Brown or white, soda or sour; toasted and topped with butter, jam, beans or cheese; raised or flat, GF or GI; sandwiched or in the form of a roll or baguette; with leftovers made into crumbs, croutons, sauces and puddings. Is there anything more staple to our diets than bread?
There’s never been a better smell than that of a baking loaf, or a greater satisfaction than the taste of a first homemade slice. And with the onset of lockdown, sparked by difficulty buying the readymade stuff, and more time to get stuck into the process at home, the nation’s baking prowess has been kneaded into action and the country’s bread baking enthusiasts challenged to prove themselves by whipping up their own creations.
While part of the beauty of bread is the simplicity of its ingredients, there’s no denying that having the right kit can help propel the process to the next level. From gadgets and gizmos to essential tools and kitchenware, these are our top picks for bread making brilliance.
KitchenAid Artisan Food Mixer
You don’t need anything more technical than an oven in order to make the best bread you can. But, let’s be frank, the easier and quicker it can become, the more you’re going to do it rather than reverting back to shop-bought. A KitchenAid Artisan food mixer doesn’t just make things easy, it makes them a pleasure. It’s smooth, slick and beautiful to use, and - unlike other mixers - comes with a host of baking-centric attachments alongside the humble dough hook - so you can use this lasts-a-lifetime piece of kit to sift and weigh your flours as well as milling your own grains. Food mixer-turned-windmill.
Lakeland Wind-Up Digital Kitchen Scale
No one should need Mary Berry to tell them that weighing your ingredients is pretty important when it comes to baking, and bread is no different. As such, a good pair of kitchen scales are an essential for the best results. Digital is definitely the way to go for the kind of accuracy needed with things like yeast quantities or the early stages of your sourdough starter. But is it just us who always finds that whenever you reach for your scales, the batteries have gone? That need no longer be the case with this handy creation from Lakeland. Just turn the dial to charge and activate, with one quick turning giving up to 2 minutes’ battery life. Turn it multiple times and it will store the power up, while an indicator light will flash if it’s running low so you know to give it a twist to top it up.
Heston Blumenthal by Salter 5 in 1 Digital Thermometer
If you’re familiar with making your own sourdough, you’ll know how temperamental a sourdough starter can be - and temperature is a large part of that. Likewise, the making of any bread will be affected by the temperature of the room, the dough, the oven and the water you mix with your yeast. How precise you want to be will depend on your level of perfectionism, but this thermometer will meet even the most pedantic of demands. It features dual sensors so it can measure both the bread (or your starter, or any other food) as well as the temperature in room or oven. It also claims to measure up to five times faster than most, and to an accuracy to 0.1 ºC. We told you it was precise.
VonShef 3-Tier Cooling Rack
When your lovingly-made loaf comes out of the oven you need to let it cool off in the right way otherwise you’ll risk getting a - wait for it - soggy bottom. A cooling rack is what you need, but why not go one better with this good-value three-tiered rack, which folds and separates for easy storage. That means you can have three whole levels of breads or baked goods all cooling in one neat tower - especially ideal if your work surface space isn’t in abundance.
Yodomo Sourdough Course and Kit
Learn how to make sourdough like a pro with this fantastic online course hosted by Karolis Siudikas, co-founder of artisan bakery Charles Good Food in Hackney. The course comes with a kit comprising a professional banneton proofing basket and fabric liner, plus a dough scraper - which is basically all you need bar flour and water. You can access the course 24/7 and drop in and out as time allows. It takes you through the early stages of giving life to your starter, right up to baking the bread - and it really does keep things simple, attainable and easy to follow. You’ve no excuse not to be baking up a storm after this!
Lakeland Dough Scraper
A dough scraper is to a baker what a knife is to a chef. This inconspicuous-looking tool is what the pros use to divide dough into the requisite sizes, to shape loaves, and generally scrape dough off work benches and around trays. Nothing else works quite like it, and once you try one you won’t go back. This version from Lakeland sits halfway between the super-cheap plastic versions you can get for a pound and more serious tools that might set you back substantially more. It is stainless steel with a nice plastic easy-grip handle and features measurements on its blade so you can accurately cut to size.
Rattan Cane Banneton
Once you’ve shaped your dough into its final shape, it needs to prove before baking - and that’s where a banneton or proving basket comes in. The ridges on these rattan cane baskets, sustainably made in Indonesia, create flour-striped, decoratively ribbed loaves straight out of an artisan boulangerie.
