My Baking Tools

the perfect loaf my baking toolsBelow is a list of my baking tools organized in sections broken down by their use, and some that are “nice to have” but not essential. I’ve spent many years buying & trying tools one at a time to make things more efficient and baking easier. The list below is the accumulation of all those tools which I still use regularly and nothing else. I keep this page updated frequently with anything I’ve found to be better than the tool used before it.

If you’re new to baking, start with the tools listed below in Sourdough Starter Creation & Management and The Beginning Baker. These two sections will get you all the essentials you’ll need to create your wild yeast starter and the tools to get your first loaves in and out of the oven.

Once you get more serious and have a bit of extra money lying around head to the Nice to Haves section and explore these tools. They will elevate your baking to the next level and help you make your loaves more consistent and precise, or in some cases, just plain make things easier (thank you Thermapen, probably my favorite baking tool I’ve purchased to date).

Sourdough Starter Creation & Management

These tools are essential when starting your first sourdough starter and keeping it alive an healthy. You want to use weights instead of volumes, a good stirrer and glass container, and of course, rye flour to get things going.

Store your natural sourdough starter in this Weck jar

3/4 liter weck jars

I keep my starter in these all the time and use them for pickling & many other things

baker’s scale

the best scale at this price point. a scale is 100% necessary

oxo spatula

oxo silicone spatula

this one-piece Oxo spatula is the best thing to maintain your starter, no nooks and crannies and easy to clean

Create a starter with reliable consistency using whole grain rye flour

dark rye flour

I love Bob’s quality and rye flour is the key to creating a lively starter


The Beginning Baker

A list of tools that are almost all necessary to bake at home. You could get away with not having a few of them (bench knife, ambient thermometer, white rice flour, bulk container and fine sea salt) but I’d highly recommend picking up all of these items if you’re really going to start baking. Trust me.

Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven Combo Cooker

lodge combo cooker

cast iron, you cannot go wrong. this helps trap steam to get that high rise

Dough Bench Knife

bench knife

a must-have, used to cut, lift & move your dough

Plastic Dough Scraper

plastic scraper

easily remove sticky dough from containers, the bench, and off your fingers

Ambient thermometer

ambient thermometer

monitoring ambient temperatures is incredibly important in baking

White Rice Flour for dusting proofing baskets

rice flour

rice flour has a higher burning point and thus is perfect for lining your proofing baskets

Oxo Oven Mit protects hands and forearm from high heat when baking

oxo oven mit

able to protect your hands from a 500ºF heated cast iron pan: worth it

Wide mixing bowl to mix flour, water, etc.

wide mixing bowl

a wide bowl makes mixing without spilling that much easier

Cambro plastic bulk container

bulk container

these are not amazing, but work well. clear sides let you see fermentation first-hand

CDN Digital Thermometer

digital thermometer

monitoring dough temperature is very important and should not be overlooked!

Fine sea salt

sea salt

any good quality fine sea salt will work, this is my current favorite

Lame for scoring dough pre-bake

lame

a pack of razors and a coffee stirrer constructed as you see. used to score your bread before baking



Nice to Haves

These are tools that are by no means essential, but will help to raise your baking game to the next level and/or will make things much, much easier. Only pick these up if you’re very serious about baking or have been baking a while.

Thermapen thermometer

thermapen

an absolutely amazing device, reads temperatures accurately in 1 second

Banneton for boules

10″ banneton (boule)

naturally porous, used to hold proofing dough

Banneton for batard

banneton (batard)

on the small side, these will still let you load dough in the lodge combo cooker

Plastic bowl covers CoverMate Stretch-to-fit

plastic bowl covers

several bowl-sized plastic covers, used at all times when dough is resting. eliminate waste as these are reusable

Stainless spray bottle

stainless spray bottle

I use this to spritz the dough a bit just after placing into the oven, helps create those wonderful crust blisters

Flour sifter

flour sifter

some recipes here call for “high extraction flour”, this helps sift out some bran/germ to get this

tools_baking_stones

baking steel

this steel replaces any need for baking stones and gets incredibly hot with no risk of cracking. also bakes pizza incredibly well

baking stones

baking stones

a cheaper alternative to a baking steel, these extra thick stones hold heat very well

Plastic flour scoop

flour scoop

I keep these in my flour canisters, they make transferring and measuring super easy

Razor sharp bread knife

bread knife

the most cost effective and best bread knife I have yet to use

tools_baking_stones

proofing liners

cut these to fit your proofing baskets for easy dough removal

Plastic flour scoop

bread box

keep your bread fresh for more than a week in this box


Seeds, Salts & Grains

Various salts, seeds and grains I use when baking. Some grains (like oats) are only used as “toppers” or cooked into a porridge for incorporation during bulk fermentation.

