Baking Bread: no fancy equipment required

28 June 2018
When I first started baking bread I used what I had on hand. However, in the back of my head I was thinking I'd need to upgrade to some 'proper' equipment if I got into the swing of things.

I would often eye off different woven and linen lined bannetons. I researched lames and bench scrappers and all those things. I even looked at different bread bins and the best options to store my loaves.

Homemade sourdough.

Alongside my adventures in bread baking I also started to move towards a stronger connection to my values and how these underpinned my everyday living. A strong value for me is around reducing waste and conscious consumer purchasing. So, I started to question these ideas around what I thought I needed to bake bread. Now many years later I'm still just using what I have on hand.

I thought I'd run through some of the things I use. Hopefully this is useful for those out there doing the same to know that you aren't alone in not owning all the beautiful bread things. And also, for budding bakers I hope this shows that you can start right now, you don't have to wait until you get the right 'insert coveted baking item here' to get started.


Measuring and mixing dough

When I first started baking bread I used recipes that stuck to cup measures. When I moved onto sourdough most of the recipes are in weights so I started weighing. I have a basic spring scale that I use to measure my ingredients with. Nothing fancy, in fact I got it free with a magazine subscription in a past life when I subscribed to such things which means the scale is definitely +10 years old.

I mix my dough in a big bowl with a bread knife. I cover my dough with an inverted dinner plate or a silicon pot cover. I purchased a set of 3 pot covers from Ikea to turn my frypan into a saute pan and they have been so useful for covering many a bowl. Excellent for covering my proving dough.

Well loved and used place mat with favourite spatula.

Shaping and rolling dough

I do all my shaping and rolling on a placemat. This allows for an easier clean up and no worries with scraping the dough off the bench. This started when I lived in a house with wooden benches but I've stuck to it as it works well. To scrape my dough out of the bowl and off the mat when needed I simply use one of my (many) kitchen spatulas. I definitely have a favourite for this job but most will do the work in a pinch.

Proving and baking

I have a couple of linen tea towels that I use for proving my dough in. I pop these in the bowl or dish I'm using and lightly flour them. I have one tea towel that I use repeatedly and I don't wash this. I simply shake off extra flour and ensure it is fully dry before storing. I figure if I had a banneton I wouldn't be washing this either. No issues with mould as long as it's completely dry.

Regular proving dish for free form long loaves, tea towel, fave spatula and trusty serrated 
knife for all my bread slashing needs.

I bake my everyday loaf in a cast iron pot - you can see it in action here. This is one that I've had for a long time and previously used for slow cooking. It's now pretty much exclusively used for bread baking (and the slow cooking gets done in the slow cooker instead). I pre-heat this so that I don't have to use anything to prevent sticking. I inherited a loaf tin with a house once, which I held onto for many years before putting to use just this year for baking my loaves. Anything else is just on a normal baking tray either oiled or lightly floured.

I slash my dough with a trusty serrated knife. Do I get perfect cuts and pretty designs? No, but it's good enough for my everyday baking needs at this stage. You can see the results of my serrated knife efforts in the first pic.

Everyday bread nestled into non-fancy DIY banneton (baking dish and tea towel combo).

I store my bread cut side down on a wooden chopping board that we just use for bread. This keeps the loaf well f around 3 days - after that it starts to get a little dry at the cut end. If for some reason we aren't making our way through the loaf at our usual speed I'll slice what's remaining at about day 3-4 and store in an up-cycled plastic bag (fruit and veg bag or pasta packet) or a container.

And that's the end of the process and my list of 'stuff'. No fancy equipment, no specially purchased items and no waste produced in the cooking process. I do still eye off those bannetons at times for the fancy finish on the loaf though....

Do you lust after various baking paraphernalia or let the lack of stand in the way of your baking?
If you also subscribe to the make do in regards to equipment any tips or tricks to share?

