From the blog December 6, 2016 Modernist Cuisine Team

Gift Guide 2016: Gear up for Bread

This year the idea for our gift guide came from our community. In the months after preorders for Modernist Bread began, many of you have asked us what gear you will need to begin baking through the book when it arrives.

We’ve put together this guide to help you stock up on supplies or shop for your favorite baker. It features 19 basic items that you will find in any well-stocked bakery, as well as other helpful tools. Many of these selections are inexpensive like the $39 cast-iron cooker that beautifully bakes bread in home ovens, but there are also a few splurges on the list, which we think are wise investments.

The Basics

1. Baking pans

baking-pan1

Why it’s a bakery essential: Simple metal loaf pans can be used for proofing as well as baking. They keep proofing dough in place so that it can be easily moved. Pans also mold proofing dough and help hold the shape.

Features to look for: You need to have a few basic pans in several sizes so that you can choose one that is appropriate for the bread you want to prepare. The dimensions of the pans we recommend below are the ones we most frequently use for our sandwich breads, brioche, and gluten-free breads. Although baking pans come in a variety of shapes, there’s generally no need to buy specialty pans unless you want to make a bread in its traditional shape. The material or thickness of the pans aren’t terribly important, but you will want a durable nonstick coating, which does make it easier to quickly remove hot loaves and reduce cleanup.

Price range: $10–$50

Start your search with:

Commercial II Non-Stick 1 lb Loaf Pan (21.59 cm by 11.43 cm by 6.99 cm / 8.5 in by 4.5 in by 2.75 in) by Chicago Metallic

Aluminized Steel 1.25 lb Loaf Pan with non-stick Americoat coating (22.86 cm by 12.7 cm by 7 cm / 9 in  by 5 in  by 2.75 in) by USA Pans

Aluminized Steel 1.5 lb Pullman Pan with non-stick silicon glaze (33 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm / 13 in by 4 in by 4 in) by Focus Foodservice

Custom Baking Pans (for artisanal bakeries) by Lloyd Pans

2. Baskets

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Why it’s a bakery essential: Some of the most common items found in a bakery are wicker or cane baskets (bannetons or brotforms), which are used to hold and mold shaped pieces of dough during final proofing. The baskets are seasoned with flour, which, over time, serves as a nonstick surface.

Features to look for: Proofing baskets come in many different sizes and forms meant for specific shapes. It’s good to have go-to baskets for standard shapes like boule (round) and bâtard (oval), but you can also find baskets to mold dough into special shapes such as couronne bordelaise (a Bordeaux-style crown), triangle, double boule, and others.

Lining is another important consideration for choosing baskets. Some baskets have no lining and will imprint your dough with the pattern of the wicker; other versions are linen-lined. We recommend unlined baskets for doughs with a relatively firm consistency. Lined baskets work well for both high-hydration and drier doughs because the flour adheres to the linen and makes the dough easier to unmold. Baskets with removable linen covers are the most versatile options, giving you the benefits of both.

Price range: $15–$40

Start your search with:

10-inch Wicker Boule Basket with Removable Linen Liner (for 800 – 1000 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

8-inch Wicker Boule Basket with Removable Linen Liner (for 500 – 750 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

Coiled Bâtard Basket (for 500 – 650 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

3. Cast Iron Cooker

Lodge Combination Cast Iron Cooker

Why it’s a bakery essential: Baking in a pot is hands down our favorite method for making bread in a home oven. The pot’s base and lid create a tightly enclosed environment for the proofed and scored dough. Cast iron absorbs heat well and retains it even better, helping to mitigate the temperature drop when you open the oven door.

Features to look for: When it comes to these pots, you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount. We’ve tested a lot of cookware, but our favorite is the simple cast-iron combo cooker. You can bake extraordinary bread at home with this inexpensive, multipurpose pot. The cooker actually is a two-piece set that consists of a Dutch oven and a skillet that is repurposed as a lid. For bread, we use the skillet as the base and the Dutch oven as the lid, which makes transferring dough less complicated. We find that 800 g of dough fits perfectly in most three-quart cast-iron combination cookers.