Fine Himalayan sea salt

sea salt

any fine sea salt will work here, but this is my current favorite

Sesame Seeds

sesame seeds

used to coat and bake-in some of my seeded bread recipes

Regular rolled oats for porridge

regular rolled oats

when making oat porridge bread, you want regular non-thick oats, these are my favorite

Flax seeds for baking

flax

extremely healthy, and tasty. used to coat and bake-in some of my seeded breads


Flour

Ideally you’d want locally milled flour for freshness and to support local farmers & millers, but sometimes that is not an option or perhaps you just want to try something new. Central Milling and Guisto’s both provide flour that I’ve found to be excellent, with perhaps a slight lead to Giusto’s at the moment.

Central Milling Artisan Bakers Craft Plus Organic Flour

central milling artisan baker’s craft plus

CM has some incredible flour, this is a workhorse flour for any bread

Giusto's Artisan Bread Flour

giusto’s artisan malted bread

I love this flour, it’s my current top choice


Pans

These are the best pans for baking sandwich loaves, rye bread and a variety of other breads.

USA Pan Pullman Pan

USA Pan Pullman 9×4 inch

This pan is perfect for rye bread and smaller sandwich loaves. Incredibly strong, silicone lined and makes a beautiful loaf


Storage

The containers listed below are the best I’ve found to store flour, grains and just about anything else in the kitchen.

Large Cambro Storage Container

cambro storage 18 qauart

These, with lid, are quite large and perfect for storing 25 lbs. of dry grain or flour

XO Good Grips POP Container Big Square (4.0 Qt)

OXO good grips 4 quart

I store all my 5 lb. sacks of flour in these. They are airtight, light and very strong — simply the best


Are there any other tools you’ve found so useful you couldn’t bake without? Shoot me an email so I can try them out!

  • Thanks, Brendan! I should add that to the list above, will work on it. For now I use these Oxo containers to store smaller amounts of flour (they perfectly fit 5 lb. bags and are airtight).

    For large quantities of raw wheat berries, or larger sacks of flour I use these cambro containers, they are very nice. You can get various sizes as well.

    Hope that helps!

  • Becky

    Hello, Thank you for your blog, it’s really helpful! I was wondering is the lodge combo cooker like a Dutch oven? Can I use a Dutch oven? Also, I’m at sea level, lived in Denver for five years and Telluride for ten years though, I miss Colorado but I’m on Cape Cod now, so literally sea level. Do you have any general adjustments you’d make with temperature from the temps you’re using at altitude? Thank you!!

    • You’re welcome, thanks for the comments! Yes, the Lodge combo cooker is very similar to a Dutch oven, actually it’s pretty much the same thing it just has handles on both sides of the pot so you can cook in the shallow or deep end. You can use a Dutch oven just the same, no need to get a new pot.

      Ah, I love Colorado 🙂 I’ve only really ever baked here at high altitude, but I honestly don’t think there will be many adjustments to make. You might need to adjust cook times at sea level, your bread might cook a little faster than the times I have listed here, but there are no hard guidelines I can give on that. Just use my times as a guideline and then at the last 10-15 mins keep an eye on your bread and pull it out when it looks good and a slight knock on the bottom sounds hollow. I’ve also read that at lower altitude you might need to increase the amount of levain in your mix, but I haven’t had any emails from others indicating this.

      I hope that helps!

  • Mathew Thomas Scott

    First visit via Debra Wink on TFL Sourdough. Really nice site. I think the small notes (…) are unique and informative. My question concerns care and maintenance of bannetons. I know that rice flour is generally used.? Is the residue left there or washed out. If left should they be cleaned at a later time and how?

    • Thanks, Mathew! Yes, I use rice flour (white or brown) almost exclusively. Sometimes I’ll use a bit of sifted out bran when I’m milling my own flour, if I wan’t to also give the loaf a bit of crunch when baked. The residue should be left there, but I *lightly* brush, or tap out, any excess flour. I will do an intensive cleaning here every month or so where I scrape out any really hard flour and do a really thorough brush down (with stiff bristles).

