This time of year, when the air outside is a little crisp and my kids are coming home from college soon, I think about making breads and bread recipes. To me, there is nothing like serving or enjoying a basket brimming with hot winter holiday breads. So I get a little bread crazed and read my way through some great cookbooks, watch some videos, and develop some bread recipes of my own, often testing them out on my gracious catering clients. I throw them in as a little something extra, which they love, and I also get their feedback, which I love. My kind of win-win.
I've thought—nay, dreamed—about going back to culinary school, this time to study bread making, and I've even spoken to the head of the programs and obsessed about the intricacies of making bread with really great bread bakers and instructors. My bread love puts me, well, us, in good company. People who live in areas whose physical geography and economic technology allowed for growing and processing wheat (or even people for whom processed wheat has become a significant import) often have some form of yeasted bread, whether baked, steamed, filled, flat, long, tall, thin, or otherwise. Since at least the Middle Ages, across the European continent, yeasted breads have included special fancy and celebratory yeasted holiday breads. I love bringing that custom to my American holiday tables.
Below are a few of my favorite yeast bread recipes for the winter season and the upcoming holidays.