Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide- Homemade Bread

I'm a devoted reader of the New York Times dining section; reading about food and cooking and restaurants in New York lets me vacariously experience the best dining in the world. I even have a mild crush on Frank Bruni, the fantastic restaurant reviewer (alas, he is gay and in his 40's). But because I'm not much of a cook and have zero skill as a baker, I generally just skim over the recipes, never venturing to try one on my own. This is the New York Times, not Rachel Ray, so I think I have reason to be a bit intimidated.

But when I came across this article about easy to make bread, I was intrigued. Making bread is normally so time-consuming and difficult that hardly any home cooks ever make it, and I'd certainly never imagined that I could successfully bake a loaf that was good enough to justify the time and effort it takes to make it. This recipe is different because it requires no kneading and only a few ingredients; the trick is letting the time do the work (in all, the dough sits out for between 18-20 hours).

So I decided to give it a try once I was home on Thanksgiving break, with the help of my Aunt Nancy, who served as the resident bread expert (she's the only family member to have baked bread before). I did it all by myself, all three extremely simple steps, and I'm happy to say that my first foray into bread baking was a success. It felt good to know that I didn't screw up something that (supposedly) a four year old could make.

The loaf was beautiful, with a thick, crispy crust and a wonderfully soft and airy interior. It looked (and tasted) as good as any basic bakery loaf, but because it was warm and fresh out of the oven, it was even better. I ate half the loaf and napped the rest of the afternoon, in carbohydrate bliss.

If you are inept in the kitchen and want to impress your friends or family, I recommend you try this recipe. It would make the perfect hostess gift next time you're invited to a wine and cheese party, a dinner party, or any holiday meal. It's also a very thoughtful thank you gift for anyone who's done something special for you. If you want to make it extra-nice, include a jar of preserves or honey.

Make sure though that you tell the person that you (seriously!) made it yourself, as they'll assume it was bakery-bought. This bread is so good though, no one will ever suspect that the whole thing only took you about 6 minutes.

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