Baking Advice, Life

Christmas Gifts for the Bread Baker

Hello my lovelies! Who knew I’d be handing out advice on gifts. I’m fairly careful to make sure that I clearly signal any food related gifts that I actually want or need. I have been given some terrible cookbooks by well-meaning folks in the past. So this advice is to be used in conjunction with a little snooping or subtle questioning to make sure you’re on the right track and not doubling up on items already owned. These are all things that I use regularly and love and recommend for good bread baking at home. They vary in spendy-ness so there is something for everyone in there. To be fair I don’t yet own the last item. But I’ll take donations… Or obviously put this list out as a hint if you are after some great tools to help with your bread making! The estimated prices are in NZD. These are all things that can be picked up in stores or online (with the exception of the second hand books which need a bit of online digging).

Stocking Stuffers [under $10]

Here are a few little items that make life a lot easier. Pick these up for a few bucks to put a smile on the dial of your bread-making loved one.

Bench and bowl scrapers – the workhorse of bread-making. A slightly flexible scraper with a curved edge is great for getting dough out of bowls, helping to fold dough, scraping up bits of stuff stuck to the bench, dividing dough into loaves – a million things. You can pick one up in kitchen stores or online.

Shower caps – bear with me on this one. They are great to cover bowls of dough and can be reused for ages. Super convenient and better for the environment than using plastic wrap. And they will get a giggle. Pick them up at any discount store.

Small Gifts [under $30]

Here are a few things that don’t cost a lot but will make a huge difference to results. Thoughtful gifts that improve life are always welcome!

A digital scale – the ultimate tool to improve all baking, especially bread. While they range quite a bit in price you shouldn’t need to spend more than $30 to get a good one. In NZ the ones from The Warehouse are good and I used one of them for years until the buttons wore out. I use a Salter now but you don’t need to spend that much.

A lame {pronounced lahm} – this handle and razor blade device is perfect for scoring loaves of bread to encourage proper rising in the oven. In NZ you can get one on TradeMe, and in the US you can get them here.

A couche – this piece of flax linen is the bomb for making baguettes and other loaves that have a crisp crust. Dusted with flour it cradles loaves as they rise and absorbs moisture from the surface of the dough leaving them crisp and fabulous.

Books [$30 to $50]

Books are excellent gifts. When they are well chosen. I’ve been given some amazing books as gifts. It’s how I knew my snug bug was a good egg. I’ve also been given some shit ones. Not all cookbooks are created equal.

Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish – Pefect for the beginning bread baker. Easy to read and less intimidating than many others. A bit less judgy. I couldn’t take a picture of this because it is currently on loan to a friend!

Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman – Deep science for the more advanced baker. Deep. And lots of bread formulas that give great results but often need scaling for the home baker.

How to Make Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou – Excellent recipes for bakers who already have a feel for bread. The cooking times can be a little iffy so if you already have some knowledge you can make the adjustments needed. The recipes are excellent and there are a lot of great step by step photos.

Deep-Dive Second-hand Books to Prove How Thoughtful You Are [$10 to $30]

Here are a couple of excellent books that I picked up second hand which have excellent recipes and history in them that are hard to get new. These should get you big props for gifting thoughtfulness. Be aware that in NZ picking up these books can mean a slow delivery time so get on it! My favourite site is because they have flat rate international shipping.

The Italian Baker by Carol Field – Not exclusively bread but this book has excellent classic Italian recipes and background information about traditions in different regions of Italy.

Breads from La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton – Hard to find but full of the extremely detailed recipes developed by Nancy at her famous La Brea Bakery. For those looking to challenge themselves to create the perfect loaf.

The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz – recipes and stories from Joe’s travels around Europe along with some great tips for baking traditional loaves.

Spendy Gifts [$100+]

Some items are an investment but will get a lot of use. You can spend as much as you want on cast iron pieces but you don’t need to break the bank.

Cast Iron Griddle Pan – the big rectangle thing that is supposed to go on the stove top. I use a Lodge one to bake shaped breads and pizza. It’s the best pizza stone ever. And it makes baguettes super crusty. In NZ you can pick one up in a kitchenware store for around $120NZ.

Cast Iron Casserole – perfect for making sourdough loaves. Mine is a 5 quart/litre Le Creuset. I bought it with a bonus before I left my job. Get one with a metal knob on top if you’re getting an enamelled one so it doesn’t melt in the oven. Lodge raw cast iron ones are excellent too and a much more manageable price ($150NZ). Shop around to get the best price – it is an investment that will be used for years so make sure you get the right one.

The Gift to Get You Out of that Big Hole You’re In…

So you might have the disposable income to buy gifts in the $800-$1,000 range… or you really need to get into someone’s good books…

Modernist Bread – the just released five volume bread encyclopaedia developed over four years of testing and research at the Modernist Cuisine Lab run by Nathan Myhrvold. You will know whether or not you or someone else wants this. It’s obsessive and scientific and beautiful.

I hope there are some ideas in here for you to give or ask for. I want everyone to be able to make the best bread they can. And I believe in practical gifts. I’d love to hear what you are coveting and recommending.

Give useful gifts. Give them with love. Look after each other.


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5 thoughts on “Christmas Gifts for the Bread Baker

  1. Yes! A lame. That is totally going on my list. I only remember I want one when I’m just about to put a loaf in the oven and I want to score it first. 😄

  2. Hi Kearin, just a quick comment re using a Cast Iron Casserole for an overnight slow rise sourdough. My sourdough must have been quite acidic, as it caused the cast iron to rust, and the dough went all grey and gross where it touched the iron. I cooked it in the casserole dish anyway, but had to cut the sides and bottom off. Even then it wasn’t good, so the chickens got it. Perhaps an enamel coated one would have worked better. Kind regards, David

    1. Hi David – from your comment it sounds like you may have left the dough to rise in the cast iron dish? If the dough only went straight into the preheated dish to bake (as the instructions say to do) the dough would not have any chance to interact with the surface as the heat will seal the bottom of the loaf almost instantly. If you use a piece of baking paper to lift the dough into the hot dish the paper will also provide additional protection for the dish 😊

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