Welcome to the first post in the Artisan Bread Series. This post will give you some up-front information about what equipment you will need to buy (if any) for most of the recipes, as well as some basic ingredients that are used in most of the recipes. You can use any brand of the supplies and ingredients that you like- I will share what I was able to find in the Midwest and where I purchased it.
- Oven Thermometer. The book recommends that you purchase an oven thermometer to calibrate the oven and ensure it is baking at the correct temperature. My oven is only a few years old and I have never had a problem with it under-baking or over-baking according to recipe times, so I skipped this step. If you do suspect something going wrong in your oven, these thermometers are inexpensive and can usually be found anywhere kitchen furnishings are sold.
- Baking Stone. This is one thing you cannot go without. The baking stone in these recipes will ensure your bread loaves are nice and crisp on the outside (especially on the bottom) without falling soggy. Stones are porous and will absorb any extra moisture in your dough while baking. These doughs are considered highly "wet" doughs, so this is important. It will also ensure even heating throughout the oven. These stones can range anywhere from $15 to $50. I purchased the Bialetti 3-Piece Pizza Stone from Target for only $14.99, and it even came with an extra pizza cutter (something we can always use!) and a metal rack to set it on. It works fantastic- I have zero complaints. In fact, I couldn't be happier with it. Please read the manufacturers instructions on washing before using. Like I said, the stone is porous, so it will take on detergents and soaps.
- Serrated Bread Knife. When cutting your bread, that last thing you want to do is destroy your pretty creation. A bread knife will cut (in a sawing motion) through the crust and crumb (inside) without compressing.
These are the standard ingredients for many of the recipes. If a recipe calls for anything else, I will explain it more in that particular post!
- White, All Purpose Flour. Everyone has it. Don't try and substitute or change the proportions of white flour in the recipes because the gluten content will be thrown off, not to mention the crispiness of your crust. The book says to only use non-bleached flour because of unnecessary chemicals and loss of protein, but I used bleached in a bind and the bread turned out great. Use what you like. If you substitute bread flour, the bread will be extra chewy and you will have to decrease the amount of flour. Don't use it, don't care.
- 100% Whole Wheat Flour. Whole wheat flour is, clearly, the whole grain kernel. It contains the germ and bran, which is removed to make white flour. It's taste is nutty and provides fiber. The germ has natural oils that prevent a crackling crust, so some of the recipes use only 1/2 cup. The book does include (and I will bake them) a few recipes that are whole-wheat breads, but they have a soft crust. I use Hudson Cream Whole Wheat Flour, which is $2.60 for 5lbs at our local grocer.
- Rye Flour. Don't fear if you're thinking, "Uh, but I hate Rye Bread!". You need it, trust me. You will only use 1/2 cup in some of the recipes, too. I use Hodgson Mill Stone-ground Whole Grain Rye, which was $3.50 at Walmart and $6.50 at the local grocer. Uh, I will be going to Walmart!
- Corn Meal. I found several brands (even store brand) for less than $1.50. If you let your dough rise and bake on the corn meal, it will transfer to and fro more easily.
- Yeast. You can find yeast anywhere. I use the regular (not instant) yeast from Fleischmann's. You can buy envelopes or a jar, but I prefer the jar. It is cheaper and easier to measure. After opening, keep the jar in the refrigerator. I found this 4 oz. jar at Target for about $3.50.
- Water. Use whatever water you drink at home- tap or filtered. It needs to be lukewarm, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Salt. The recipes call for Kosher Salt, which is coarser than table salt. I've substituted sea salt and it worked perfectly. If you are using finer table salt, decrease the volume in the recipe by one-quarter.
Wednesday, we will talk about various tips and techniques. Happy shopping (or gathering)!