Price range: $39

Start your search with:

Cast Iron Combination Cooker by Lodge

4. Plastic tubs

Why it’s a bakery essential: Storage is an important consideration for bakers, and clear plastic tubs are the storage bins of choice. Up for almost any stowage task, these bins come in a range of sizes; they make it easy to keep an eye on the contents inside; and they stack much like nesting dolls when they aren’t being used. Long rectangular storage boxes can be used to hold fermenting dough, while preferments, ingredients, and old dough are often stored in square versions. Tall tubs make great vessels when weighing large quantities of water—some can even transform into water bath containers when cooking sous vide.

Features to look for: Clear plastic bins with airtight lids are useful to have in a variety of sizes. The Cambro brand is so habitually used that the name is practically a generic term for the tubs in professional kitchens. Another kitchen vocabulary word to know is ‘lexan’, which is another name for the durable polycarbonate sheets that are often used to make commercial storage boxes, pans, and containers for food.

Price range: $9–$40

Start your search with:

Camwear Polycarbonate Food Storage Box (17.98 L / 4.75 gal) by Cambro

Camwear Polycarbonate Food Storage Box (33.12 L / 8.75 gal) by Cambro

Camwear Polycarbonate Square Plastic Food Container (in assorted sizes) by Cambro

5. Plastic bags or tarps

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Why it’s a bakery essential: They may not make the most exciting gift, but plastic bags and tarps are essential tools for bakers. They’re used to cover dough to keep it from drying out as it rests on a worktable.

Features to look for: More likely than not, you already have suitable covers in your pantry. Clean trash bags work, however we prefer eco-friendly transparent compostable bags.

Price range: $5–$16

Start your search with:

Heavy Duty Compostable Trash Bags (in assorted sizes) by Stout

6. Thermometer

ThermoWorks Mk4 Digital Thermometer

Why it’s a bakery essential: Digital thermometers are indispensable tools, and any baker will benefit from having one in their pocket. Small changes in temperature can make all the difference in cooking and baking, which is why we measure it as accurately as possible. A good digital thermometer can be used to improvise a water bath to cook sous vide, and you can also calibrate your home oven with an oven-safe probe.

Features to look for: One of our favorite digital thermometers is the Thermapen Mk4. It’s extremely accurate, has a slender probe, and can connect to a Type K Thermocouple. Home bakers will also want a basic oven thermometer.

Price range: $5–$80

Start your search with:

Thermapen Mk4 by ThermoWorks

Commercial Stainless Steel Oven Monitoring Thermometer by Rubbermaid

7. Digital Scale

Why it’s a bakery essential: This is the piece of equipment we recommend most emphatically for all bakers. If you have been measuring ingredients only by the cup and teaspoon, now is a great time to buy a good scale to begin applying more precision to your recipe measurements. Some high-capacity kitchen scales display baker’s percentages as well as grams, which is another benefit. A super-precise fine weight scale is the best way to measure tiny quantities of ingredients like yeast or salt.

Features to look for: Bakers should really have two scales: a relatively high-capacity kitchen scale and a fine weight pocket scale for measuring small quantities. The standard scale should be accurate to one decimal place and should have the capacity to weigh double the amount of our standard recipes plus the weight of the mixing bowl. For larger quantities of dough, look for scales that can hold even more weight. The fine weight scale should be accurate to .01 g. If you don’t want to spend a lot, an inexpensive 200 g pocket-sized version will work just fine. All-purpose scales exist that will cover both these requirements, but they are expensive.

Price range: $15–$115

Start your search with:

Baker’s Kitchen Scale (8,000 g capacity) by My Weigh

Salter 405 General Purpose Scale (6,000 g or 15,000 g capacity) by Salter Brecknell

Scout Pro Portable Electronic Balance (200 by .01 g) by Ohaus

Digital Gram Pocket Scale (200 by .01 g) by American Weigh Scale

8. Timers

ThermoWorks Extra Big and Loud Timer

Why it’s a bakery essential: Baking bread is a time-intensive process that also requires time management skills. In addition to telling you when to remove your bread from the oven, digital timers will help you keep track of dough as it ferments and proofs, especially when you’re managing several doughs and kitchen tasks at a time.

