Surprising Housewarming Gift Idea for 2020

Surprising Housewarming Gift Idea for 2020

Amy Celeste SmithJune 09, 2020

 A Bread Gift Basket Is Easy to Assemble!

Need a housewarming gift this summer?  Homemade bread is a hot trend in 2020, and it’s easy to create a gift-worthy bread basket that will surprise and thrill your new homeowner.  Purchase an attractive basket to hold your goodies.  Add a personalized cutting board and a serrated bread knife.  Tuck in a loaf of fresh from the oven sourdough French bread and wrap the whole thing up in tinted cellophane or a pretty tea towel. For those who love to bake, skip the bread and supply the recipe by printing ours off onto crisp white card stock and tucking it into the basket so they can bake their own. PRINT RECIPE. And for your most adventurous recipients, why not gift them a jar of sourdough starter with the recipe? You will surely be giving the most unique housewarming gift imaginable!

To really take it over the top, you can add a bottle of good olive oil and a set of small, decorative bowls for bread dipping.  Other noteworthy additions you might consider include fresh or dried herbs or a nice pepper grinder with peppercorns for adding to the olive oil for dipping.  Or maybe a shaped French loaf baking pan would be appreciated if the new homeowner is moving into a larger kitchen and has plenty of cabinet space for new gadgets.  Voila! A bread gift basket deluxe!





1 package dry yeast

  2 cups whole wheat or rye flour

  2 cups very warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)



Combine the water and the yeast in a deep glass or ceramic bowl.  Do not use a metal bowl because it can cause a reaction and ruin your starter.  Add the flour and stir to combine.  Cover with plastic wrap or cheesecloth and let sit in a warm spot until it becomes very bubbly and your starter has fully ripened, place into a lidded jar and store in the fridge.  It will keep for weeks if you replenish (feed) it.  Emilie Raffa, in her excellent blog "Sourdough Bread: A Beginner's Guide ", likens this relationship you have with your starter as "like feeding a pet". This blog, her website The Clever Carrot, and Emilie herself are all wonderful and highly recommended!



For the sponge:

One cup active starter

1 cup bread flour 

1 cup warm water

 Mix well until smooth.  Cover, and let sit in a warm spot for 1 – 2 days. 


Making the dough:

1 package dry yeast

¼ cup very warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)

1 T salt

½ t baking soda

3 T olive oil

3 cups bread flour


Let’s make dough! Dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the salt, baking soda, olive oil, sponge mixture, and 1 cup of the flour.  Mix until smooth.  Add the remaining flour and mix thoroughly.  Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and glossy.  You can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough, which will take about 5 minutes (but will take some of the adventure out of it!) Place the dough into a well-greased bowl and turn it over to grease the bottom of the dough.  Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise.  It is risen well when it has doubled in size. 

Ready to shape!  You can decide whether you would like to shape long loaves or rounds, also called boules.   Punch the dough down.  Divide into 2 balls of equal size. For long loaves: on a lightly floured surface, with floured hands, begin to shape each ball by first pressing the ball of dough into a flattened oval. Fold the oval in half lengthwise and flatten again.  Repeat this folding and flattening a couple more times.  Roll the loaf back and forth with your palms until lengthened to desired size.  Place seam side down into a greased trough-style French bread pan, or shape foil into to troughs and support on a large cookie sheet.  Cover with a tea towel for the second rising in a warm place.  This second rising should take about 30 – 60 minutes, and the dough will look puffy but does not need to double in size. For a great tutorial on shaping your dough into boules, check out this easy to follow post by Emma Christensen at

Ready to bake!  Place a cake or pie pan onto the bottom shelf of your oven and carefully fill halfway with hot water.  This will create steam to help your loaves bake correctly.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Slash the top of each loaf crosswise three or four times with a sharp knife.  Brush the tops with water.  Bake until the tops of the loaves are golden dark brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  This will take 20 to 25 minutes, so watch carefully.  Remove baked bread to a rack to cool.  Protect your loaves until cool from marauding housemates and any dog with enough reach to remove one from the counter.  Devour these two loaves and make plans to bake another two for gifting in your bread basket.

