Expert Recs: Professional Bread Baker Carla Finley’s Favorite Tools for Perfect Loaves

Finley recommends some tried-and-true kitchen gadgets that even novice bakers will find useful.
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Throughout the pandemic, Brooklyn-based baker Carla Finley became an unexpected local hero for loaf lovers (and, subsequently, those who never took up bread-baking) when she founded Apt. 2 Bread, a homemade bread pick-up and subscription service that she operates out of her rental apartment in Clinton Hill. Sure, we’ve all had delicious bread before but Finley’s loaves hit the mouth differently — her boules are consistent and exact, with a crisp crust and a chewy, fluffy center full of airy crumbs that were perfect vessels for soft butter and flaky salt.

Finley’s success is not surprising, given her background: Before striking it out on her own in April 2020, Finley was on the bread team at famed Italian eaterie and market Il Buco Alimentari and before that, she honed her baking chops at She Wolf Bakery. At the onset of the pandemic, Finely was laid off, and Apt 2 Bread was born: Suddenly, her loaves, which were previously only available for Il Buco restaurant diners, could be ordered by anyone in her Brooklyn vicinity. Through word-of-mouth, Finley’s humble, one-woman operation took off and she eventually transformed her standard kitchen into a space where she could bake more efficiently.

Expert Recs: Professional Bread Baker Carla Finley’s Favorite Tools for Perfect Loaves - Photo 1 of 1 -

"I gutted the guest bedroom and put in real equipment with an oven that could fit nine loaves at a time. That changed everything," says Finley, whose original apartment oven only fit two loaves. "I was finally able to join a farmer's market and make enough bread to actually live off of this business and get off of unemployment." Finley has kneaded, risen, and shaped hundreds of carbo-loaded creations: "My main thing is what I call my ‘daily bread,’ my white sourdough, that I was literally making every day for the past two years," says Finley. When focaccia was introduced to her lineup, it became the most popular bread (toppings included plump green olives and sesame seeds), followed by her cinnamon rolls slathered in gooey frosting.

Over the summer, Finley has paused on subscription orders to focus on creative bread-related projects — like making bread magnets (which Finley says will be restocked soon) and bread-border mirrors, or collaborating on pop-up dinner series — as a way to prevent herself from the burnout of producing like a factory. (She had flirted with the idea of expanding as a brick-and-mortar but ultimately scaled back as a way of "honoring the original vision of the project and the business" which has always been to provide quality bread for her neighbors. She still bakes for her CSA once a week.) 

For now, Finley recommends keeping an eye on the @apt2bread Instagram account for holiday pre-orders, events, and other bake sale announcements. To tide us over till then, Finley shares her most trusted kitchen tools that bakers at any level will surely find useful. 

"I've tried a number of bread knives and I always come back to this one. It is super sharp and can cut even the hardest crust. And it's a treat to visit the flagship store in Tribeca." 

Suisin Inox Bread Knife
Suisin Inox knives are highly recommended for those learning how to sharpen knives with a sharpening stone. This series has a thin and easy to sharpen blade made out of a blend of Japanese AUS-8 base steel.

"As a bread baker, I cannot live without this gadget. The first thing I do when starting a dough mix is glance at my thermometer/hygrometer. Based on the reading I then choose the appropriate water temp. Every day is different and the challenge of proper fermentation conditions is one of the joys of bread making."

Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer
The thermometer hygrometer features a 2.3in clear LCD display with large bold numbers, allowing you to read the digital from any angle. The hygrometer digital is lightweight, compact, and easy to carry.

"Before Apt. 2 Bread, I used this tabletop KitchenAid for my small batches. Now I use this Famag Italian mixer when I need to make large batches. I can make up to 15 loaves at a time in this cutie."

KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Qt. Stand Mixer
10-speed slide control ranges from a very fast whip to a very slow stir.

"Only the best. A classic brand that you can trust. All of my dough is divided and shaped directly on this wood." 

Boos Edge-Grain Rectangular Maple Cutting Board
An exceptionally hard cutting board provides a stable work surface and also helps protect finely honed blades. Sturdy construction – with the edge grain creating the work surface – gives this board a commercial-quality toughness to withstand years of use.

"These are basic bins but I love the bright colors for moving large quantities of bread around!"

Recycled Colour Crate
Made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic in a variety of colors and sizes, the HAY Colour Crate is a multifunctional favorite for its stackable and collapsible design.  ...

"The only natural deodorant that doesn't give me a rash. Gotta smell fresh when working in front of the oven!"

Herbal Deodorant Roll-On
An alcohol-free, roll-on alternative to Herbal Deodorant spray containing Zinc Ricinoleate, Wasabi extract, and a complementary blend of essential oils.  ...

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