Staub Pastry Brush
Don’t let the name fool you - a pastry brush is for bread as much as it is pies and tarts. At least it is if you ever want to glaze your loaves, rolls or brioche buns for that appealing shine or spread them with water to produce a denser crust that you can really get your teeth stuck into. This stylish wooden-handled brush has ‘bristles’ made from silicone meaning they’re not only more hygienic than others (and don’t fall off leaving you with hairy bread) but also they’re highly heat resistant eliminating unfortunate hob and oven-related accidents. Trust us, we’ve had them before.
Nordic Ware Loaf Tin
Contrary to what you might think, not all baking tins are made equal. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune, either. This one from Nordic Ware’s ‘naturals’ range is made of pure aluminium for better heat conductivity which means evenly browned loaves rather than dark corners, as well as ensuring they’ll never rust or warp over time. Something to keep in mind too, is that while you wouldn’t necessarily associate a loaf tin with the most artisan looking of loaves, they come into their own when you’re using weaker, often more interesting and heritage flours rather than plain bread flour as they give these slightly weaker or heavier grains the support they need. Good for sandwiches, too!
Shipton Mill Flour
It’s the single most important ingredient in your loaf - so you want to get this one right. The better the flour, not only will your bread taste better, but it will likely be better for you too. Many people with digestive issues, wheat allergies or some of the more mild gluten intolerances find that they can’t eat most bought bread, but that if the right grains and flours are used then they can enjoy those they make themselves. There are a number of sources of great bread flour out there, but few are as renowned or reliable as Shipton Mill. Providing high quality organic stone-milled flours for almost forty years, and with a milling heritage that goes back to the Domesday book, they know what they’re doing. Try their spelt, rye and barley flours as well as less common varieties such as fig, emmer and khorasan.
Baking School Book
As with most things in life, a craft is best mastered with the help of a good book. No, YouTube isn’t always quite the same. This step-by-step, clear and instructional book from the crew at Borough Market’s beloved Bread Ahead will take you from the basics and the kit through to sourdough starters, shaping and much more complex techniques as you begin to master it. Something special which this book has that others don’t? The recipe for their famous Bread Ahead doughnuts - something to work towards as you get your dough skills up.
Mason Cash Glass Kitchen Board
Be it for bread or pastry, a glass board is great for kneading and shaping, not only as it keeps things neat and tidy, but also as it keeps the dough cooler compared to other surfaces, making it easier to handle. This glass board comes with the added benefit of showing commonly needed conversions at a easy glance, converting between ounces and grams, inches and centimetres, and gas mark, fahrenheit and celsius oven temperatures.
Tala Mixing Bowl
A mixing bowl is one of the most basic pieces of bread-making kit, and you may as well have a nice one. This retro-looking, ceramic bowl is big enough to mix-up as much bread as you’re likely to want and pretty enough to make you feel all the more domestic as you do it.
Denby Pottery Seconds Storage Jar
Whether it's for your flours or grains, or extras such as nuts and seeds that you’ll use to embellish your loaves, filling your pantry with the bread making kit requires some storage. Enter these gorgeous Denby Pottery seconds jars. Made by the world-famous pottery company, these seconds come about as during kiln firing, slight variations in temperature can occur which result in glazed pots appearing slightly lighter or darker than the ideal standard. You wouldn’t know it to look at them, and they have a lovely individuality - plus you get them for a comparative bargain.
Sage Smart Mini Oven
Oven space can be in short supply at the best of times - and especially when you start on the baking. The nature of making a perfect loaf or other bread-based items is that changing temperatures, opening oven doors and moving things around just doesn’t work. Therefore, if you’re lucky enough to be able to use a dedicated oven you’re likely to achieve all the better results. This mini oven from Sage features 5 high-tech heating elements to provide even, stable heat circulation that you have full control over - plus a wealth of extra features to perfectly customise it to whatever you’re cooking. The warming function even doubles for a great place to prove your loves. The power of an oven, the size of a microwave, and a price somewhere in between. Ideal for adventurous cooks without the kitchen space.
Price compare: £329 | AO
Tower Scandi Bread Bin
The final piece of any baking project is always the same: the bread. Once you’ve mixed, shaped, kneaded and proved it full of love, you’ll want to make sure it has somewhere nice to stay before it’s all gobbled up. This bread bin in sleek grey and natural wood is almost as pretty and homely as the loaves that will live inside it.
If you’re a sourdough starter yourself, we love the Yodomo Sourdough Course and Kit to get you inspired and informed. As underrated pieces of kit go, you can’t beat the Rattan Cane Banneton for transforming your loaf into a piece of boulangerie-worthy artisan artwork. And if there’s one piece of all-round kit to spoil yourself with, that makes baking a pleasure from milling to mixing, it has to be the KitchenAid Artisan Food Mixer which is an investment that will serve you well for life.