Bread bakeries, whether large or small, require a certain amount of equipment to operate efficiently. You certainly don’t require as much, but there are a few things you will need to move from pizza making to bread baking in your Forno Bravo oven. You can purchase some of the items mentioned here from the Forno Bravo Store. Also, the section on Books and Resources will guide you to suppliers for many of the things mentioned here.
If you’re baking pizzas already, it is likely that you have a point-and-shoot infrared thermometer. If not, you will probably need one, or at least an air temperature thermometer that reads up to, or above, 600ºF.
To accurately judge when your ingredients and your finished loaves are at the proper temperature, you will need a probe-type instant-read thermometer. These vary enormously in the speed at which they register and recover, and consequently in price, but you will be able to find a fairly good digital model at your local hardware or kitchen supply store for about $15. The English company Thermopen makes the most advanced version. It is very fast and highly recommended.
To make round hearth loaves, you will need several wicker baskets of the same size and shape as the baskets used to serve rolls at your local restaurant. Each one should be equipped with a piece of linen fabric, such as an old napkin, to line the inside. Traditionally, coiled rush baskets called banneton are used for rising, but these can be fairly expensive (see Books and Resources.)
Some bread requires pans, such as the Biga Wheat Bread that we will begin with shortly. Where needed, sizes will be listed. The exact size is important, because if the pan is too large, the dough will not rise properly; too small, it will spill over the sides. Most other things, like sheet or cookie pans, and parchment paper, you probably already have. Your wooden and metal pizza peel will do nicely for most bread.
One fairly specialized piece of equipment you might need if you want to venture into French baguette or batard (torpedo) shaped loaves is what French bakers call a “couche.” Actually, it’s just a large piece of heavy linen that you can probably get at your local fabric supplier. While you can buy perforated metal baguette and Italian torpedo pans, we do not recommend them, as you will be baking directly on the hearth floor.
We’re assuming that you already have a stand mixer for your pizza doughs. The recipes that follow are presented for those who do. If you don’t, you can still knead by hand, but you will have to add about four or five more minutes of kneading time to the one given. Bear in mind that orbital dough hook mixers, such as a Kitchen Aid, have a fairly high friction factor, especially when kneading bread dough. Friction produces heat, and, as we will see in a minute, you must keep the temperature of the dough within fairly strict limits.
The next section discusses the last piece of essential equipment: the digital scale, and the importance of learning to bake bread By Weight, Not Volume.Back Forward
Forno Bravo Digital Thermometer.
Instant Read Food Thermometer.
On the left are bread baskets from a dollar store, one lined with an old linen napkin. On the right are coiled rush banneton. The nylon brush in the foreground is used to brush excess flour from the rush baskets after use.
The folds of the couche act as walls, so the baguette dough rises upwards, rather than spreading outwards.