6 comments

  1. Laura I did buy some really good bread tins from Lifeline for $5 which are quite expensive to buy elsewhere. I slice and freeze my sourdough which works for us. I haven't bought much else for making my soutdough from memory. I currently have my starter getting ready for making dough when I have finished brekky.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like a good bargain Chel. Good tip on the freezing too. Happy baking.
      Cheers,
      Laura

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  2. Good morning Laura,
    I'm starting to think we might be related ☺ (we have so much in common). Your post today is very timely or perhaps telepathic. How strange is it that only yesterday I was looking online for lames and bannetons? After weighing up the ridiculous prices and lack of storage in our kitchen I decided to make do with what has worked up until now.
    I use equipment similar to yours -

    digital kitchen scales for weighing starter, flour and salt
    big stainless steel bowl and large strong fork for mixing
    glass saucepan lid for covering dough overnight
    large timber chopping board, dough scraper, (both were gifts) and favourite spatula for shaping and rolling
    2 non-stick loaf tins for proving and baking sandwich loaves (they were $5 each, amazing quality and my bread never sticks
    ordinary wicker bread baskets lined with cloths made from repurposed cotton bed sheets for proving free form loaves both round and long
    a beautiful large cotton tea towel (a gift from a very special friend) to cover any bread I make while it is proving
    a sharp paring or serrated knife for slashing the top of loaves (these sometimes drag through the dough so I have come up with an improvised lame -a razer blade "threaded" onto the end of a thick wooden skewer)
    my cast iron pot if I am making just 1 loaf or baking trays if more than 1 loaf

    Any bread that isn't eaten on the day it's baked, I slice and freeze in zip lock bags that we wash, dry and reuse. I have been known to hide bread in the freezer where my teenage son won't look. He usually eats 4 slices at the time managing to devour an entire loaf in one day. This only happens with home-made bread. Our chooks usually end up with left over supermarket bread.
    I love bread made with spelt flour but at over $10 per kilo it is too expensive to make regularly. I recently found and bought a 12.5 kg bag of wholemeal spelt flour that cost $59 delivered. Next time I will buy the 12.5 kg bag of organic wholemeal spelt flour for only $6 more. My children who won't eat regular wholemeal anything love wholemeal spelt bread.
    Laura, I must comment on how beautiful your bread looks both while it's proving and after baking.
    One of the many reasons I bake most of our bread is that it is so much more economical than buying good quality bread made with few ingredients. If we buy fancy, expensive equipment and gadgets in order to make bread we are defeating the point of trying to be more frugal and mindful.
    Warm regards, Maria from Adelaide SA.



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    Replies
    1. Love the upcycling ideas Maria. You are a woman after my own heart. I've not used spelt flour in my baking - as you say the cost is a bit of a deterrent. Sounds like you scored a pretty good price. Have you ever checked out Gaganis for bread flour? I used to get mine there and it was pretty reasonable - although I'm not sure if they do spelt.
      Thanks for the bread compliments. What a shame i never started my blog in Adelaide we could have connected in real life.
      Have a good weekend.
      Cheers,
      Laura

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  3. You can buy a lot of stuff from the second-hand shop, really cheaply. Old glass casserole dish lids do well, to cover a proving dough in a bowl. That's what I use. Also, you don't need a fancy dough scraper, when you can make your own from an old ice-cream lid/container. Just cut out a semi circle, and you have a bench scraper.

    I must confess, I'm in the market for a new food processor, since my old one finally died. And I was toying with the idea of getting one, that would also mix dough. I'm not completely sold on it, as I don't think I bake enough bread to justify spending more on a fancier food processor. Decisions, decisions!

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    Replies
    1. That's a great idea for using the casserole lid dishes Chris and I'll be filing that scraper idea away for when my fave spatula dies (it will be a sad day!).
      I found my dough hook super handy on my stand mixer when I was baking yeast dough - so much easier than hand kneading. Now that I'm doing sourdough I just go the lazy route and stretch and fold so it hasn't got as much use of late. I'm not sure what the gumtree market is like up your way but I've seen kitchenaids for reasonable prices before.
      Good luck on the decision making!
      Cheers,
      Laura

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