According to Tara Jensen, all you really need to make bread are “your bare hands, a bowl, a basket, and a hot oven.” That said, the expert baker and author of Flour Power: The Practice and Pursuit of Baking Sourdough Bread also acknowledges that some tools can be incredibly useful: They’ll make your bread better, your kitchen cleaner, or your life just a little easier. Here are some of Tara’s favorites, cultivated over several decades of bread baking:  

(Heads up: At King Arthur, we only recommend the cookbooks that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.) 

Tara using a bench knife to clean a work space Johnny Autry and Charlotte Autry
metal bench knife is the easiest way to clean up flour and dough. 

Bench knife and dough scraper 

Tara uses a metal bench knife to manipulate and cut through dough. And, as she writes in her book, “it also makes cleaning up your work space a breeze.” Meanwhile, she turns to flexible dough scrapers “for handling the dough in the bowl, scraping down the bowls, and shaping the dough.”  

Digital scale 

Weighing ingredients — rather than measuring by volume — is essential for making good bread. According to Tara, “Using a scale ensures that you will get the ingredient amounts correct day-to-day and allows you to use one bowl to mix everything. This cuts down on the dishes and makes cleanup a breeze.” There are plenty of scale options to choose from: Tara prefers a metal scale with a lifted platform, and she looks for models that measure up to three or four kilograms so she can make large batches of dough at once.  

Tara using a lame to cut bread dough Johnny Autry and Charlotte Autry
lame is key for well-defined ears on your bread.


“A thin, slightly curved razor blade is the best tool for getting a beautiful ear to lift away from the bread because it’s so thin, unlike a bulky knife blade,” Tara emphasizes. “You can go in at a nice 45° angle and create this little flap of dough that will peel back when it’s nicely steamed, which is just really hard to achieve with something like a bread knife.” 

Proofing basket  

“I want my loaves to maintain a nice shape as they’re proofing,” explains Tara. To achieve a consistent shape and rise, the key is using a proofing basket. Why not just turn to a towel-lined bowl in your kitchen? “If you just use a colander or bowl lined with a tea towel, that loaf is prone to spreading, and you’re going to get lower overall volume when you go to bake it,” Tara explains. “Using a proofing basket just makes me feel confident that I’m going to get a nice rise and shape to my bread.” The material of the basket also absorbs some moisture from the exterior of the dough, helping create a better final crust. 

Digital thermometer 

A thermometer is important for everything from measuring your ingredient temperature (so you can achieve your desired dough temperature) to evaluating the doneness of your baked bread. “You can get a thermometer from the supermarket that costs 10 bucks, or something long-lasting and professional, for around $100,” recommends Tara.  

Tara putting twisted buns into a Pullman pan Johnny Autry and Charlotte Autry
Tara's Pullman pan has made a lot of bread. 

Pullman pan 

We’re huge fans of the Pullman pan here at King Arthur — and Tara is too. “I love the gorgeous shape and uniformity that you get with this pan — like an actual square corner.” There’s another benefit: “The Pullman pan with the lid on for the first 15 minutes of baking is the best way to steam a loaf of bread in your home oven — you’re not dealing with throwing ice cubes into your oven, you’re not dealing with a heavy, hot cast iron pot. It is so easy; to me, baking in a Pullman pan is just the simplest format for baking really nice bread at home.”

Dough whisk 

Tara has been baking with some of these tools for years, but she’s still discovering new favorites. “As someone who is particularly hesitant about adding gadgets to my kitchen, I have a new tool crush,” she admits. “I’ve started using a dough whisk, and I am over the moon for it. I would encourage people, particularly if they’re used to mixing by hand, to try out a dough whisk — it will change your life.” 

Find some of Tara’s favorites and other essential bread tools in our Bread Shop.

See Tara put her tools into action: 

Cover photo illustration by Michelle Chen. 

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About Rossi Anastopoulo

Rossi Anastopoulo grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, which is how she fell in love with biscuits. She didn’t have any bakers in her household (with the exception of her grandmother’s perfect koulourakia), so she learned at a young age that the best way to satisfy her sweet tooth was to make dess...
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