Five-quart mixing bowl
You’ll need bowls in other sizes in which to beat eggs or mix wet ingredients, but your mixing bowl should be large enough to hold two loaves worth of dough. I prefer one with high sides to keep the ingredients from escaping during mixing. Glass, glazed stoneware, Pyrex or plastic will all do the job, but a heavier bowl is a little easier to work with because it remains more stable during mixing.
Accurate measuring cups and spoons
You’ll need measuring cups for both dry and liquid ingredients, and yes, there is a difference----about 5% between the two. For liquid measure your best choice is the classic Pyrex glass pitcher, both a one cup and a two cup. For dry measure, consider spending a little more for the heavy duty metal measuring cups and spoons---they’re often on sale at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I also like the measuring spoons with a long handle and a narrow bowl that can easily fit into spice jars. If you have recipes written in the European style, a scale will also be essential.
A large wooden spoon
This is the hand tool of choice for most Breadheads, and this is another utensil you might want to spend a little more on---I’ve snapped 8 or 9 cheap wooden spoons in half over the years. There is also an unusual mixing tool that is specific to baking called a dough whisk that mixes and aerates batters and doughs better than any spoon in the drawer.
An instant read thermometer
Get the electronic kind rather than one with a conventional dial, since they produce a precise temperature reading more quickly. You’ll use it to test the temperature of liquids before adding yeast (100° to 110° F.), and to check the interior temperature of a loaf of bread to ensure that it is fully baked (190° to 195° F.).
To start out, you’ll need a baking sheet (like for cookies), loaf pans (I recommend the medium size, 8½” x 4½” x 2½”) and a 12 cup muffin tin. If you intend to make cinnamon rolls, a rolling pin and an 9” x 13” pan would be in order as well. As you explore the world of baking, you may start thinking about brioche pans, cast iron skillets for scones, and stoneware casserole dishes for deep dish pizza. But the aforementioned three or four pans will be adequate for most recipes.
You can cool your loaves on a clean dishtowel, but a wire rack allows for air circulation on the bottom of the loaf, resulting in a superior crust. You can easily drop $20 or more on a heavy-duty stainless steel rack, but the less expensive ones do the job just as well, and once again thrift shops and flea markets are a great source for them. If they are slightly rusty, you can easily clean them up with steel wool, but don't try to rescue something that's clearly been put away wet and allowed to rust all over. You can also buy a multi-tier rack that can be used to save space both in the oven and on the counter top.
A reason to bake
I briefly considered making this last item "one of my cookbooks" but then I realized that I have maintained for many years now that people don't need recipes as much as they need reasons to bake. You can get literally millions of recipes from the Internet. I typed in "white bread recipe" in Google Chrome and got over SIX MILLION web pages in .47 seconds. But what will make you try one? A sense of adventure? The desire to recapture happy memories of a beloved grandmother, or to make new memories with your own grandchildren? Interest in your family's ethnic culinary heritage? Frugality, simplicity, the desire to slow down? Or just a longing for the taste of real bread? Whatever your reason, bake with courage and conviction, be willing to fail and to learn from your mistakes, and remember what I've said since my public television days: "It's bread---it's gonna forgive you!"