      A banneton develops a sort of patina on the cane from the flour used and helps make it more non-stick, of course you’ll always need a light dusting, but it seems they get better the longer they are used.

      My climate here in New Mexico is extremely dry so I don’t ever have to worry about excessive moisture building up in the banneton and mold is very rare here. If you’re in a more wet climate you might have to do a more thorough cleaning at a more frequent interval. I’ve read that some pro bakers will wash them lightly and then let them dry in the sun, I can’t comment on that because I haven’t really had to do it!

      I hope that helps!

  • bonnie rekers

    What about great wall ovens? I wore out my Dacor after 16 years and today need to pull the trigger on a new one. Any advice out there? Looked at the Dacor, Viking, and Wolf, Bosch and GE. WOLF has the proof setting that reaches lowest temp, 80 degrees.

    • Unfortunately I don’t have a ton of recommendations here. I have a Thermador double oven at home that I really like so far, the controls are a bit counterintuitive but I find that to be the case for most home electronics for some reason. It does have a proof setting, but only goes down to 100ºF so that is pretty much useless. 80ºF would be perfect.

      I wanted to get a Wolf for my home, but the cost was too much for me to justify. I’m really glad I didn’t opt for their steam oven, it’s so small I’d probably only be able to fit one loaf in there at a time.

      As far as brands, I’m a fan of Wolf and Bosch — both very respectable. Viking used to be, but I’ve heard lots of issues lately. I’m not familiar with Dacor…

      I hope that helps! Oh, and if you’re looking at a dedicated baking oven, check out Rofco. One can dream.

      • bonnie rekers

        Thanks for your time! Heading towards the Wolf, the proof cycle won the day. I think the temp is 85 at the lowest….still is high to what’s called out in recipes…but will that work?

        • 85 is a bit high, but some bakers pref it at that temperature. Definitely the best proof setting I’ve seen! It just means the dough will ferment a bit faster, but you can adjust.

    • Mark Taintor

      I recently bought a Miele induction range. It has the ability to proof as low as 75 degrees. It also has a water line that can inject steam during the baking through a plumbed line. It’s a fantastic oven! Pricey, but worth it for me.

      • Wow I didn’t know Miele made an oven like that, I would love a water line! I looked briefly at Miele when I was purchasing my oven and was turned off by the price, but I know they have a great reputation and I would have bought that in a heartbeat. Thanks, Mark!

  • Bec

    Hi Maurizio,
    I was wondering what size banneton you recommend buying? I just bought a 5 quart dutch oven which is 25cm wide so I’m wondering if I should just go for the biggest basket so that I have the option to make a 1kg loaf or a half loaf. Does that sound like the right thing to do?

    I’ve been having some trouble with my dough collapsing and I think it may be due to using a large bowl which doesn’t have a nice curve to it so thought I should get a banneton to see if that helps.
    Thanks!

    • The size of your bannetons/baskets should be relative to the weight of the loaf you wish to bake. I typically like to bake 800g batards and use 9″ x 4″ bannetons. This gives them plenty of room to expand and rise overnight. You could comfortably fit 800-1000g loaves in these baskets. I would say if you’re using a round banneton, for a 1kg loaf you could get those that are around 8-9″ in diameter at the top and be fine.

      I’ve purchased many bannetons over the years and I’d recommend buying just a single one, trying it out, and if you like it then return back to the store and get a few more. Sometimes the size is a bit off, the materials don’t suit you, or the quality of construction. I hope that helps!

      • Bec

        Thanks for your advice. I purchased a 23cm/9″ rising basket which is for 1kg loaves. I’m not sure how to work out the final bread weight? I made a loaf with the following ingredients and I may have over proofed the dough slightly but it rose over the edges of the basket. I think I may have to buy a larger basket if I want to make bigger loaves.
        135g stiff starter
        400g flour
        310g water
        8g salt
        Thanks again!

        • Those sound perfect. It’s certainly fine if the dough rises above the edges, you just don’t wait the dough to spill over too far. I like to have plenty of room in my baskets to let the dough fully expand without popping up over the edge. You can either reduce the quantity of each of these (but leave the percentages the same) to fit your banneton, or even get a larger banneton. My preference here is to reduce the quantities to fit a single banneton, and then bake two loaves if you’d like more bread. I find it easier to work with smaller dough amounts rather than larger — but this is up to you!

