Making memories

We all have our favourite Christmas moment. Mine is hanging my children’s first shoes on the Christmas tree. It is a moment tinged with both joy and nostalgia as I reflect how another year has gone by so quickly and I realise that Christmas is special because we make time to be together.

From the book - Making Bread Together

A loaf of bread is more delicious when you are sitting around a big pot of soup laughing with friends, a cake always tastes better when two slices are cut, so buying a baking gift makes those connections all the more definite.

For me a house really becomes a home when there is the smell of bread in the oven, and the best thing about baking is that we can do it as a family. From grandparents with time to improve their shaping techniques, busy mums who need to throw muffins together in a hurry, dads who fancy themselves as a suitable replacement for Paul Hollywood to children who need to be encouraged to bake their own delicious cakes rather than buy commercially produced ones.

Some of the most meaningful gestures don’t come all wrapped up in big red bows, they are experiences shared together. So I’ve put together my favourite gift ideas in this newsletter and my top tip to make your baking gift really extra special is to include your very favourite recipe inside your Christmas card, along with a date to bake together.

From the book - Making Bread Together

Best book of 2014

I love a good baking book and even more so if I actually bake from it ….

This is one for grandparents - Making Bread Together £16.99 is my favourite book of 2014. I’ve never heard such squeals of delight when I gave this book to my youngest daughter. It is absolutely brilliant and makes the kind of present that precious memories are made from. The step-by-step pictures, clear instructions and insightful recipes are exactly what you would expect from one the best bakers around, Emmanuel Hajiandreou (helped of course by his son), will get you and your young ones baking in the kitchen together!

My favourite stocking fillers

Cocoa powder at just £3.85 this cocoa is both organic and fairtrade. It’s wonderful stuff in cakes, not at all bitter and also happens to make really delicious hot chocolate. Perfect to warm you up on a frosty day.

Original Beans Mini Bar Collection £5.04 this extraordinary chocolate is as delicious as it is rare. This box contains tasters of the Original Beans chocolate and includes chocolate from war-torn Eastern Congo and from the Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest nature reserve and home of the last mountain gorillas.

Digital Hours/Minutes/Seconds Timer £8.99 - a small timer that is a real lifesaver in the kitchen. If your memory is as bad as mine, you need one of these. Simple and LOUD enough for me to hear even when I have wandered out of the kitchen.

Guess the utensil?

Danish Dough whisk - £7 - if there is one thing that I guarantee will delight any baker it is a Danish dough whisk – once they have guessed what it is for! It is used for mixing the ingredients for bread prior to kneading and marvellous for getting sourdough starter mixed up. In fact it’s the sort of gift that when it arrives you wish you could keep yourself so I’d suggest ordering two!

Bordelaise Professional Lame or Grignette £9.85 - I’m often asked how to get the perfect slash across the top of a loaf. My answer is that a perfect pattern starts with the perfect tool. All bakers should have a grignette. Yes, you can use an ordinary kitchen knife, but they often drag across the dough and deflate your loaf and it is hard to get an undercut, so I highly recommend a lame as used by baking professionals across the world (the secret is to make swift not slow cuts).

Professional Star Cutters £27.60
These are the very best quality cutters I have ever come across. They are the kind of cutters that will outlast me and I like to imagine that my grandchildren will squabble about who inherits them. Luckily there are 9 sizes in a sturdy box, made to make Christmas pastry and biscuit making for many years to come.

The best bigger bread baking gifts

My well-loved La Cloche

La Cloche Baking Dome £47.99 of all the possible gifts you could buy if I had to pick just one item from the BakeryBits site that I just couldn’t live without then it would be a La Cloche. I cannot overstate that this simple piece of equipment will make the single most major improvement to your bread baking. The clay pot creates miniature-baking environment, like that of a professional bakers oven, distributing the heat and creating the prefect atmosphere to bake the perfect loaf.

Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer £119.95 This proofer is about control. Anyone who needs to plan their day will appreciate how much this micro climate unit allows you to create the exact temperature that you need to prove your dough, which means that you can get consistent reliable results every time. Set the temperature lower for a longer “cool rise” or turn up the heat to give your dough a boost on a cold winter's day. And it all folds down for easy storage.

My favourite Christmas baking kits

I’ve put together some super kits to make Christmas baking easy - these are my favourites:

Finnish Christmas Rye and Buttermilk bread kit
This delicious bread will fill your house with the smell of baking rye, treacle and Nordic spices.

Panettone Kit
Perhaps one of the most popular is the Panettone kit. It has had superb reviews and comes with a straight forward recipe.

Christmas Cake Kit
Whisky, date and walnut Christmas kit. Quite possibly my favourite fruitcake of all time. There is still time to make your cake.


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