Do you think Michelangelo picked up any old paintbrush when he painted the Sistine Chapel?
The same goes for you when baking your own sourdough. You can’t create the Sistine Chapel of sourdough with an ancient wooden spoon and a pasta bowl from the cupboard. You need to arm yourself with the right tools and equipment, otherwise your sourdough loaf will resemble more of a charred cookie than a loaf of bread.
Luckily, I have compiled a list of my favourite sourdough tools and equipment for any budding bakers out there who want to save themselves the embarrassment of ending up on a blog for sourdough fails, like this one.
You literally can’t make sourdough without a starter. It’s the active colony of wild yeast and good bacteria cultivated by combining flour and water. That’s all you need and once it’s alive it’s like a low maintenance Gremlin that only needs feeding twice a day (just don’t feed it after midnight!).
Although you can make your own sourdough starter yourself, it can be a lot of work, which is why I always suggest buying a dried sourdough starter rather than making your own from scratch. Alternatively, if you know an experienced sourdough baker, then you can ask them to lend you some of their established starter to get started.
Deep glass or ceramic bowl
A deep 1-litre glass or ceramic bowl is perfect for mixing or folding your dough. It might seem a bit large, but trust me, you’ll need room for your sourdough to rise. I usually use a glass bowl, but whichever you choose, ensure that it is food grade and if possible, try to get a bowl with a lid.
Always steer clear from metal or plastic bowls if you can, because the acid and bacteria in the starter may interact with the bowl and cause corrosion.
You don’t necessarily need a professional wooden bread lame to score your bread while baking it in the oven, but a bread lame will give it that traditional slash marks to lend the perfect finishing touch. You can use the bread lame to take control of your bread’s final appearance, so you can go as avant garde as you like and go full Michelangelo on that dough.
Digital food scale
Just like any time you’re cooking, it’s really important to accurately measure your ingredients by weight. Digital scales are often the easiest when it comes to measuring ingredients at a glance - especially if you’re trying to read the scale while balancing a large tub of flour on it. When it comes to making sourdough, it’s all about getting the ratios perfect, so this is a must-have tool for all you bakers out there.
Banneton baskets, or proofing baskets, are rattan or cane baskets that are used to hold and proof your final shaped dough. They are lightly dusted with flour and are ideal for air circulation, which means that they help to draw moisture away from the surface of the dough to give you that crunchy crust every time. If you want to achieve crunchy results, then add a banneton proofing basket to your shopping list.
Danish dough whisk
This clever utensil consists of three differently-sized coils stacked around each other, which work to cut through dough without over-mixing. Danish dough whisks are ideal for mixing high hydration breads and incorporate flour and water into your sourdough starter seamlessly. You’ll also be happy to know that there is much less clean-up involved when you use this whisk, as opposed to an ordinary spoon or spatula.
Instant-read probe thermometer
You’ll need a digital kitchen thermometer at various stages of the bread-making process. It’s important to make sure you’re using the ideal temperature water and to ensure that your loaf is fully cooked. Once your loaf is cooked it will typically read around 97℃.
Bench dough scraper
A bench dough scraper is easily one of my favourite sourdough making tools, as it helps you to cut and shape your dough while it’s on your workspace without the mess. Dough scrapers are versatile, because you can not only use them to lift your dough and shape your dough balls, but you can also use them as a clean-up tool for scraping bits of leftover dough off the counter, or cutting board. You can essentially use them in any type of cooking, so they belong in everyone’s culinary arsenal.
Serrated bread knife
An oldie but a goodie, a serrated bread knife is essential for any baker. It would be a shame to create the perfect, crusty loaf only to massacre it with a blunt knife. Always make sure you have a bread knife on-hand, so you can carve your loaf into uniform slices when it’s time to serve. Presentation is everything after all.
That’s all for my favourite sourdough tools and equipment. If you’re looking to get started on your sourdough journey, but don’t want the hassle of shopping for all of the supplies, check out our Complete Sourdough Starter Kit. It’s got everything you need to hit the ground baking, so buy your sourdough kit today.
Show us your loaves! Don’t forget to tag us at @youkneadsourdough on Instagram, I can marvel at your culinary creations.