  • ryan

    I am confused to your jar sizes for starter. I have found weck jars and you say that you use a 580ml weck jar for the starter in the 7 steps to making a starter. On your baking tools section you link to a 3/4 L weck jar. 580 ml is the same as I assume the 1/2L 742 model, but on your baking tools you are linking to the 3/4 743 model. Can you confirm what jar I need for the starter please and thanks

    • Ryan,
      You can use either. If you’re going to buy just one set I’d recommend the 3/4 liter jars as they are a bit taller and are a little more useful throughout the kitchen. I’ll update my 7 steps post to point to those jars, I’ve made a progression to using those more and more these days just because they have a little more wiggle room if your starter grows a little unexpectedly 🙂
      Thanks for pointing this out!

      • ryan

        thanks for the quick response. I assume that you use to use the 1/2 L jar and upgraded to the 3/4L jars. I have to buy a pack of 6 so I want to get what will be best for the starter. They are the perfect container.
        I really think that the starter step by step is well written. I have been following the Josey Baker method and find that it is too wet and I am struggling with every other day feedings (causing hooch). I am 10 days in and I do not believe that this method is going to work for me.
        Lastly, will ww flour be ok instead of a rye/white flour that you use in your setup. Rye is hard to find locally and I have a ton of ww bread flour that I would like to use up.

        • Thanks! Yes, those jars really are perfect. I also use them for pickling, storage and tons of other things in the kitchen.

          I highly recommend rye, but if you cannot find it then ww will work better than apw. If you’re having issues getting things going after a week or so with ww, try to grab a small sack of rye and see if it helps.

          Happy baking!

  • Silvia

    HI Maurizio!! First of all I would like to pay you my compliments for your absolutely amazing website and incredible bread!! I have a question, recently I bought a Dutch oven and when I cooked, for the first time, my bread with this new pot it sticked to the bottom. I didn’t preheat the Dutch oven and I didn’t use parchment paper, olive oil or flour on the bottom. What do you advise me to do in future to avoid the sticking? I would like to use parchment paper but I am afraid it will catch fire. This Dutch Oven is like a le creuset model so not a cast iron type. Thank you Silvia

    • Silvia — thanks for the comments! I use a combo cooker from time to time and when I do I always use a piece of parchment paper below the dough, it’s never caught fire… I’d recommend that OR you could lightly dust the bottom of your dough with white rice flour before you turn it out into the Dutch oven, that should help keep it from sticking. Other possible things you could use are wheat germ and cornmeal.

      I hope that helps and thanks again — happy baking!

      • Silvia

        And what about preheating the Dutch oven? Thank you again!!

        • Yes, I definitely preheat the Dutch oven. Place it inside your oven with the shallow side face up and the larger side face down, open.

          • Silvia

            Thank you!!!! As I thought… I’ll do it the next time!!

  • Hi Maurizio! I’m contemplating if I NEED a banneton and looking at the benefits of having it apart from the aesthetics it would bring to the bread. I know you just put it in the “nice to have” category. Appreciate the help

    • Hi, Didi! You definitely do not need a banneton, any properly sized kitchen bowl will work really well. A banneton is nice for the looks but aside from that, and the convenience of a nice shape, they are no 100% mandatory by any means. Hope that helps — happy baking!

  • Quinny

    Hi Maurizio. I have s questions regarding the banneton. I wanted to make oval loaf but I am not sure of how to go about it. You stated that the 9″ batard banneton can fit into the combo cooker, but do I need to scale down the recipe? Currently, I’m making 2 loaves from 1kg of flour. I understand that there is another way to go about it. It is using baking stone with some sort of cover or something to create the steam. But what can I use to cover an oval loaf? Or is the steam method good enough? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • It’s possible to bake in the Dutch oven using the 9″ banneton, but if your dough spreads out any little bit it will be a tight fit. I’d say if you’re baking larger loaves then shape them as boules for the Dutch oven or you can use an alternate steaming method.

      I have a post that explains how I steam my oven for baking.

      Another approach is to use a stainless steel bowl that will be large enough to cover your batard. Get some baking stones (I have some listed in my Tools page) and when you’re ready to bake slide the batard onto the stones and cover it with the inverted bowl for the first part of the bake (when I say to bake with steam). This way the bowl traps the moisture escaping from the dough and will provide a moist environment for the dough to rise.

