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Wordloaf Holiday Bread Basket
Once again, I’ve put together a holiday gift guide of bread-, grain-, and baking-related things I think the baker in your life (including yourself) might appreciate. (Here’s my 2021 Guide if you need even more ideas.) Because the list is long (so long that you’ll need to read it in full on the Substack website), I don’t go into too much detail about everything that is on it, but I can promise that if it’s here, it comes with my recommendation. And most of these things are items you should still have time to track down before it’s high time to stick a bow on them.
Full disclosure: Some of the following links are affiliate links (marked with a ‡), meaning that I stand to receive a small cut of the money you spend on them. You are entirely free to buy them elsewhere or without using the link, but I hope you’d see it as another form of support for the work I do here. I wouldn’t recommend anything that I don’t 100% stand behind myself.
The following titles are ones I’ve shared here already, and they are on this list because they are my favorite and most-used titles of the past year, and have a permanent slot on my shelves:
Julia Skinner’s Our Fermented Lives
Tara Jensen’s Flour Power
Brian Levy’s Good and Sweet
Kitty Tait’s Breadsong
Lukas Volger’s Snacks for Dinner
Emma Zimmerman’s The Miller’s Daughter
Reem Assil's Arabiyya
And these are some new books I haven’t mentioned here yet (but some of which
^ I will be sharing excerpts of eventually). Not all are bread-specific, but each involves using flour or grains in one way or another:
Jennifer Latham’s Baking Bread with Kids.^ A book of bread baking techniques and recipes for kids 7 and up and their parents, from the former head baker of Tartine Bakery. I love it so far, and it’s given me lots to consider when it comes to presenting breaducational information that is easy for anyone to grasp.
Maurizio Leo’s The Perfect Loaf.^ A comprehensive guide to sourdough baking, from soup to nuts. I only got my copy the other day, but I can already say that if you are serious about baking sourdough bread, you are going to want a copy of this book.
Ken Forkish’s Evolutions in Bread.^ The follow up to Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast, this one focusing entirely on pan breads, both yeasted and sourdough. Forkish includes Dutch oven loaves as “pan” breads, so the book serves as a thorough introduction to bread baking for home bakers.
Irina Georgescu’s Tava^ (Eastern European Baking and Desserts from Romania and Beyond). This is a beautiful book, filled with amazing-looking baked delights from Romania, which (news to me) is a melting pot of cultures from well beyond its borders. Highly recommended, by both me and Nigella Lawson.
Aleksandra Crapazano’s Gateau. French baking, cakes and otherwise, is generally considered complicated and fussy. With more than 150 recipes, this book makes it plain that French home cooks love a simple, delicious cake as much as anyone.
Polina Chesnakova’s Everyday Cake. While Gateau is for a baker looking to delve deep into culinary history, Everyday Cake is the book for someone who wants to cut to the chase and make a beautiful, perfect cake. Its forty-five beautifully-photographed recipes cover just about every style of cake you could think of, and give instructions for numerous variations.
Ruby Tandoh’s Cook as You Are.^ I LOVE this book beyond words. Not just for the obvious excellence & creativity of the recipes, but even more for the joy, confidence, and liberation it instills in the reader. It is a book I want everyone to own, and one I want to use as a model for one of my own. Gonna have lots more to say about it in the future.
Hannah Che’s The Vegan Chinese Kitchen.^ If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll know that I’ve gone “mostly” vegetarian recently, so I am excited to delve into this book further, especially the long section on Chinese “mock” meats using wheat gluten as the base.
The Leung Family’s The Woks of Life.^ The much-anticipated cookbook companion to the Woks of Life website, the resource for Chinese and Chinese-American cooking online. I haven’t spent much time with it yet, but I have no doubt it will serve as an essential guide for years to come.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own Bread Baker’s Pocket Companion, which many people have already bought to give as gifts this year. (I’ve even had a few baking schools and bakeries buy them to give to students and staff, which is such an honor.) The second printing is on its way to me now, and orders placed before 12/16 will definitely ship in time for Xmas (in the US, that is).
These are just a few kitchen items I use regularly that I wanted to remind you of. For all of my equipment recommendations, see my (heavily updated as of 11/29) Mega Equipment and Ingredients Guide:
Bannetons (aka brotform), round or oval ones, sized to fit at least 1.5lb of dough. (Larger is generally better here, because large ones can accommodate doughs of various sizes, while smaller ones cannot.) I love these wood pulp ones from Flourside, which not even the wettest of doughs will stick to, but they are often sold out. (Several sizes are currently available!) And recently I discovered that these identical ones from Bulka are available from the evil store, which you are forgiven for patronizing since these are otherwise so hard to come by.
