Tools for the bread oven

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Once the bread oven is finished, you will need certain special tools for using it. Some can be made yourself, and cheaply.


Bannetons (bread rising baskets)

Once dough is kneaded and worked, it needs to be left to rise in a warm place before baking.

Turning the risen uncooked dough onto the peel for transfering to the oven can be a tricky moment, especially if the dough has stuck to the container. To avoid this, bread is traditionally left for its final rising in special baskets lined with a linen cloth, floured generously beforehand. These help the bread to rise evenly because the warm air can circulate through the sides, and the linen lining does not absorb the moisture from the dough. The French term for such a basket is "banneton".

If you intend to buy:

These are often made of willow, lined with a linen or cotton cloth.

They are available in different shapes, according to the kind of loaf you wish to make, from professional bakery suppliers. They are sometimes seen for sale in supermarkets, sold as table bread baskets (about 5-6 each in 2005).

Bannetons (bread rising baskets)Bannetons (bread rising baskets)

Blade

This is a sharp blade, used to slash the top of loaves (the "grignes" in French) to allow them to swell properly during baking.

This one is a razor blade screwed onto an aluminium handle.

You can also use a baker's blade with a plastic handle, but it's rather expensive.

BladeBlade

Bread crate

This is a large wooden crate for airing loaves after they come out of the oven, and where they cool more easily than on a table (air can pass all round the loaves).

Mine is 90 x 45 cm (35 x 16") with a handle to hang it for storage.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Bread crateBread crate

Bread dough at the right temperature

For bread dough to rise well, it should be left in a warm place, protected from draughts. Bakers use a special room, for this called a "chambre de pousse" (growing room). Difficult to do this at home...

Instead I use my kitchen oven (off) where I put a small light bulb of 15-20 watts. This light bulb gives enough heat to reach 81F (27C) inside the oven.

You need:

  • 1 lamp holder, E14 type
  • 1 light bulb, 15 watts
  • 1 length of flexible lighting cable (flex)
  • 1 plug
  • 1 magnet (optional)

Connect together lamp holder, flex, plug. Screw in light bulb.

You can improve the sytem, by sticking (with epoxy glue) a magnet on the lamp holder, so it can be fixed anywhere inside the oven.

If you intend to buy:

You can also use a more powerful light bulb (e.g. 25 watts) which will give you a higher temperature.
Bread dough at the right temperatureBread dough at the right temperature

Brush

For brushing the bottom of loaves, straight from the oven, to remove excess flour and any remaining bits of charcoal.
BrushBrush

Dough cutter

In plastic or metal, this tool is ideal for cutting a large lump of dough into smaller pieces.

Alternatively, when cooking it's very useful for picking up small items (e.g. diced vegetables) from the work surface.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dough cutterDough cutter

Dough scraper ("corne" in French)

This simple piece of plastic is very useful, with its rounded shape, for collecting all the dough efficiently from the mixing bowl.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dough scraper (Dough scraper (

Dredger or shaker

For whenever you need to flour your work surface or sprinkle flour onto dough, pastry, etc.

It also allows you to add a little flour to a recipe, without having to use a sieve.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dredger or shakerDredger or shaker

Mixing bowl (of food processor)

Very useful for hard work that's difficult to do with your hands: kneading evenly.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Mixing bowl (of food processor)Mixing bowl (of food processor)

Mop

Once ashes have been removed with the brush, you should finish cleaning the sole by passing the mop over it.

This can be done with a classic cotton fringe or rag mop, soaked in cold water.

MopMop

Oven brush

Once the embers have been removed from the oven, the ashes missed by the rake need to be swept out, and for that you will need an oven brush.

If you intend to buy:

Use a coco fibre brush (no synthetic bristles which might melt) and screw it onto a long handle Soak the brush in water before use (to prevent it burning).
Oven brushOven brush

Peel

This shovel-like tool, symbol of traditional bakers, is used to put dough in the oven and to remove loaves once cooked.

Ideally you should have 3 peels:

  • One round wooden, for round loaves.
  • One rectangular wooden, for long loaves.
  • One stainless steel, for pizzas.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
PeelPeel

Plastic sheet

Bread dough needs to be covered during resting and rising, and a damp tea-towel works well. (It needs to be damp so that it does not take moisture from the dough).

Another good solution is to use a plastic sheet (cut from a large plastic bag for example) which protects the dough well and, very importantly, maintains the moist atmosphere around it.
Plastic sheetPlastic sheet

Rake

This is a kind of metal scraper, used to move or remove embers and ash from the oven, especially just before closed fire cooking.

It's also useful for tending the fire, rearranging the woo, the embers....

Apparently in days gone by such rakes were often made of wood so as not to damage the fragile sole of the oven. For today's more robust ovens, metal rakes are more practical, given the high temperatures to which they are exposed.

If you intend to buy:

If you want to make one like this, you can start with a garden tool (a sort of wide hoe), then fix it onto a long metal handle.
RakeRake

Short-handled brush

This is a soft brush, used to brush dough gently during working to remove all excess flour. It's essential for working soft very hydrated dough like for French baguettes.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Short-handled brushShort-handled brush

Steam machine

It's essential to have a lot of steam in the oven during baking to get lovely golden crusty loaves.

Bakers have a special steam control on their ovens which injects water at the start of baking. With a wood-fired bread oven a simpler system is needed.

I've try several systems and ideas, here is the best solution: The steam machine.

Steam machine

Wooden leaven spoon

For use when refreshing, mixing or taking out leaven. It must be kept exclusively for use with leaven, and never washed with soap or any chemical product (only hot water).
Wooden leaven spoon

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