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Is there a bread baker on your gift list this holiday season? Like any other hobbyist, we bread bakers lust after the gadgets of our avocation. Knitters may yearn for a new pair of rosewood needles or skeins of vicuña yarn, woodworkers may populate their list with new saws or enough mahogany to build something special, but a bread baker’s list leads to a warm tummy for the whole family. I call that a win-win situation. One that starts with these great gifts:
Roul ‘Pat Kneading Mat from Amazon, $39.80. I was taught to knead bread on a piece of floured waxed paper or a floured paper bag. It works, as long as you don’t mind chasing the paper all over the counter. Then I purchased this mat, and my bread baking experience became much more enjoyable. The Roul ‘Pat is non-stick on both sides, meaning it sticks to the counter while kneading or rolling out dough, but the dough doesn't stick to the mat. It cleans up easily and lasts forever. I can’t imagine how I did without it.
Rock Maple Rolling Pin from King Arthur Flour, $42.95. As with many things, old-time bakers knew best - maple is the way to go. Forget plastic or silicone rolling pins, nothing works nearly as well as a maple pin. It’s heavy enough to roll out even the most developed dough, but light enough that the kids can use it. Plus, maple is nearly indestructible, so those kids may be using this family heirloom while baking with their own kids someday.
Brotform from King Arthur Flour, $29.95. You know those beautiful, round, artisan loaves pictured in almost every bakery ad? We home baker want to make those too. This is how, with a brotform. Dough goes into the brotform to rise, and then is gently flipped onto a stone or sheet to bake. Voila! Beautiful, artisan made bread from the home oven. Are you listening Santa? This has been on my list for two years now.
European Style Artisan Bread Flour from King Arthur Flour, $7.95. Many people might think a bag of flour is a pretty lame gift, but not the bread bakers on your list. This isn’t just any flour, it’s the same flour used to make true French baguettes or Italian bread. No, I don’t mean the loaves found at the local grocery store for $0.99, I mean true European breads. Unless your bread baker lives in a major city, or Putney, Vermont, home of King Arthur Flour, it’s nearly impossible to find this flour locally. If you are looking for a truly unique gift, this is it.
Flower Pot Bread Kit from Pinetree Garden Seeds, $24.95. Pinetree Garden Seeds is a company out of Maine that sells not just seeds, but an eclectic mix of related items like garden fairies, homemade soap supplies, and interesting kits. The Flower Pot Bread Kit is new this year, but I already predict it will be a hit. I’ve always considered making bread in flower pots, but have been too lazy to scrub my old clay pots to the point where I want to bake in them. That problem is solved here. The kit comes with a towel, pot holders, a bread recipe and additional information.
Bread Dipping Set from Kitchen Krafts, $17.95. Homemade bread is wonderful. Homemade bread dipped in olive oil and herbs is even better. This set includes four different herb mixes and four dipping bowls, along with a cruet. Include a bottle of olive oil and show your bread maker just how much you appreciate their talents.
Romertopf Clay Baker by Romertopf, $47.99. Our traditional home ovens are perfectly fine for baking a nice loaf of soft, white bread. But crusty artisan-style bread requires the addition of steam. Commercial bakers have ovens that inject steam, but those ovens are not practical for most homes. Think of a clay baker as a mini steam injection oven that fits in a home oven. Unlike many clay bakers, Romertopfs are not glazed and must be soaked in water before using. I purchased my Romertopf at least 15 years ago. It makes a wonderful stew, but I use it primarily for bread; beautiful, crusty, bread. I guarantee that most bread bakers would love to have a commercial bread oven, but a Romertopf is the next best thing!
Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood and Jean Wood, Mother Earth News, $19.95. Sooner or later, almost every bread baker experiments with sourdough breads. And one experiment leads to another, and then another as we learn to appreciate the additional flavor that comes from a wild-fermented loaf. Ed Wood is a modern American sourdough “pioneer” of sorts. He and his wife have collected sourdough starters and developed sourdough recipes for years now, and happily share their expertise in this, their most recent book.
Grit Guide to Homemade Bread from Mother Earth News, $6.99. This basic guide is perfect for new bread bakers, want-to-be bread bakers, or experienced bread bakers who want to know more about the process. It includes information about making pizza, bagels, quick breads, and flat breads too.
So, bread bakers – what “got-to-have” item is on your list this year?