A Challenger Bread Pan‡ or a Fourneau Bread Oven. I recently did some testing for Serious Eats, comparing the Challenger pan to the Fourneau, and ended up liking them both, but for different reasons. You’ll be able to read the details soon, but the bottom line is that both work equally well to make great loaves, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. The Fourneau is easier to use if you find the Challenger on the heavy side, since it doesn’t need to be moved once placed in the oven (it has a cast iron door to enclose the loaf during steaming), and it comes apart in pieces. But it takes up a ton of room and is best for those with lots of kitchen storage or (better yet) a double wall oven, so you can leave it set up and ready to use all the time. The Challenger is heavy, but no bigger than any other Dutch oven, so it works best for those with limited space (and lots of muscles).
A $300 toaster splurge: Man do I love my Balmuda toaster oven. I’m testing and reviewing one for Serious Eats right now (expect a detailed report soon), but the bottom line is that it makes amazing toast, even out of bread that is well past the point of no return for other toaster ovens, thanks to the fact that it steams the bread before it starts toasting it. It works perfectly on pastries and pizza too.
Pasta-making tools from John Francis Designs. I recently spent the morning hanging with John Welch in his Lowell studio, for a piece I wrote for Edible Boston. His tools are both works of art and functional. For more on how to use that ravioletti mold on the left (including a recipe), see this excellent post from Pasta Social Club. And read this interview with John by my friend Leah Mennies of Above the Fold.
If you ordered a booklet or dried starter from me, you’ve probably seen my bread stamp. In case you are looking for a similar custom stamp, I can highly recommend those made by Simone Bryant at Barneby Fox.
Flours and Ingredients 🌾
Flours from Washington’s Cairnspring Mills‡. I’ve been using Cairnspring’s flours a lot recently, and really love them. If they are local-ish to you, I highly recommend them. (My feeling is that you should patronize the millers closest to you to reduce the carbon footprint of your baking, if possible.) Use the code the code WORDLOAF22 for 20% off your orders.
Ditto for my friend Jen Lapidus’ Carolina Ground flours, especially if you are in the south.
Anything and everything from my local, wonderful spice merchant, Curio Spice‡, but especially their new line of Vietnamese spices and blends, including cassia cinnamon, Bốn Viet Quatre Épices, and Da Lat coffee-rub blend. If you place an order, be sure to use the code the code WORDLOAF for a 10% discount.
Burlap and Barrel’s spices and spice blends, including this new cardamom extract which I have not yet tried but ordered as soon as I learned about it (will add a full report once I do, but I have no doubt it is amazing). By the by, 2023 is the year in which I finally finish work on my own B&B Armenian spice blend collaboration, something that has been in the works awhile now.
Z&Z’s Palestinian za’atar, Aleppo pepper, salt and more. I love this place, and their za’atar is some of the best I have ever had.
Artwork, Apparel, and Merch 👕
My friend Carla Finley of Apt 2 Bread has started making these amazing “dead dough” bread mirrors. It’s too late to get one in time for Xmas, but she’s doing a preorder for January’s batch, so you could send someone a photograph as a placeholder in the meantime (or just get one for yourself!) I’m going to do a studio visit and an interview with her early next year for Wordloaf.
My pal Dayna Evans has recently gone all-in on her Philly bakery project Downtime Bakery, which is the sort of news I love to hear. And she’s started selling merch, including this cheery yellow t-shirt that I have and wear proudly.
My other pal Annie Clapper at The Family Crumb Bakery has some wonderful Bread Friends merch, including Ts, mugs, and stickers, all of which the baker in your life will want.
My fellow Cantabridgian Amy Larson of Overseasoned has an amazing line of apparel, and accessories for feminist baker in your life (i.e., all of them).
If your giftee can get down to VA, my pal Tara Jensen has a bunch of in-person workshops happening early next year, including one on sourdough croissants and another on babka & bagels. (Tara and I are planning on teaming up again for another workshop next summer, so stay tuned for the deets on that.)
I think that is enough for one holiday guide, but if you have other ideas for bready gifts, please add them in the comments below for all of us to know!