Curmudgeonly Cooking: Bread III: Equipment

The day has dawned and your freshly cleaned kitchen awaits. No it doesn’t. It has been trashed!

Luckily you saw this coming. Consult the deer cam you set up last night and identify the culprit.

If the kitchen was trashed by raccoons you can legally shoot them. Was it trashed by your kids? Are they minors or unemployed young adult louts? Technically you’re not allowed to shoot them but they definitely have it coming.  If they’re over 20 it’s possible that jury nullification will exonerate you. If you did it yourself…you deserve your fate. No more bacon for you!

Now go buy the implements you’ll need. Your kitchen almost certainly already has everything you need but buy new stuff anyway. You’re a man, you’ve got sixteen dozen socket sets, do you really need encouragement to do the same for your cooking endeavors?

Get a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons. It’s my theory that metal cups are better than plastic. There is no reason why this should be true but isn’t metal always more awesome? Don’t buy any “wonder devices” that measure multiple units. Don’t buy cups any bigger than 1 cup (too much volume is bad for measuring flour). Adjustable wrenches are inferior and so are adjustable measuring spoons. Cups and spoons will probably cost less than $10. A garage sale is a perfectly good place to shop.

Get a liquid measuring cup with 4 cup capacity. Liquid measuring cups are the things that look like you can drink out of them. They’re made of heat resistant glass. Yes, you can drink out of them…but don’t. Use the glasses that you just washed…duh. You can use a graduated cylinder if you happen to be a rogue chemist.

You’ll need a pastry brush. It looks like a cheap paintbrush. Do not try to use a paintbrush. I can’t believe I had to actually type that. They’re cheap. Buy two.

You’ll need a whisk and a big ass spoon. Nothing special but they’re part of the process.

Don’t get anything metric unless you live in France. If you live in France you should already know how to make bread. Duh.

Don’t let these objects commingle with the rest of the measuring devices in the kitchen. These are yours. These are for your full assault on the bread monopoly that’s keeping it’s boot heel on our collective neck. Like weaponry, your bread tools are now mission critical implements which should be properly stored where you and only you can access them.

This is most of what you'll need. If you let it mix with the general kitchen riff raff you'll add 2 hours labor to every bread batch. This is because magic pixies sneak in at night and make your stuff dirty and personally hide it in nooks and crannies you'd never think to look. (I base this on empirical observation.) Moral? Keep your shit organized and separate...even if this means a secret cache in the nearby forest.

Here’s where things get hairy. You need a few specialized items. You may have to venture into a mall to get them. Doesn’t that suck? I hate malls! Slam a few shots of liquor if needed. It’s perfectly reasonable to order these things on-line or beg your wife to get them on your behalf.

You will need a baking stone. A baking stone is a device that looks suspiciously like an overpriced flat brick. The bread is baked right on the stone so I don’t think a brick will work. If you try it and it works I want to know. The baking stone serves as a thermal mass that will regulate the heat of your oven. I believe the root cause of this are ovens made of cheap Chinese steel instead of the 500 pound behemoth that is the way an oven should be constructed. The baking stone probably does other stuff that is terribly important but I skipped that part of the book. Just get one.

We’ve owned two of them. One cost $30 and the other cost $10. In my eyes $30 is not cheap. Life is cruel that way. You are allowed to borrow this device from your wife but if she doesn’t approve just go out and buy the most expensive damn one you can find. Why not? It’s a tool right? Do you want the bread companies to win? I thought so.

You should seek a rectangular baking stone. I don’t have a rectangular baking stone because I haven’t found such a thing for sale. Apparently I live in the heathen frontier of Twinkie eaters and frozen pizza. Who knew? I presume my wife’s circular baking stone was meant for making pizza (though I can’t recall ever seeing a pizza on it). The circular shape causes minor hassles when I try to cram too much bread on it. I originally wrote that a baking stone should last forever but during the lag time of editing this article the stone broke for no apparent reason. This is why editing sucks and you should just post whatever fool thing comes into your head.

This is not a pizza peel. It's a big honkin' spatula from my BBQ grill. It 'aint elegant but it does the job.

The book I’m using suggests a pizza peel. A pizza peel is a wooden thing that looks like a canoe paddle. All the expensive pizza places make a show of using this device to shove pizza into their really awesome wood fired brick oven. I don’t have a pizza peel. I can’t find one for sale. I’ve been using a big spatula from my BBQ. It works OK. I’m considering attacking a small canoe paddle with a belt sander and making my own. (If this works I’ll tell you.)