Sourdough- A Pretty Short Summary of a Very Long History

 The history of sourdough is intertwined with the history of bread making as early as the development of agriculture in Ancient Mesopotamia and the rest of the Fertile Crescent.   The first yeast risen breads were no doubt created by accident, when wild yeast and helpful bacteria drifted into an open vessel of raw dough and took up residence.  As the yeast multiplied, they produced gases which helped make the bread lighter and more palpable.  Lactic acid produced by the bacteria gave the baked bread a tasty sourness which was surely a welcome turn of events in an otherwise uneventful menu.

Noting the improvement in their bread products, early bakers began to encourage these micro-critters in their dough and soon realized that when baking their bread, if they kept back a small portion of their yeasty, tart dough, they could add it to the next batch of dough and it would continue to work it’s magic.  These starter batches, rich in yeast and lactobacilli, were maintained and passed down for generations in most every culture and used for an incredibly diverse array of baked goods. 

Today, with the advent of commercial yeast and bread baked for us primarily by large scale bakeries, sourdough creation is no longer necessary.  The great news is that these days, all things sourdough have been elevated to the status of artisan methods which can be easily enjoyed in any home kitchen.


Sourdough Trivia

  • The tangy flavor of sourdough is from the lactobacillus multiplying. OK, that sounds just plain gross but its incredibly yummy!
  • Chuckwagon cooks that fed the cowhands during cattle drives carried sourdough starter with them to make biscuits that would keep the cowboys full and happy.
  • Sourdough was introduced to California by French and Italian bakers who immigrated there during the Gold Rush.
  • San Francisco is famous for its superior sourdough loaves. Locals claim this is due to a microclimate which produces a unique lactobacillus strain.
  • When prospectors headed to Alaska in pursuit of gold, they took their revered sourdough starters with them.
  • Some families in Alaska claim their starters are over a century old, having strict secrets on the care and feeding of their “mothers”.
  • Before you protest, please note that a “mother” is another name for a batch of starter!
  • Other colorful names for starter you can throw around as you serve your guests fresh hot sourdough bread are chief, sponge, chef, and head. Your guests will be so entertained and happily stuffed!


 Ten Reasons to Try Sourdough-making

  • The baked goods you can create are just plain tasty.
  • A huge variety of yummy food can be tried.
  • Once you create a good starter, you can have fun with it for weeks.
  • A great way to share fun in the kitchen with kids.
  • Super way to introduce basic chemistry to older kids.
  • Any kid with reasonably clean hands can help knead the dough.
  • Shaping dough is way better than clay because you can eat it after it bakes!
  • Kneading dough is a great stress reliever.
  • Sourdough is an ancient technique that has stood the test of time and is an amazing way to teach kids some good food history.
  • It’s a whole lot of fun and the bread tastes incredible. If your family has never experienced fresh bread, then it’s about time!


Sourdough FAQ s


Q How do you make a sourdough starter?

A See recipe above!


Q How do you feed a sourdough starter?

A See instructions for “Making A Sourdough Starter From Scratch” above.


Q What should my starter smell like?

A  First it will smell yeasty, and as the lactobacillus multiply a sour aroma will be detected.  This is normal and gives the dough its tangy taste.


Q Are the bacteria harmful?!?!  It sure seems like they would be!

A Absolutely not!  Lactobacillus is a gut-friendly microbe which will cause no intestinal harm, so no worries.


 Q How long does a starter last?

A Properly cared for, your starter can last for years! Amazing!


Q What consistency should my starter be?

A This depends mainly on the recipe you are using. Many starters are runny but some are spongy. Just follow the directions carefully and it should produce good results no matter the consistency.


Q How does sourdough starter work? 

A Sourdough starter is a nice doughy yeast colony which creates a happy habitat for a gut-friendly bacteria.  The yeast gives off CO2 gas which causes the bread to rise, and the bacteria create a substance which causes the bread to taste tangy.  Although this sounds pretty gross and altogether nasty, it is harmless food chemistry which results in a delicious loaf of bread with a light chewy interior and a crusty golden brown exterior.


Amy Celeste Smith 06/10/2020

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