      Hope that helps — happy baking!

      • Quinny

        Thank you for the link for the steaming method. I’ll try that first. Have a great day, Maurizio!

  • daniel hadida

    Been baking for a while now and recently got access to a neighbours wood oven. Been working on stepping up my game and this blog had been amazing! Trying out this recipe now as I love a very large tender crumb. Cant wait to see how it comes out! Thank you Maurizio for sharing all of your trial and error

    • Very jealous, I’d love to use a wood fired oven! One day I hope to get one. Hope the bread turns out great — happy baking!

  • Mouna Hegde

    Morning I decided to bake my starter today so prepared the leaven but did not realise I need wholewheat flour so used rye instead? Would that work? Also I don’t have any of your must equipment so should I carry on or abandon until I get my equipment this week first. As I understand you can create the steam by placing water in a tray and put that in the oven at the same time you bake the bread?

    • I’m not sure what recipe you’re following, but you can sub in some rye flour if you’d like. It will result in a different flavor profile, and the loaf may not rise as high due to the lower gluten levels in rye. It’ll taste great though, I’m sure.

      Have a look at my Beginner’s Sourdough post, I list out the tools I find are most necessary! If you don’t have all of these it’s fine, but a scale is super important. You can definitely create steam in your home oven with a tray of water in the bottom, or use something similar to my steaming method.

      Happy baking!

  • Sven

    Hi Maurizo. Love your blog. I was just checking your links when realizing that the one for the banneton (batard) is not working anymore. Since you say that this one would still fit in the combo cooker I would really like to know the measurements for those.

    • Sven — thanks I appreciate that! Sorry about the link, they don’t carry them anymore. I couldn’t find the exact ones I use but these bannetons should work well.

      • Sven

        How much dough would you put in those small batards?

        • You should be safe with 700-900g. Start at 700 and see how it feels.

  • Alan Sawyer

    Hi, great blog site with perfect instructions. Do you have any videos of the techniques like pinching and stretch and fold? Also what kind of peel are you using? Thanks

  • Frogman812

    Hi Maurizio, I love your blog and found it just as I was beginning my journey into sourdough baking. I’m fortunate to live a few short miles from Central Milling, so I’m able to drive right up to the door where an employee loads the flour into my car. I never realized what a gem was in my own back yard!

    If you are a Lobos football fan, you could follow them to Logan this November and return to Albuquerque with a trunk full of Central Milling artisan flour. If you make it to Logan, hit me up and I’ll show you around. Thanks again for all the effort you put into this blog. I’ll be baking another of your recipes this weekend.

    • Wow I’m seriously jealous of your location… I’d probably be there every couple weeks 🙂 Unfortunately I have to order my CM flour in bulk, but that saves some on shipping at least. And I use a lot of it!

      Thanks so much for the offer to show me around Logan! I’ve heard really awesome things about that area actually, I know someone who just moved up near there and love the outdoors. Sadly I’m not that big of a Lobos fan but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t head out there! I’d definitely send you a message.

      You’re welcome and I hope the baking goes well, nothing quite like making your own sourdough from home!

  • Lucia

    Hi Maurizio, so I just came back from a baking workshop in North Carolina (Smoke Signals Bakery) where we used fresh milled local flour and I’m officially hooked! I live in Florida so there aren’t many options as far as local flour goes. I’m considering trying out Central Milling’s flour, mainly because it’s the most affordable one I could find. Seeing as you use this flour often, how much do you usually buy? If you go for the 50 lb option, how do you store that?

    At the workshop, we used a combination of Type 85 hard red winter wheat and Type 85 pastry flour made from soft red winter wheat. Have you baked with Central Milling’s Type 85 wheat flour or their Type 70 pastry flour?

    As always, thanks for sharing your baking adventures through your wonderful blog! It’s become a great resource for me.

    -Lucia

    • That’s very cool you went to Smoke Signals, I follow them on Instagram and love their posts. I would love to try one of their pies 🙂

      When I order from CM I do order in 50 lb. bags, it’s cheaper and I use quite a bit of flour here. I store this flour in my pantry which is dark and a little on the cool side. Since I use the flour rather speedily I don’t really need to refrigerate it, but if you don’t plan to use it for a while you could always take some out and put it in the freezer or fridge to help it last longer (mainly talking about whole wheat here as white flour has a much longer shelf life).

