You can, obviously, buy great bread. (I recommend the artisan breads at Trader Joe's and Costco makes really yummy Italian loafs, both whole grain and traditional white.) But with minimal effort, you can make your own bread. I will admit to often feeling intimidated by the prospect of baking bread - which is why I now have a bread machine. But I am quite brave when it comes to making quick breads. Quick breads don't require yeast; they use baking powder/soda for leavening. Quick breads are easy to make, easy to adapt and, yes, they are quick. You can have the whole thing done in under an hour, baking time included.
There are lots of quick bread recipes out there, but my favorite variety for serving with winter stews and soups is beer bread. Here is a basic recipe:
- Preheat oven to 375
- Sift into a bowl: 3 cups flour (white/wheat or a combo), 3 tsp baking powder, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt
- Add 12 oz of beer at room temperature and stir gently until just combined. (Get your kids to help with this part - lots of bubbles = fun times in the kitchen.)
- Pour into a greased loaf pan and cover with 2 tbsp melted butter. (Don't wimp out and skip the butter!)
- Bake 35-40 minutes.
And if you are looking for a cute, cheap and creative holiday gift, combine the dry ingredients in a ziploc bag or mason jar, put the bag/jar in a gift bag with a bottle of beer and a card with the cooking instructions.