Step 2: Tools
In this instructable I use both dry and liquid measuring cups to measure the ingredients. These are American measuring cups, slightly different than those used in other countries.
In a bakery, all measurement is done by weight. This is because ingredients like flour can change in volume depending on the type of flour and the compression. If you want to see an example of this take two cups of flour and try to cram it into one cup of flour. It is possible. However, I know a lot of people don't have access to scales, so I am using measuring cups for dry ingredients here. Once you get really good at bread making the inaccuracy doesn't even matter, you can feel when the dough needs more or less flour.
That having been said, to be more accurate please use the following conventions when measuring dry ingredients:
Do not pack flour into the cup, pour sifted flour into the cup. This will make sure you have roughly the same amount of flour as I have used.
Level the cup off. This means filling the cup with flour, and pushing a knife or flat object over the top to make sure the cup is filled to the top and not a bit more. A heaping cup of flour is probably about one cup and a half of flour. If you're measuring 6 cups of flour this way it has now turned into 9 cups of flour. So make sure to measure correctly.
This recipe makes two loaves of bread, so you will want a fairly large mixing bowl. I recommend metal, but a big heavy ceramic bowl would probably work quite well.
I use a wooden spoon. Your stainless steel spoon? It's going to bend. That $1 wooden spoon that came in a 3-pack? It's going to break. If you don't have a thick, sturdy wooden spoon already, go to the store where you buy your cooking supplies and pick up the plainest, thickest, most medieval-looking spoon you can find. They usually don't cost that much more than the spoons of lower quality, but they will probably last forever.
A decent oven is required for this. My oven is electric, the instructions I give later will work for gas as well. Wood fired ovens are great, and they work very nicely. You don't need a stone, wood-fired oven to make good artisan breads. I have had some good ones made in these ovens, but most of the best loaves I have had came from bakers who were passionate about bread, and used huge gas ovens. How your oven produces the heat is a very minor factor, as long as it can produce and hold the heat.
Baking Stone or Baking Sheet
A baking stone can turn a mediocre oven into a great one. They do an amazing job at holding heat and releasing it slowly to keep the oven at a consistent temperature. Ideally, you want to slide your bread directly onto a hot stone and let it bake there. This gives excellent oven spring (more on that later). If you're not ready to perform that maneuver it is nearly as good to slide a cheap metal pan with your loaves onto the stone to bake the bread.
Using a baking sheet without a stone is not quite as good, but I am sure good bread can be produced this way. If you don't have a stone, don't sweat it.
A surface to knead and shape the bread on
I use an old wooden bread board to shape my loaves on. Wood has a great quality of not sticking to dough too much, but just enough that you can use that to your advantage when shaping. Alternately, a wooden or stainless steel counter top can also be used to knead or shape bread.
Personally, I knead my bread in the same bowl I mix it in. It's largely a matter of personal taste, the technique I show later for mixing makes this the easiest way to do it for me.