      I do use CM’s Type 85, if you look through several of my latest posts you’ll notice it showing up in my formulae. I LOVE this flour, it’s fantastic. I haven’t had a chance to use their T70 pastry flour (yet).

      You might want to also check out some other local flour in your area, I believe Carolina Ground should be nearby.

      You’re welcome, thanks for the message and I’m really glad you’re following along! Happy baking 🙂

  • Allison Louise Bush

    Hi Maurizio! I am considering buying an oval le creuset. They are on offer 🙂 they have 2 ovals, a 4.3 quart, and a 6.6 quart. Quite a big difference in price. I think the 4.3 quart would be large enough to hold a loaf of up to 1000 grams, would appreciate your thoughts 🙂

    • Hey, Allison! I’ve never used an oval Le Creuset, but my round Loge Cast iron Dutch oven is only 3.2 quarts and it can probably fit up to 800-900g. I think those should work… The issue might be the actual footprint of the pot versus the height. I know they can sometimes be rather deep, which means you’d be able to fit less (dough will want to spread and not rise immediately). I hope that makes sense.

      I would probably go with the 6.6 qt version, that’s a large pot, though! You can always use them for other things in the kitchen, too. If your dough doesn’t fit then you can scale down the recipe!

      • Allison Louise Bush

        Thank you for the reply! Yes all of the ones I have looked are smaller at the bottom. By chance I found a 5 quart oval at Ikea for $60. An affordable price to be able to experiment with. I want to compare methods vs your steam method with lava rocks. And I love batards 🙂

        • Perfect! Let me know how it works out, I’d love a Le Cruset at some point 🙂

  • maccompatible

    I don’t see your fresh milling suggestions on here. Where do you prefer to get your wheat berries?

    • I definitely will be updating this page soon with more flour and raw berry sources.

      I get my berries from Hayden Flour Mills (White Sonora), Breadtopia.com (Hard White Wheat), and Montana Flour and Grain (spelt, hard red wheat). There are many sources I’ll be trying out soon and will have all of these posted here!

      Hope that helps — happy baking!

  • Abby

    Can I ask what rags you use? I’ve been trying to find a bunch of cheap but good quality rags, and your’s are such a nice linen!

    • Hi, Abby! I use a few different things in my kitchen. The white rags you’ll see in older posts are cotton tea towels from Amazon (those are listed above under “Proofing Liners”). I also have a few sets of linen towels from Fog Linen that are really great quality and use these mostly just for day to day stuff around the kitchen (I don’t use them in bread baskets).

  • Jim Challenger

    Hi Maurizio … How well does the Bread Box work? I normally keep my loaves cut side down on a cutting board and covered with a linen cloth. Do you wrap your bread? Store it cut side down just in the Bread Box. Thanks! I really appreciate your thoughts, and you site is beyond awesome!!

    • I like the bread box, it keeps in a little more moisture and here in my extremely dry climate that’s an important thing. I find the bread stays a little longer in the box, but that’s what works for me here. I don’t wrap my loaves in anything, I just keep it cut side down in the box. If I have too much bread to fit in the box I’ll put as much as I can in there and then place the rest on my cutting board in the same fashion (but I use this bread first before slicing whats in the box).

      Thank for the kind words and happy baking!

  • Stanley Dorst

    Maurizio,
    I’m trying to get going with sourdough bread baking, and your site is the best reference I have found on the subject. Thanks so much for all the work you put into it!

    I have a question about the Lodge combo cooker you recommend. The way you use it — putting the dough in the shallow pan and covering with the deep one — seems very similar to using a La Cloche. I bought a La Cloche several years ago, but didn’t know enough about bread to make good use of it. I’m wondering if I would get similar results with it, or whether I should buy a combo cooker. Do you have any recommendations about that?

    Thanks for your time,
    Stan

    • Thanks for the kind words, really appreciate that!

      I’ve never used a La Cloche but yeah, I would just use that and hold off on buying a combo cooker — they are very similar vessels and as long as it traps steam well enough will work out just fine. No need to buy anything new right now!

      Happy baking and good luck!

  • Zehava Katz

    Hi!
    I just got hooked on your site and after i finally got my starter to where i want it im going to try one of your recipes this week. I wanted to ask you about the temperature specifications- Ive seen the comments before about monitoring the bread temp in the oven but piercing the breads crust always scared me a little. Do you simply poke a hole in the crust with your thermometer? Where on the bread should i do this and how deep in to the loaf should i go? Thanks!

