a dough divider from a kitchen shop, great. These are very handy because you can put a fair bit of weight on them. Likewise, the plastic blade can be substituted for a plastic plasterer's blade from a hardware store, or cut from a thick piece of plastic if you're really stuck.
- These also double as bench scrapers, because you will find, if you are new to home breadmaking, that dough is very hard to clean off things. Scraping is better than wiping every time! Note the round edge on the plastic scraper at right. This is very handy indeed. We'll have all of these things in stock soon at the SourdoughBaker Shop. Have a look - we just might be open!
- A flat laminated surface for dough to be divided and formed on. Because you're dealing with flour, make sure it's free of 'bench furniture' like bowls, crockery and 'stuff' - these all become extra things to clean later. A metre or so of space, say 600mm deep by about a metre or more wide, will suffice.
- A sink nearby, clear of 'stuff' also! If you have dishes in the sink, you will find that dough gets into everything (as a default position, if you clear the kitchen of stuff in general before each doughmaking session, you'll find that things are simpler later on in terms of cleaning).
- Oven gloves or silicon mitts (I've recently disovered silicon mitts, which are great because they don't get smelly and can be washed up with your utensils. They also handle hot tins far better than oven gloves).
- A basic set of kitchen scales. If you can get digital, make sure it can manage 2 gram increments, up to 2kg. I've got cheap, robust ones for dough, and accurate digital ones for things like salt, where you need to be precise. Note:You will find that you can get away with measuring spoons for the finer measurements. They are cheap and can be purchased in any supermarket.
I should also mention here that scales are not absolutely necessary. Most of my recipes work on one kilo or half kilo measurements, so 'guesstimates' can be good enough. Ultimately, though, if the bread bug bites, you will want to get some scales. The ones pictured here cost me $20 and have lasted about 2 years so far!
- A large plastic or stainless steel sieve for 'dusting'. Make sure the mesh is quite fine, to prevent lots of flour falling through.
- A 2 litre measuring jug - preferably see through. I like plastic because they tend not to break like glass can (and does). Some people like stainless jugs - my guess is these people may well be aesthetes, and these jugs are durable. You just can't see what's in them from the outside!
- A nylon bristled floor or kitchen scrubbing brush. This has a multitude of uses, not the least of which will be for scrubbing your hands. Dough gets into all sorts of places, and these nylon bristles can go there too. Believe me, this little device will be your home bakery friend, and may well save your marriage. You can get them without the handle and with horsehair bristles too - again, different strokes for different folks. Mega handy!
- A serrated bread knife and a bread board for slicing your freshly baked bread!
These are the very basic pieces of equipment, enough to get you started. As you progress, you'll want (or need) other bits and pieces. A few of these are listed here:
Some Optional Extras
- A probe thermometer which has a narrow temperature range - say from zero centigrade to 50 degrees celsius.This is handy for diagnosing what might be going wrong with your dough, or for achieving better consistency from batch to batch. I'll talk more about this later.
- A flat baking sheet - either stainless steel, aluminium or silicone - for batards and viennas, platts, cobs and other shapes. Please bear in mind that 'free form' breads require a bit more skill, both in doughmaking and dough handling. However, once you get the basics right, you'll want to turn out really professional looking breads, and a sheet is definitely an asset at this point.
- A water sprayer for moistening your finished formed dough prior to dusting with flour. I still just wipe mine with wet hands - but each to their own, I guess!
- A paring knife for slashing your dough prior to baking. Any sharp knife will do, though.
A large, round bowl, either stainless steel, porcelain or plastic for kneading in. I haven't included this as an essential item, because the plastic box I mentioned earlier will suffice, and takes up less space in the kitchen. But a nice large (and I'm talking 60cm across the top) bowl, with a flat base is certainly nice to use for mixing really large doughs.
I have, in the pipeline, what I'm calling a 'Bakery in a Box', which contains all this useful equipment, and more. It comes with everything you need to get started, includinga kilo of Organic Flour, a Commercial grade Flour Scoop, Dough Cutter, a Powdered Sourdough Starter pack to establish your sourdough culture, and full instructions and special recipes on how to get it all going.
And you can check it out now at the SourdoughBaker Shop, which is almost ready to go with all your essential bakery ingredients, including a large range of organic flours, all of the utensils and tools mentioned in the article above, as well as a range of Sourdough Starters, which we can, in most cases, get to you overnight!
Keep an eye on the SourdoughBaker Shop for these and other useful home baker stuff.