Gift Ideas

Is it just me, or does gift-giving season always sneak up on you too? Are you stumped for gift ideas for the bread baker in your life, or are your people hounding you for your own wish list? Here are a few off-the-beaten-path items that bakers might not know about or buy for themselves.

I would love it if you would leave your own unusual, beautiful, or fun gift ideas in the comments.

A hake brush. This Japanese silky-soft, goat-hair artist’s brush is the best thing I’ve found for egg-washing delicate pastries, brushing excess flour from loaves before baking, or any job that requires a gentle touch. I like the one-inch size but wider brushes are also available. Order online or check your local art supply store. Under $10.
A Gambela basket. These traditional canoe-shaped Ethiopian bread baskets are woven of naturally-dyed grasses. Lay a piece of linen inside and it doubles as a proofing basket. My sister brought me mine from Ethiopia, but if you can’t get there before the holidays, the baskets are available from several online sites such as Ananse Village, a member of the Fair Trade Federation. About $20.
A painting or note cards from Will Paint for Food. Painter Shawn Kenney donates a portion of sales of his lovely food art to hunger-fighting organizations. Subjects are not limited to baked goods, so think about Shawn’s art for any food lover on your list. Cards are $20 for a set; contact Shawn for painting prices and availability.
A Super Peel. This ingenious tool makes transferring bread or pizza onto the baking stone a snap. It’s also great for transporting rolled-out pie crust or any other fragile or otherwise difficult-to-move dough and baked goods. What’s more, this is a small, friendly, family business that you can feel good about supporting. $32.
An antique dough trencher. These rustic oblong wooden bowls that were once used to raise dough make a lovely addition to any room. They can hold rolls, fruit, ornaments, or anything else. If you don’t have an antique shop near you, here’s an eBay search to get you started. Prices range from under $30 to over $100.
Cresci: The Art of Leavened Dough by Iginio Massari and Achille Zoia. The English translation of this Italian book is out of print, so it will cost you, but you’ll not find a more breathtaking collection of breads anywhere. The recipes, which lean heavily towards the sweet end of the spectrum, are not for beginners, but any baker will find inspiration in this lavish coffee-table-quality book. Definitely a splurge at about $200.
Yakitate!! Japan DVDs. If your favorite baker is an anime fan, he or she will get a kick out of the exploits of Azuma Kazuma, the 16-year-old boy-wonder-baker on a quest to create the quintessential “Ja-pan,” a bread Japan can call its own. The English-subtitled series also has annotations explaining the numerous Japanese puns that make it even more fun. Sample an episode or two of Yakitate!! Japan on YouTube. About $20 per set.

Post a comment » 14 Comments

  1. These are great ideas… wish we had easy access to such wonderful gifts here. I know there’s always Ebay and Amazon but postal rates are unbelievably high. Sigh, there’s nothing else to it, I’ll just come over and stay at your place while shopping like mad.

  2. Lovely ideas! I’m asking for proofing baskets this year, we’ll see what happens :)


  3. Susan,
    What a great lists, I especially eying on that Ethiopian basket. It really is beautiful. ANd the “Hake Brush” is a must. I don’t even want to wait for christmas to have it.

    So this year (apparently), I already have a few lists that hopefully my husband and my son will be able to find: Copper cannelle molds, authentic Alsatian Kougelhoph mold, and your Ethiopian basket (hope you don’t mind, I steal one of your list from you)
    Now, let’s wait and see if they can get me all of my lists.
    Thanks for the superb idea, Susan.

  4. Baking Soda, funny, I love to travel and one reason is I always love to see what I can get abroad that’s not available here. I did order a couronne banneton from France once and the shipping was more than the basket (I’m not doing that again any time soon).

    Jokergirl, I hope you get them!

    Elra, of course I don’t mind. I hope you get everything on your list!

  5. Susan,

    what a nice gifts; someone will be very pleased with those things. Fair trade shops are also common in Holland but I’ve never seen a ethiopean basket.

    Lucky for me I’ve found a German shop that delivers a wide variation of proofbaskets in Holland.

    Hope for you that you’ll get one of those wonderful gifts.

  6. An oven-sized baking stone would be nice so I could bake more than one bread item at a time. And, of course, I believe that vanilla beans would make a perfect gift. They are at the top of the list.

  7. Oooo…I like the bread basket too. Must check out the DVD too, hope I can find it :s

  8. I don’t really have any gift ideas to add, but I have a few people I’d like to e-mail this list to! Thanks Susan, you always have the best ideas!

  9. I want you for my santa – those are great gifts!

  10. Lovely presents, everything single one of them! How I wish the Italian book wasn’t so expensive… But the hake brush will do this season. Thanks, Susan.

  11. I didn’t expect the Yakitate DVDs on your list. That stuff is the bomb. I’ve tried the rice cooker bread and it actually does work :)

  12. Great ideas, Susan.

    I’ve been particularly fond of the silicone pastry brushes my sister gave me one year. The different colours mean that one can be used for neutral things (as in milk, butter, egg) and another for savoury (as in BBQ sauces)

    I too have been eying the superpeel ever since seeing a video of it in action – it looks fabulous. In the meantime, I’ve been using parchment paper on my peel to make moving things easier.

    When giving things to cooks (or even non-cooks) I like to wrap them in tea towels rather than wrapping paper. That way the wrapping can be truly recycled. After all, one can’t really have too many tea towels, can one?

    OR how about wrapping in pastry cloth?

    Another thing that I’d LOVE to receive is a roll of unbleached parchment paper. It’s not the easiest thing to find and even when it does appear on a shelf, it seems awfully expensive.

  13. I hope you all get everything on your lists!

    Judy, vanilla beans are a great idea!

    Jude, what, you think I don’t know how to have fun? :)

    Elizabeth, I love the towel idea for wrapping, like Japanese furoshiki:

  14. Wow. I should have suspected that the Japanese would have beautiful ways of folding fabric to wrap things. Thanks for that link, Susan. (I’ve always just tied the tea towel on with ribbon.)

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