    • Hey there! Really glad you’re enjoying my website, super happy to hear that.

      Yes, if you want to take temperature of your baked loaf just poke a hole with your thermometer. I hardly ever do this (never, actually) anymore but you could poke just below where the ear opens up on top of the bread, this should be a soft spot and most likely won’t be noticeable. Once you get a feel for how the bread looks when fully cooked you won’t need to take temp anymore.

      Hope that helps, sorry for the late reply!

  • opicurious

    Hi Maurizio,
    I have a question about the flours you are using. I use King Arthur’s organic bread flour.
    Can I use CM artisan bakers craft flour and Guisto artisan malted bread flour in place of King Arthur’s bread flour?
    Thank you.

    • Hi! King Arthur’s Organic Bread Flour is great flour, but yes you could sub in CM ABC or Giusto’s Artisan BF for it. KA BF has a higher protein percentage than the other two, but they perform similarly. You might notice a little less of a rise with the CM or Giusto’s but nothing super significant.

      Hope that helps!

  • Tom Furtaw

    Hi Maurizio,
    Just discovered your site yesterday and am truly inspired to begin my sourdough journey. Since I haven’t used anything like the Lodge Combo Cooker was wondering if there is any benefit to buying a larger size. Lodge also has a 5 qt double dutch oven with a lid that can be used like a skillet. Sounds like it would function in the same way but I don’t know if there is an advantage or disadvantage to buying the larger one. Haven’t purchased either yet. Thanks!

    • Tobias Deckard

      I have been using the lodge combo cooker with good results. The larger size will just be easier to get a larger loaf in there.

    • Hey, Tom! As @tobiasdeckard:disqus mentioned below the larger one will just make it a bit easier to load the dough. I really like the 3.2 qt version, though, and have yet to really desire the larger one. The smaller one is great around the kitchen for tons of things as well (egg hash, French toast, roasted chicken, etc).

      Up to you! Happy baking, Tom.

  • Tom Furtaw

    Maurizio and Tobias,
    Thanks for your response on the cooker options. Based on your successes I’ll get a Combo Cooker on order. Really great to have this discussion site available for novices like me!

  • KF in VT

    Hi Maurizio, I’m wondering if you use a grain mill, and if so, which kind you recommend. Thanks! Kim

    • Hi there! I do use a grain mill (I will be adding it to this tools page soon), I have the GrainMaker 116 hand crank mill — it’s fantastic. It does take quite a bit of time to mill a lot of grain, but for smaller bakes it’s a marvelous piece of machinery. Happy baking!

      • KF in VT

        Great – thanks! And thank you for this whole blog. It is so full of information, especially what other sources lack. Your experience and willingness to share your knowledge is really wonderful. -Kim

  • Stanley Dorst

    Maurizio,

    I love the shape of your loaves, and want to try making batards rather than boules. One question: are you still using the oval bannetons you list as one of your baking tools? I ask because it looks to me like the baskets in your pictures are a bit longer and thinner, but it’s hard to tell for sure from the pictures.

    Thanks!

    Stan

    • Hey, Stanley — thanks! I use a variety of baskets, but yes I still use the ones listed here sometimes. When you see loaves on my site that might be a little longer I’m using 12″-14″ long bannetons. Lately I’ve started shaping my dough a little tighter and then using longer bannetons so they can fully relax out and have plenty of space before hitting the top and bottom.

      I’ll update this page with the various bannetons I use and it might be a great idea for me to list the tools I use in each post. I’ll start doing that soon!

  • Tom Furtaw

    Hi Maurizio, Thanks for all of your guidance posted regarding proper tools and sources. After two months, I’ve gathered all of the tools needed to make some awesome bread! Have also read Tartine and your information..

    Attempted my first batch of Basic Country Bread yesterday. I made the leaven the night before and proceeded to do all of the remaining steps yesterday. A long day with one major issue. The dough was very wet. This problem was first noted after rest of water, dough and leaven and carried through for the rest of the process, resulting in 1 1/2 inch tall very dense bread. It was apparent that the flour couldn’t hardly absorb all of the water. Used the Tartine Basic Country Bread ingredient recipe (75% hydration) and was careful to add the exact quantity of ingredients. One exception: Rather than use the Tartine recipe for starter I used your 7 day process starter. I thought the starter process worked very well. The night before baking, I took 1 tlb of the mature starter and mixed with 200g water and 200g of 50/50 mix (AP and whole grain rye) for the leaven. Did this 11pm the night before. Starter passed the float test the next morning. Per Tartane recipe I added 200g of leaven. Actually put in 207g. I now realize that your Beginner’s Sourdough recipe calls for 184g.