Features to look for: Timers should be easy to use, with loud alarms that can be heard across a noisy bakery or from another room. Have several basic timers on hand for juggling tasks.

Price range: $10–$30

Start your search with:

Extra Big and Loud Timer by ThermoWorks

9. Bench knife (bench scraper)

Bench Knife

Why it’s a bakery essential: A bench knife, also referred to as a bench scraper, is another inexpensive but invaluable tool highly recommended. Even though there are several options available for mechanically dividing dough, a bench knife and a scale work the best.

Features to look for: We prefer a sharp metal version for cleanly cutting dough, lifting sticky dough, and scraping dough residue off the table. Plastic ones will get the job done, but they can make cutting and scraping dough more difficult because they are generally thicker and less sharp than metal scrapers.

Price range: $10–$20

Start your search with:

Stainless Steel Dough Scraper with Polypropylene Handle by Dexter-Russell

Flexible Dough and Bowl Scrapers (set of four) by Prepatize

10. Lame

 

Why it’s a bakery essential: Our go-to tool for scoring dough is a classic: the lame. A lame is a sharp razor blade held in place by a handle. The blades are cheap and can be replaced easily, which isn’t necessarily true of other cutting tools, such as a paring knife.

Features to look for: Lames come in several styles. Basic lame handles are often made from metal or plastic. Look for razor blades that are thin and flexible as many lames are designed to make the blade curve. Disposable versions have a blade that can’t be removed or sharpened. Professional bakers generally avoid disposable lames because they need to replace the lame blades often (usually at the end of the day). A wood-handled lame is an attractive showpiece with a heft that makes it easier for the blade to slice the dough. The drawback is that it can be pricey and can’t make a razor blade curve.

Price range: $6–$40

Start your search with:

Stainless Steel Lame from San Francisco Baking Institute

Professional Disposable Lame (pack of 5) by Scaritech

Hand-Crafted Walnut Wood-Handled Lame by Zatoba

Stainless Steel Double Edge Razor Blades by Personna

More Tools

11. Baking steel and baking stone

Why we recommend it: A baking steel or stone is one of our favorite tools for making pizza and flatbreads, including naan and pita, and pan loaves. Steel provides enough thermal mass to replicate the environment of a wood-fired oven, allowing you to rapidly produce Neapolitan-style pizza in your own kitchen. We prefer using a stone to bake pan loaves and other breads because steel tends to scorch the bottom of larger loaves.

Price range: $50–$120

Start your search with:

Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel by Baking Steel

Rectangular Baking Stone (35.56 cm by 41.91 cm by 1.27 cm / 14 in by 16 in by .5 in) by Old Stone Oven

12. Pastry brushes

Why we recommend it: Any bakery or kitchen can benefit from having several pastry brushes. Reserve different brushes for specific purposes—for instance, designating one for cooking sugar and another for egg washes.

Features to look for: We like to use pastry brushes with natural or fine synthetic bristles over the thicker silicone brushes that leave track marks. Synthetic bristles are more hygienic and can be incredibly soft, which makes them a good choice for egg washing more delicate doughs. Art or home improvement stores often have great options—paintbrushes that meet these specifications can easily double as pastry brushes.

Price range: $6–$15

Start your search with:

Restore Flat Synthetic Premium Mottler Brush (assorted sizes) by Global Art Materials

13. Stand Mixer

Why we recommend it: We use a stand mixer for most home baking and also recommend it for small restaurant production. It’s the biggest splurge on our list, but a good stand mixer is a gift that will make any baker happy. A stand mixer is a small version of a planetary mixer that can comfortably sit on any work surface, occupying minimal space. They have the same mixing attachments as well—most come with a hook, paddle, and whip.