You’ll need a special bucket. Actually you don’t need one but you’ll be happy you bought one. All the cool kids have them. If you don’t get new ones just for your bread you’ll waste hours looking around for the kitchen for the perfect piece of Tupperwear and then find out that your wife doesn’t want a Neanderthal like you using it because that piece of Tupperwear is totally different than the other pieces of Tupperwear. Don’t try to understand…just go with it.

My wife, who is a genius, kindly bought me a set of two 6 quart Cambro round food storage containers. They’re well built and work just right. I don’t get a dime if you buy them so don’t chalk me up as a corporate shill. If you need to justify the expense, use a sharpie to write the word “tactical” on the lid and it’ll seem like a better deal. I have no idea why this works but trust me, it does.

The next post will cover ingredients. Don’t fret, most of the stuff you’ll buy lasts for a long time. One shopping trip should cover several dozen loaves of bread. (Also, it’s cheap!)

A.C.

Update 1: I have managed to break two baking stones.  Both snapped while I was in a different room and not touching them.  This pisses me off.  Apparently a baking stone can be broken thought thermal expansion and contraction…which makes as much sense as the first generation of iPhones being really good at everything but telephone calls.  When I have a solution to the baking stone conundrum I’ll post it.

Update 2: I ordered a pizza peel from the Internet, it was reasonably cheap.

Now that I own this I feel like one of those food snobs that can pronounce "arugula". Yes, it is demonstrably superior to a monster spatula.

Many reviews of many different brands of pizza peel warned that the wood might crack (delaminate). They were correct; mine arrived cracked. It works fine despite the crack.

2012 marks the era when society can make an iPod disposably cheap but can't produce a flat chunk of wood.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.

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0 Responses to Curmudgeonly Cooking: Bread III: Equipment

  1. Suz says:

    “You’re a man, you’ve got sixteen dozen socket sets, do you really need encouragement to do the same for your cooking endeavors?”

    ARE YOU NUTS???? Have you seen my husband’s workshop? We’ll need a bigger kitchen….
    But I forgive your little lapse, because I really like the idea of a secret cache in the forest. Perhaps there my stuff will be safe from the irresistible gravitational pull of the black hole of tooldom – I swear I lose a chunk of metal every time he opens the door.

  2. MSgt B says:

    Crap.

    Now you tell me.

    I’ve been using cheap paint brushes from Lowe’s for years.

  3. aczarnowski says:

    Like the chainsaw posts before this series is getting me very close to pulling out my copy of that book (Christmas gift!) and buying some tactical tupperware.

    For those without a peel we’ve had good luck with one I made out of 1/4″ hardboard. Trace your stone’s front edge on the hardbard with a sharpie, cut it out with a jigsaw leaving the back side long and the full width of the stone as a handle, then run a piece of sandpaper around the edge to take off the hardboard cutting left overs. It’ll just look like a long piece of hardboard but it’s custom. It will probably slide nicely into that space between the stove and the cabinet.

  4. Judy says:

    pizza/baking stones Go to the home building store and buy unglazed tiles. Bring home and give a good scrub then dry slowly in an oven set on the lowest temperature. Also use the cabinets over the refrigerator if you want to keep your stuff safe and secure. The wife doesn’t use them except for the Thanksgiving turkey roasting pan.

  5. LabRat says:

    There’s not really a solution to the problem of stone fundamentally not liking to be marched up and down hundreds of degrees in temperature repeatedly, but a paving stone works just fine as a baking stone and is often cheaper.

    *ducks and covers*

  6. jefferson101 says:

    Heh. He said “Baking Stones”. Heh, heh, heh.

    My wife bought a set of three of them from “The Pampered Chef” a couple or three years back. I don’t want to know what they cost. I attempted to season them, per the manufacturer’s recommendations. They all three broke, one after the other, during the process.

    Being the person that I am, I called the salesperson that my wife bought them from and griped rather seriously, but politely. They replaced them. The next three did the same flipping thing.

    End result is that I don’t put farging rocks into my oven any more, for any reason. If it takes rocks to bake bread, I guess I’m just going to be left out in the cold.

    • I believe one of the stones was Pampered Chef.

      Stones are cool though. I’m considering building a giant masonry wood fired oven in the backyard. There’s a spot I hate to mow…what more excuse do I need?

  7. Judy and LabRat got the baking stone issue covered before I finished working and could comment, but let me throw in my vote behind the idea. They make great bread stones, and when they crack, my wallet doesn’t cry. much.

    Sometimes you can find pastry brushes with silicone bristles at the grocery store’s baking section. If not, skip the mall and Amazon will have it. The silicone ones rock, because they’re a lot easier to clean off (even if the small child did get ahold of it), and don’t shed bristles.

  8. Pingback: Bread Background | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

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