It takes a cold snap before I’ll even contemplate Christmas. In East Devon, and certainly this year, that has arrived pretty late. So, despite my bah humbug tendencies, the sudden change in weather along with Christmas noises from my wife (and Vanessa), I feel a bit like Canute, very much with my feet wet. Vanessa takes delight in telling me daily that she has already finished her Christmas shopping, which I am ignoring as best I can, but with the big day only 4 weeks away, it is time to unveil Vanessa’s list of must-have Christmas equipment.

I‘m not suggesting for one minute that you buy all of these…. but you know forwarding this email to the right person in your life with a large mega hint may mean that you actually get something you really, really want and will actually use next year (hence the title of the email... just don’t forget to point out the things you want!)

These are my 7 absolute couldn’t live with out items in my kitchen and I bake pretty much every day so here we go …

Featured Products

La Cloche | £47.99

Without doubt this has to be the ultimate bread making gift for any bread maker. When you have invested your time, money and love into your flour, yeast, salt and water, this clay pot transforms the domestic bake into a loaf akin to a loaf you would expect to come out of an artisan bread maker’s oven. It is in some ways a magic pot and I giggle slightly as I write this, but I have seen what seem like disastorous loaves recover beautifully under the dome in the heat of the oven. This is because it eliminates drafts and uneven heat from distortion and by evenly distributing the heat around the bread.

The Oblong Baker | £46.79

This oblong version of the cloche is absolutely brilliant for French-style batards. You can fit into it a longer, slimmer loaf than in the cloche and this is definitely for anyone who already loves their cloche.. The oblong baker is ideal if you have flavoured your loaf and decorated the top with tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs, goats cheese etc, as it protects the loaves from catching and over-baking on top.

Bannetons | From £11.41

We’ve got a huge collection of bannetons at BakeryBits and I am going to have to admit to being slightly obsessed with them myself. I am particularly fond of little 500g bannetons which are a perfect as a gift. I always use two as I make a 1kg batch of two which divides into them perfectly. Bannetons come in various shapes and sizes and each gives its own type of loaf – those that are great for toast, those for sandwiches, those that produce a large family-size loaf and those that allow you to stand back and admire the pretty patterns. Ultimately the job of a banneton is to contain dough in a structured way for its final prove while wicking away the moisture to give you the best possible crust making them an essential for the keen baker.

Mini RayTemp Infrared Thermometer | £28.80

No one wants to pass up the opportunity to play James Bond, bakers included. With this high-tech infra-red thermometer, the temperature of the water can be taken to control the speed of fermentation. It can also be used to check the oven temperature (home ovens are notoriously inaccurate). Of course the temperature of Blofeld’s cat can also be taken (keep away from its eyes though).

Try an Interesting Flour | From £2.50

For you or for a present, it’s a funny thing when you are a baker as you can get stuck in a rutt with the same flour. Patrick tells me that the office is often asked what flour would make an interesting present – I know he tends to suggest the Lammas Fayre Medieval Peasant flour, but I’m thinking about suggesting that you push yourself and others out of their comfort zone by encouraging them to bake with a new flour. The Italians have so many styles of white flour it is amazing when compared to the usual plain/strong in UK. Not just one for every day of the week – they must have one for each day of advent.

Mason Cash Mixing bowls | £11.18

Baking is not just a job that needs doing. It is a comfort, a joy and a ritual and part of that is the bowls and equipment that you choose to help you do it. Sometimes picking a bowl that can be dual purpose – working as a mixing bowl and a fruit bowl; something as beautiful as a Mason Cash bowl becomes familiar, a bit like a reliable friend that you know is perfect for certain tasks in the kitchen. Often these bowls are handed down over generations, as they are so robust and familiar to family life.

…and finally…A pet is not just for Christmas | Fresh Sourdough Starter from £14.00

Fresh sourdough starter makes for a very well-behaved pet: it doesn’t need to be walked, groomed or taken to the vet. It doesn’t need a corner of the kitchen, just a small amount of fridge space and doesn’t need to be fed everyday either, it has simple needs, just a little flour and water once in a while. Give someone the nudge they need to have a crack at sourdough baking with a pot of fresh sourdough starter.

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Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

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