Stand mixers are incredibly versatile countertop tools. They can be used for much more than mixing, thanks to additional attachments that can use the spinning motor to sheet pasta dough, grind meat, mill grains into flour, chop vegetables, and even make ice cream.

Features to look for: A stand mixer can be a big investment, so look for models that have a strong motor, which is important for making drier doughs, and a broad range of speed settings, from very slow to very fast. A five-quart consumer stand mixer will work for home bakers who are making up to a kilo of dough—the minimum in most of our recipes—at a time. But beyond that, we find that these mixers tend to hop around the table and need more power. We recommend investing in a commercial stand mixer with a sturdy base if you plan to frequently make seven quarts of dough or more.

The Ankarsrum mixer is not very common, but we like using it for our gluten-free breads in particular and for mixing paste-like doughs, such as 100% rye breads. It has one arm that performs the mixing and another that scrapes the spinning bowl, making for a very efficient mix. The design makes it easy to pour ingredients in the bowl, which is unobstructed by the motor housing that most stand mixers have.

The flat solid base won’t dance around the counter, either.

Price range: $250–$900

Start your search with:

Original AKM S 6220 Stand Mixer by Ankarsrum

Professional 5 Plus Series 5-Quart Stand Mixer by KitchenAid

7-Quart Commercial Countertop Stand Mixer with Guard by Vollrath

10-Quart Gear Driven Commercial Planetary Stand Mixer with Guard by Avantco

15. Bench brush

Why we recommend it: Messes are hard to avoid when you bake bread. A bench brush is a small investment, but it will help you to quickly clean surfaces between handling dough. These special hand brooms offer an easy way to sweep flour and bits of dough away from your work space.

Price range: $8–$20

Start your search with:

Wood Handle Counter Duster with Flagged Silver Polystyrene Bristles by Weiler

16. Water spritzer

Why we recommend it: Bakers use spritzers to keep dough moist after it has been mixed. A light mist of water will prevent the dough’s surface from becoming tough and dry while it is exposed to air. The spritzer itself is basic, but remember to change the water in it at least once a week.

Features to look for: Although any spritzer is up for the task, clear bottles allow you to keep an eye on the liquid inside.

Price range: $7–$15

Start your search with:

Clear Plastic Spray Bottle by Soft ‘N Style

17. Couche

couche

Why we recommend it: A couche is a swatch of plain linen cloth that sits between the dough and a flat surface; the cloth is creased to cradle the dough it holds. Couches absorb excess moisture from dough during the proofing process so that the board stays relatively dry, making it easier to slide the dough off surfaces and keeping portioned dough from touching other pieces or losing its shape as it expands.

Features to look for: You can purchase prepackaged options on many sites, however, we like to buy our couches by the yard to specifically suit our needs.

Price range: $15–$30

Start your search with:

Linen Couche (by the yard) from San Francisco Baking Institute

Custom Proofing Cloths (for artisanal bakeries) by Cleanbake

18. Peels and Transfer Boards

Why we recommend it: Peels and paddles are used to transfer dough onto a baking surface.

Features to look for: A single average-sized paddle is sufficient for some bakers, but it’s also helpful to have larger peels if you plan on making large quantities of bread. Metal peels are better than wooden ones for flatbreads and pizzas because they are thinner and can easily slide under the crusts.

The transfer board is the best all-purpose piece of equipment you can use to transfer dough. They come in a number of shapes and sizes, but we use only the long thin ones that are intended for baguettes because they also work for practically any other dough shape.

Price range: $16-$70

Start your search with:

Super Peel in Polymer-Sealed White Ash by EXO

“Big 16” 16-Inch Super Peel with Aluminum Blade and Black Cherry Handle by EXO

Aluminum Pizza Peel with Wooden Handle (assorted sizes) by Kitchen Supply

Baguette Transfer Board by Breadtopia

19. Wooden boards and sheet pans

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Why we recommend it: In a bakery, wooden boards or the back of sheet pans are used for proofing dough, especially high-hydration doughs that are too wet to hold their shape. Both are lined with a floured couche to prevent the dough from spreading out.