    Ready to try baking again but I don’t yet know what to change to avoid the problem described above. Is it possible that the leaven quantity could have inflluenced the level of dough hydration? I used KA brand flour. Also, what is the advantage of adding the leaven after the rest? Thanks!

    • Tom — you’re welcome, glad I could help! Yes, the discrepancy between leaven amounts (23g) is quite a bit, but really only about half of that is water. I would try reducing the overall hydration of the recipe you’re using, perhaps by 10%, and see if your flour is able to handle that. Once you’re comfortable at that point then you can slowly move up as things become more and more comfortable for you. I use KA flour occasionally and I push hydration into the mid-70’s so I’m somewhat confident it should be able to handle it. However, my environment is also very dry and that does play into it. Give that a shot and see if the dough is more manageable for you!

      The “autolyse” period, as it’s called, is when just flour and water are combined (no leaven, no salt) at the beginning of the whole process. During this time enzymes begin to work with the protein in flour to start conditioning and realigning gluten bonds. An autolyse is also purported to help ease mixing but it’s biggest impact on the dough, in my opinion, is to increase extensibility (the ability for the dough to stretch out before offering resistance). You want the dough to be able to stretch out sufficiently so it can rise high in the oven. However, a balance is needed there as you also want enough strength and elasticity in the dough to hold its shape and not spread too much in the oven.

      Hope that helps, let me know how the next bake goes!

  • Tom Furtaw

    Maurizio, thanks for your comments on my wet dough incident. I will reduce the hydration level as you suggest and see what happens. Aside from my hydration incident, thought I’d mention that I constructed a proofing “oven” that was holding the ambient temp to around 79 F during the first rise, rest, and proofing before bake. The oven is fairly tight and doesn’t allow much evaporation. Any comment on whether this environment is a benefit or disadvantage for the bread making process? Tom

    • That’s great! Definitely an advantage to having a nice, stable environment like that. The more we can do to keep the dough as stable as possible the better. Large fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause issues and make it very hard to diagnose problems should they occur.

      Happy baking, Tom!

  • What type of oven do you use? I specifically like the rack design that I see in your ‘steaming’ post. I’ve never been a huge fan of putting a lot of weight on racks that slide onto pressure formed rails.

    • I’m using a standard home electric oven made by Thermador. It’s a double oven and I use the bottom oven since it does not have convection (no fan hole where steam can escape). The rails in my oven are incredibly strong and never show signs of bending or warping. When I roast a whole turkey or the like the pot and food is pretty heavy as well, never been an issue!

  • Laura vela

    Hi Maurizio.
    I was wondering wich tipe of table do you use for made your breads, and where can i buy one?

    • Hi! I prefer to use wood but some bakers equally like stainless steel (and some granite). I’m not sure why I like wood, there’s something about the way the dough moves on it, or perhaps the way my bench knife interacts with it. I have a large piece of Boos Block maple that I picked up online, you can find many outlets for this. I highly recommend you purchase maple over other wood types as it has a very tight grain and is almost nonstick (when properly cared for).

      Hope this helps!

  • Jay Vaswani

    Hi Maurizio,

    Jay from Hong Kong agin. I have been looking at baking steels on Amazon. Unfortunately the postage will be as much as the price but I’d really love to get one anyway. Does it really make a difference to your loaves? And could I also use it to bake pan loaves. You don’t mention using the steel in your Sandwich Loaf recipe but I would imagine you probably just leave it in your oven. Thank you for your great website. I have learned a lot about sourdough baking from you.

    • I really like the Baking Steel, I think it not only does a great job for bread but also it’s fantastic for pizza. If you already have a set of baking stones it might not be necessary for you but again, since I’ve picked it up I use it constantly (even for pan loaves) and now prefer it. I do just leave it in my oven! Another side benefit from it is that it is much shorter compared to the thick stones I used (which gives me more room for bread and maneuverability) and there is no fear of it cracking.

      Happy to hear you’re enjoying my site, thanks so much and happy baking!