Below are my personal candidates for useful "tips and tools". I've reported on them elsewhere but I like the idea of having these sorts of things at one thread.
1) Shower caps
. In lieu of using plastic wrap and rubber bands, I frequently use the freebie hotel shower caps to cover a bowl in a dough is placed. The rubberized band clings to most dough containers and, because it is transparent, it allows you to see what is happening to the dough. And they are reusable.
2) Proofing box
. For me, this is one of my most useful tools. I use it to control dough temperature, especially in the winter, and I also use it to make pizzas (using the Bel Aria 00 flour) within an hour. I described and showed my proofing box at Reply #6 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,403.0.html
3) Straight-sided containers and rubber bands
. When I need to know when a dough has doubled in volume, I use a straight-sided translucent or transparent container (round or rectangular, it doesn't matter) and rubber bands. When I put the dough into the container, I press it down so that the surface is flat and place a rubber band around the container at that level. I then measure up twice the distance and place a second rubber band. When the dough rises to the level of the second rubber band (the dough may be domed a bit), I know the dough has doubled. Using rubber bands avoids having to hunt around for special pens that can write on plastic and having the markings actually stay there and not rub off. Most of my straight-sided containers are Rubbermaid, which come in several different sizes.
4) Large Hefty OneZip freezer storage bags
. When I want to ferment a dough at room temperature and to monitor its behavior, I often use a large Hefty OneZip freezer storage bag (any other equivalent brand will also do). It has a zip-type closure that seals the bag in one easy, gliding movement. I put the dough (very lightly oiled) into the bag, move the closure to almost the end of the bag to leave a small opening into the bag, insert a straw into that small opening, blow into the bag to inflate it, and then remove the straw quickly while I move the closure to its fully closed position. This procedure produces an inflated bag where I can see the dough during its entire rise. Another thing I noticed is that when I use a natural preferment in the dough, the smells of the dough intensify over a period of many hours because the volatile components are trapped within the inflated bag. When I open the bag and can smell the alcohol and other by-products of fermentation, I generally know that I am going to get good crust flavor because of these by-products of fermentation. For an example of the above technique (for a naturally leavened Lehmann dough), see Reply #132 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.msg10461.html#msg10461
5) Small freezer storage bags
. When I want to make several dough balls that need to be refrigerated and refrigerator space is at a premium, I frequently use several small freezer storage bags, one for each dough ball. After lightly coating each dough ball with a bit of olive oil, I place it into its own storage bag, flatten it by pressing against it from the outside, and then close the bag. If the dough is of a type that I do not expect to rise much, if at all, while in the refrigerator (such as a Lehmann NY style dough), I use the same technique as described in tip 4 above, but instead of inflating the bag, I suck out the air. That collapses the bag around the dough and produces a nice compact unit that requires little refrigerator space and will cool quickly because the bag itself is of very low mass. Of course, this technique may not work as well if the dough contains a lot of yeast or its temperature is high to begin with, since either of these will promote rapid volume expansion.
6) Metal containers
. When I want a dough to cool off quickly in the refrigerator, I sometimes use a metal lidded container, such as a metal cookie tin. Metal is a better conductor than plastic, glass, wood or other like material, so it will cool more quickly when in the refrigerator. If I want to cool the dough down even faster, I sometimes put the metal container--empty--in the refrigerator to cool while I am making the dough. While I haven't done it, I suspect that you could also put the metal container in the freezer for about 10 minutes to achieve the same result.
7) Plastic Doggie Bag
. This is a new tip that I haven't reported on before, since I have only recently been experimenting with it, so far with reasonably good results. This tip involves using one of those plastic see-through containers that restaurants often use to allow patrons to bring a small item of unfinished food home--a "plastic doggie bag" as it were. I have been using it to hold small dough balls while fermenting (most recently for a refrigerated dough). Rather than trying to use words to describe that item, I have shown it below in "open" and "closed" positions. As will be noted in the photos, the plastic doggie bag has a top lid that is conveniently hinged at the back and thus remains with the unit at all times. In the closed position, the lid attaches to two little pedestals on the main body at the left and right front corners. The nice thing about this unit is that it allows you to see the dough at all times, and it is compact enough to use at room temperature and in the refrigerator. And it is reusable. Its principal disadvantage is that it is fragile and prone to cracking if not handled gently.
8) Sign of the Cross
. Some time ago, I saw an Italian woman in a Tyler Florence segment on foodnetwork.com (on authentic Neapolitan pizza) make a cross in the dough once it was put into a container to rise. I didn't know whether the cross was functional, that is, to facilitate expansion of the dough, or whether it had religious significance. Maybe it was both. However, after trying this several times, I have noticed that when the dough has about doubled in volume, the horizontal and vertical cuts will have expanded and taken on the appearance and shape of petals of a flower. It's actually quite esthetic. I don't know if this approach is as accurate at using tip 3 above, but I now do it for divine inspiration, if for no other reason :).