Features to look for: After use, wooden boards must be dried out quickly and completely to decrease the risk of contamination and prevent warping. If you prefer sheet pans, it’s worth having full-size, half-size, and quarter-size sheet pans as well as wire racks that fit on top of them.

Price range: $10–$30

Start your search with:

Aluminum Full, Quarter, and Half Sheet Pans by Lloyd Pans

Poplar Wooden Proofing Board (45.72 by 66.04 cm / 18 by 26 in) by BakeDeco

20. Serrated knives

Why we recommend it: Beyond a general-purpose chef’s knife and a paring knife, bakers will benefit from a few good serrated knives. A serrated paring knife is good for smaller items; a long version is best for cutting big pieces of bread; and an offset one is helpful for chopping chocolate and nuts. An electric knife, the sort typically used only for annual turkey carving, can get additional use when employed to slice bread. The serrated blade does all of the work, making it easy to carve off a perfect slice in a single motion.

Features to look for: Many serrated knives do a fine enough job of cutting bread without costing a lot of money. Just make sure the knife is very sharp and has long, pronounced teeth.

Price range: $18–$130

Start your search with:

High-Carbon Stainless Steel 10-inch Serrated Bread Knife with Walnut Handle by Chicago Cutlery

16 Gauge Stainless Steel 14-inch Serrated Bread Knife by Fat Daddio’s

Damascus Bread Knife by Kasumi

Stainless Steel Electric Knife with Wood Block by Cuisinart

21. Personalized Tools

Why we recommend it: Personalized tools are thoughtful gift ideas for experienced bakers who want to put their own stamp on bread recipes. We’ve had several tools, including silicon molds, pans, and rolling pins, custom made for us so that we could mold dough into special shapes or apply it as a decoration. Silicon molds come in many sizes and shapes, sometimes with elaborate detail, or you can have them custom-made with a unique design, name, or bakery logo. An embossed rolling pin engraved with patterns or text is another way bakers can make their mark. We use our own personalized pins to roll out crackers.

Start your search with:

Custom and Decorative Silicon Molds by Chicago School of Mold Making

Personalized Rolling Pin by Valek Rolling Pins

Books and Calendars

22. Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

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All signs indicate that bread is going to be big in 2017. In May, sourdough bread made its debut as a rising star in Google’s 2016 Food Trends Report. Their data confirms our own observations over the last few years—there is a new thirst for knowledge about bread making. We believe that the greatest age of bread is about to begin, and Modernist Bread will give all bakers the tools they need to be part of this revolution. It’s the ultimate gift for any baker who is ready to make better bread.

List Price: $625

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

23. 2017 modernist Wall Calendars

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The Modernist Bread and Modernist Cuisine 2017 wall calendars make fantastic gifts for curious cooks, passionate bakers, and food photographers. We pulled together some of our favorite images from each of our books to create our new calendars. Each month reveals food from a different perspective, as well as the story behind the photo. We can’t think of a better way to organize meal planning, keep track of a new sourdough starter, record New Year’s resolution progress, or count down to the day Modernist Bread ships.

The Modernist Bread calendar is the perfect way to let someone know that they have a book coming their way this spring. While supplies last, they are essentially free when you buy Modernist Bread from Amazon. For more details on how to redeem this special offer, click here. You will also receive the calendar for free, for a limited time, if you preorder the book through Kitchen Arts & Letters.

Price: $14.95

Modernist Bread 2017 Wall Calendar

Modernist Cuisine 2017 Wall Calendar

24. Art Prints

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You can deck the walls with beautiful food with our limited-edition prints from Artspace. The series features seven of our most vibrant photographs, reproduced edge to edge on high-quality matte paper. Each 17 x 12 in (43.2 x 30.5 cm) print comes with a certificate of authenticity and makes a stunning edition to any room, including kitchens and dining areas.

Modernist Cuisine Prints on Artspace.com

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