You probably don't have to run out and buy any new equipment to get into bread baking, at least in the initial, simple phase. Any ovenproof bowl -- stainless, aluminum, stoneware, or heat-resistant glass -- can be used.

Just remember that the dough should not fill the pan more than halfway when you set it to rise. Traditional rectangular loaf pans come in varying sizes, and the serious breadmaker usually buys them in pairs (most recipes make two loaves).

For the best crust and the most even crumb, the ugly pans made of black baker's steel and the terra cotta earthenware pans are best. Which is not to say that I don't own and use the more common aluminum pans and even occasionally the glass loaf pan I usually reserve for meat loaf. When I want a round loaf, rather than going through the trouble of baking it free-form, I just bake it in a mixing bowl.

As for slicing bread, a long (10 inches or more) serrated knife is best. The teeth, or serration of the knife, allow you to cut through both the crust and the tender crumb without squashing down on the bread to get enough pressure to cut through the crust.

The best way to slice bread is to lay the loaf on its side. Slicing from the side also allows you to see where the knife is going so you can make even slices, and to cut with even pressure so you don't squish the bread.

Special flour is not necessary at the start either; the all-purpose flour you have in the kitchen is fine for your first loaf.

The best breads are made with hard-wheat flour, which is high in gluten (the protein in the flour that forms the elastic web that traps the gas given off by the yeast).

All-purpose flour that is unbleached or which indicates that it is pre-sifted is higher in gluten than bleached or the non-presifted varieties, and therefore preferable, though by no stretch of the imagination necessary for a good loaf.

Those flours that are highest in gluten are called bread flour, high gluten flour, patent flour, or hard-wheat flour. Most supermarkets today carry bread flour. Many health food stores will also carry a wider range of high gluten flours. In addition, there are a number of small mills around the country that mail order flour. One of the best, which I use frequently, is Great Valley Mills, 687 Mill Rd., Telford, Pa. 18969. Write or call (215-256-6648) for a catalogue order form.