Pop quiz: Which of these do you think is an essential sourdough tool?
You may be surprised to learn that the answer is 3, tea towel.
Believe it or not, you don’t really need a banneton, dutch oven, or a mixing bowl to make sourdough bread at home. Yes, they’re useful tools to have and they’ll make your life that much easier. However, when it comes to essentials, you don’t need as much fancy equipment as you might think.
In fact, you probably have some sourdough tools already in your kitchen.
In this week’s blog, we’ll go over everything you need to make sourdough from scratch, including the absolute necessities and additional extra useful sourdough equipment.
We’ll also be answering some of your frequently asked questions regarding sourdough tools and resources.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Not necessarily. A banneton (or a proofing basket) lends support to shape the dough during proofing and the spiral shape of the basket imprints that beautiful characteristic pattern on sourdough bread. The banneton is also able to absorb moisture and flour, which helps make the dough less sticky and easy to handle.
Nevertheless, you could use other containers lined with a flour-dusted tea towel to do the same job. You could use anything from a colander to a Tupperware pot, a bowl, or a loaf tin.
Dutch ovens are a fantastic investment but they’re not necessary to make sourdough bread. In fact, they’re not even the best piece of sourdough equipment available.
Instead, we recommend a domed bread cloche or a combo cooker. This is because they have less height for the dough to fall before it hits the bottom, which decreases the damage to the delicate gluten network. A Dutch oven is also more likely to cause injury since you could burn yourself on the edges as you tip your dough inside.
What tools are really needed to make sourdough bread then? Perhaps not as many as you think and some equipment can be substituted with homemade alternatives.
Of course, if you’re serious about baking a top-quality loaf, you will want to use the dedicated equipment and we’ll discuss the benefits of each of these in the sections below.
To make your sourdough baking that bit easier, we’ve added some additional tools you may wish to consider underneath this essential list. However, we believe that the following 9 items are all you need to bake sourdough bread.
You don’t have to be too fussy here with what you use, as long as your container meets the following requirements:
Easy to clean
Can be covered (with a lid that’s not airtight or simply a damp tea towel)
Has enough space for your starter to grow to at least 4x its height
Some bakers prefer to use a translucent container (e.g. Kilner jar) so that they can view the activity of the starter.
Measuring cups are not accurate enough, so a digital food scale is an essential sourdough tool. Try to buy one with a large digital display so you can easily read the volume when you’re measuring things on top of it.
Becoming familiar with gram measurements and understanding baker’s percentages will have a huge impact on your baking performance. With a decent digital food scale, you’ll be able to easily adapt your sourdough bread recipes.
One of the most important sourdough tools is the dough scraper. Plastic dough scrapers are budget-friendly and flexible, making them easy to use. Advanced bakers may want to invest in a stainless steel scraper, which is simple to clean, durable, and great at cutting through sourdough dough.
Not only do dough scrapers help bakers effortlessly lift, turn, and work dough, but they can also be used to unstick dough from the countertop, pick up food and flour scraps, scrape dough out of mixing bowls, cut dough into portions, and transfer it to other areas of your kitchen without getting it stuck to your hands.
Tea towels can be used throughout the entire sourdough process, from leavening to storing the bread. Use a damp tea towel to cover your dough in order to prevent it from forming a skin and to protect it from contaminants. You can also use a tea towel inside a colander as an alternative to a proofing basket…
You’ll need something in which to proof your sourdough dough and a proofing basket (banneton) is the perfect tool for the job. Generally made from cane, wood pulp, or wicker, they work best when they’ve built up a good concentration of moisture and flour. This damp and floury coating will enable easy release of your dough.
However, you could also use a flour-dusted tea towel draped inside a colander. This homemade sourdough tool is not the best equipment but it will do the trick!
If you want a beautifully open and structured loaf, then scoring is essential. Cutting the top of your loaf before you put it into the oven will give your sourdough space to expand (known as oven spring), resulting in a more open crumb and a pretty pattern.
Therefore, a blade is a must-have sourdough tool, whether that’s a lame (pronounced lahm), a kitchen knife, a pair of scissors, or a razor blade on the end of a chopstick.
If you don’t have a steam oven in your home kitchen, then you’re going to want to buy a lidded pot to bake your sourdough in.
Why? To retain the steam, which helps to cool the surface of the sourdough.
Learn more about the role of water and steam in sourdough baking
It’s probably going to be the most expensive sourdough tool you’ll need but it’s also incredibly useful! If you opt for a Dutch oven, you can use it to make all sorts of delicious meals on the stove and in the oven.
You’ll need these to get your lidded pot in and out of the oven!
A simple piece of equipment you probably already have at home, a cooling rack is the best sourdough tool for airing the base of your freshly baked sourdough bread…because nobody wants a soggy bottom!
There are plenty of other tools you might want to buy to make your sourdough baking go as smoothly as possible. We’ve listed some of our favourites below:
We’ve been making sourdough for over 13 years and we’re on a mission to reclaim sourdough bread. Our ultimate guide aims to make sourdough more accessible, to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy good bread, no matter where you are.
Click here for the Ultimate Sourdough Guide made by BReD
This sourdough bread guide will cover everything you need to know, from the history of sourdough to a glossary of baking terms, and the ingredients, equipment, and recipes needed to make it yourself.
For the home or professional bread-maker, this is one of the best sourdough resources. Chad Robertson, co-owner of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, has included hundreds of photographs from years of testing, teaching, and recipe development that provide step-by-step inspiration, alongside recipes to inspire you to use every delicious morsel.
Buy Tartine Bread here
While you could very easily create sourdough without using a mixing bowl (simply place flour on the countertop and make a well to pour the water in the middle), this sourdough tool you probably already have in your kitchen will keep things a little less messy.
A digital kitchen thermometer is important for getting the temperature of your dough just right, which will affect your fermentation.The thermometer is also used for the water temperature before you start mixing. It is ideal to have the temperature of the water to be akin to that of the levain, i.e. 22-26 degrees
A warming chamber to encourage sourdough fermentation, a particularly useful tool when you live in cold climates.