Wordloaf Holiday Gift Guide
I’m something of an anti-capitalist Scrooge when it comes to holiday gift-giving, since I think Christmas and related holidays are just excuses to spend money on things most of us don’t actually need. But in the case of items relating to bread, I consider those essential purchases, so I encourage giving them as gifts (especially to oneself). For that reason, I want to share a list of things I think you should all know about.
Because the list is long, I won’t go into detail about everything that is on it, but I can promise that if it’s here, it’s worth looking into. And most of these things are items (or experiences) you should still have time to track down before the supply chain locks up.
One note: Those items where I stand to receive compensation in the form of an affiliate link or similar arrangement I have marked with a *. You should not feel any obligation to purchase the item using my link, and I promise I wouldn’t include anything here if it wasn’t wonderful, full stop.
The following titles are ones I’ve spoken/raved about here already, and they are on this list because they are my favorite and most-used titles of the past year, and permanent fixtures in my collection:
Pizza For Everyone, by John Carruthers.
And these are some new books I haven’t mentioned here yet:
Sourdough Culture, by Eric Pallant. This is one of my favorite reads of the last few months, and one I think anyone with an interest in bread, sourdough or otherwise, will enjoy. I expected to find it interesting but academically dry, when it was instead a book I couldn’t put down until I’d finished it. I’m actually going to be sharing an excerpt of it—courtesy of the author and his publisher—with you all tomorrow in a separate email, so stay tuned for that.
Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys, by Sandor Katz. Any new book from fermentation guru Sandor Katz is a must-own, but this one is especially wonderful. It’s the first of his books that contains full-color images, for starters. And that’s because it is part travelogue and part recipe book, organized by the type of fermentation in question, followed by the region of the world it is practiced in. It includes two bread recipes, one for a whole-grain bread fermented using a starter made from actively-fermenting beverages, and one for salt-rising bread.
The Joy of Pizza, by Dan Richer. I touched upon this last month, but I wanted to say again that I think this is the best book about making pizza (of many kinds) at home to come out in years.
Mooncakes and Milk Bread, by Kristina Cho. You all know how much I love my tangzhong breads, and this wonderful book about Chinese bakery and dim sum baking is filled with examples of them. I haven’t baked from it yet, though I can tell from the formulas and photographs that it is the work of someone who knows their stuff, and I can’t wait to.
SHELF LIFE / 保質期 Singaporean small-batch vegan baking, a 2021 minizine, by Gan Chin Lin. This is one I only have as a PDF so far, but the print zine is en route to me. Lin—@tumblinbumblincrumblincookie on Instagram—is a vegan baker from Singapore and England who does amazing things with tangzhong, all without needing eggs or butter to achieve beautiful results. Recipes include “pandan bakery waffles”, “salted senbei ‘brown butter’ chocolate chip cookies” (using pantry oils instead of expensive vegan butters), and “souper focaccia”, made using leftover soup!!
These are just a few kitchen items I use regularly that I wanted to remind you of. The Challenger pan is a pricey one, but will really take your (or your giftee’s) bread baking to the next level, especially when it comes to long loaves.
Heatproof gloves* (also from Challenger)
Half- and quarter-sheet pans with plastic lids, like these ones from Nordic Ware.(I love these for storing dough balls in the fridge, or proofing focaccia without needing to use plastic wrap. Be sure to buy them in matching sets, because the lids aren’t universal.)
Prints and a 2022 calendar from artist Molly Reeder. Molly is one of my favorite artists, and her work is all focused on food, botany, and mycology. I have one of her bread prints and an oyster mushroom one, both of which I love, and I have ordered one of those calendars.
Courses, Both Online and In-Person
New Year’s Beach House Bake A-Way Weekend with Tara Jensen (1/14-17, 2022). Tara is one of the most knowledgeable and best teachers of bread baking around, and this luxe weekend workshop in a beach house in Florida sounds pretty sweet (especially in January).
If January is too soon (or Florida is too far) for you, Tara’s also teaching one of her famous week-long Bread Camps on June 20-24, in Pine Mountain, KY. (Tara also teaches virtual classes—including a sourdough donut one in a few weeks—so get on her list for those.)
Simplifying Sourdough Bread* and Simplifying Sourdough Pizza*, two very comprehensive online courses from Matthew Duffy, the baking instructor who was just named “Canada’s Sourdough Expert.” While I haven't spent a lot of time with these courses yet, I have no doubt anyone who uses them will be in very good hands. Matthew and I have arranged to give all Wordloaf readers a 10% discount on the price his classes, using the coupon code WORDLOAF.
The Bread Baker’s Guild of America. While $95/year is perhaps a little much for the casual baker to spend, I think that anyone with a serious interest in bread baking should join the Guild, and a membership for your favorite baker makes a wonderful gift. I’ve been a Guild member for years, and many of the most formative (and fun) experiences I’ve had in baking have happened at Guild events. Membership gets you discounts on workshops (both online and in-person, when that is a thing again), a subscription to Bread Lines, a quarterly print magazine that is loaded with great formulas and information, access to the complete archive of some 20 years worth of recipes and formulas, and access to the Guild email list, where you can ask questions of some of the best bakers in the US and beyond.
That’s it for my list. In case you still need ideas, here are two great food-related guides from others:
Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments!