No Bread Machine? Here’s What You Really Need to Get Baking
If you would have told us way back when we were making our 2020 resolutions that we’d be carb loading like a marathoner just a few months into the year, we would have laughed you off of the Internet. But, here we are, wearing comfy sweats and developing a serious case of baker’s envy with each scroll through our Instagram feed. Of course, those who have searched for sold-out or backordered bread machines know they’re impossible to buy right now. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your sourdough dreams just yet. Because when it comes to bread making, the real street cred comes from DIYing those loaves the old-fashioned way.
There are other perks to ditching the automation: Those who make bread by hand say they can yield a more delicate and tender crust and can better target bake times on a loaf-per-loaf basis. And let’s face it: Nobody got top-nine worthy likes from a loaf of bread-machine bread configured in that wonky vertical orientation. The only thing standing between you and posting savory content of your own? A kick-ass sourdough starter, patience, the below tools — and a little guidance (check The Perfect Loaf and The Bread She Bakes for recipes).
Just about any stainless steel bench knife can scrape dough from a work surface, but many don’t feature measurement marks to cut dough into equal portions. This one features a 5” measure that runs along the blade and a 3” measure to gauge vertical height, so one mini-loaf won’t dwarf another.
SHOP: Sur La Table Stainless Steel Dough Scraper, $7.97, available at Sur La Table
Any bread maker will tell you the pursuit is part science — and when it comes to using powder ingredients like flour, it’s best to rely on precisely weighted measurements rather than compressed cupfulls. Enter: the kitchen scale. This one not only ranks with scientific chef Alton Brown and the food nerds at Cooks Illustrated, it also provides an elegant solution to one of our biggest kitchen scale gripes: thanks to a tear-away display, we no longer have to bust out our phone’s flashlight and practice painful contortion to read the device’s measurements anytime we try to weigh something that boats a footprint bigger than the gadget’s platform.
SHOP: Good Grips Stainless Steel 11 lb. Pull-Out Display Food Scale, $50, available at Home Depot
Serious bread makers rely on a thermometer to read the internal temperature of bread and answer once and for all: Is it done yet? While plentiful cheaper options exist, many debate the point of relying on a probe thermometer’s hazy dial reading to do the job. Instead, professional chefs and America’s Test Kitchen swear by this easy-to-clean digital thermometer to deliver an accurate and fast read for water, dough and bread temps.
SHOP: Thermapen MK4, $99, available at Sur La Table
Dip into just about any online baking community and you’ll find bread makers raving about this classic loaf pan. Some praise the corrugated surface, which more easily releases the pan’s contents. Others maintain that its aluminum material is not only the best conductor of heat for baking, but doesn’t warp over time. We like that it’s affordable and made in the USA. Bonus: If the whole foray into bread making doesn’t stick, this baby can always be used for basic banana bread or meatloaf.
SHOP: USA Pan 9” x 5” Aluminized Steel Loaf Pan, $16, available at Sur La Table
Call it the next-best thing to a bread machine. This covered clay bread pot turns out an expertly-shaped loaf — even at the hands of the most novice baker, according to reviewers. After heating the pot in the oven as it preheats to the cooking temperature, simply place knead or no-knead dough in the crock and bake for about 40 minutes. The result: a perfectly-round loaf made with minimal fuss.
SHOP: Emile Henry No Knead Bread Pot, $130, available at Williams-Sonoma