This is the Baking Bites 2008 Holiday Gift Guide for Bakers – about time, too, since there are only a few weeks of shopping left before Christmas and Hanukkah begin! If you like to bake or spend time in the kitchen, you might use these as inspiration for your wish list. And if you have a baker in the family and simply like to munch on some tasty homemade baked goods, it never hurts to butter up the baker with a gift to get him or her into the kitchen and try out a new recipe (I know, because it definitely works on me!).
Kitchen Gear and Accessories
You don’t need fancy equipment to make things happen in the kitchen, but having good equipment that lasts a long time makes things go a lot smoother.
- Good measuring tools are essential. The Adjust-A-Measure set includes adjustable spoons that can be used for any small amount and a measuring cup that works well for both wet and dry ingredients, thanks to the unique way it pushes ingredients out with a plunger (similar to the one Alton Brown uses on Good Eats).
- In the unique equipment department, an Aebleskiver pan is a really fun gift. The light, spherical Danish pancakes are easy to make and a great change of pace from regular pancakes – plus they can easily be filled with jam, fruit or chocolate before serving.
- I almost always recommend a stand mixer as a great gift for a baker who doesn’t have one. They’re very helpful for cutting down on mixing times and make kneading bread dough a lot easier (and less messy). There are plenty of good inexpensive stand mixers, and I would check out the KitchenAid Classic as a solid option under $200 and opt for a heavier duty model if your budget can be stretched. The KitchenAid store is offering free shipping right now, and their outlet has some good deals, too.
There are a few items that bakers need more than other cooks, so these are a few baking-specific ideas.
- Baking pans with silicone handles pretty much eliminate the need for pot holders because the handles never get hot. They’re built right into the pan, minimizing the chance of slippage and providing a solid grip on a hot object. It’s a nice feature if you’re looking for a some new bakeware.
- You can’t go wrong with a good cake cover. It provides plenty of storage space for cakes, muffins, cupcakes and even cookies, as they can be stacked inside. The Wilton Cake Caddy is one of the best I’ve found, with a wide base, roomy top, easy and secure clips for sealing the container, and a handle on top that makes it easy to carry anywhere.
- Vanilla is a key element in sweet baking, so a bottle of good-quality vanilla is a great little gift. Sonoma Syrup Co’s Vanilla Bean Crush has an excellent and is full of specks of real vanilla bean. A jar of vanilla paste – which is thicker than regular extract but can be used the same way – will also have lots of seeds from real vanilla beans and is just as good a choice.
Many kids would rather eat baked goods than make them, but once they get into the kitchen and play with ingredients, they all seem to have a great time with it.
- For the holidays, a gingerbread apron seems like the most appropriate gift to give, but any kid sized apron is a great present and a real kid-sized chef jacket is even better. It makes the child feel dressed for the part and gives them a little extra confidence – not to mention that it helps keep their clothes clean when working with flour or other things that tend to get everywhere.
- Head Chef kitchen utensils are made of brightly colored silicone and have action figure-like poseable bodies as handles, making them fun and functional for kids in the kitchen. Speaking of kitchen utensils, this kids apron comes with its own set of kid-sized tools if you’re looking to combine a few gifts into one item.
- There’s no better way to wash down some homemade cookies than with a glass of milk, and even though it’s not quite baking-related, I suspect that the milk will go down even better if it is sipped through a homemade crazy straw designed by the [young] baker.
Any cookbook can make a great gift, and you certainly know your audience better than I do, so if there is a single-subject cookbook that aligns with your giftee’s interests (like S’mores, for instance), it’s a good idea to check it out before.
- An all purpose cookbook is one that packs in a lot of recipes into just about every category, from cakes to pastries to cookies, and sometimes yeast breads, as well. They’re big, but always a good reference to have on the shelf. Baking for All Occasions is a great, accessible all-purpose book, as is Baking: From my Home to Yours.
- A Passion for Ice Cream is a more focused book, but includes plenty of non-ice cream recipes to accompany those of its main focus. Ice cream doesn’t have to be saved for summertime!
- If breads are the main focus of your kitchen, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is an excellent book to get started with in pursuit of baking rustic, crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside loaves.
- Fans of Bravo TV’s popular show Top Chef will love Top Chef: The Cookbook. It features recipes from the show and from chefs who appeared in earlier seasons of the program.
- For anyone interested in the “why” behind the finished product, How Baking Works is a book that goes in depth describing the properties of different ingredients and how they interact.
Note: The recipe for the Gingerbread Cookie pictured above is posted here.