Bake Break

Finding the best breads for holiday hosting

Finding the Best Breads for Holiday Hosting

It is possible to play Thanksgiving host and never open anything other than wine, never prepare anything beyond an artistically folded napkin. Restaurants and grocers from Luby's to Central Market will happily provide you with all the fixins, leaving you with nothing to contend with but carryout boxes. But for most people, agreeing to be host usually means there is at least some interest in the preparation of the feast.

Some people limit it to throwing together a time-honored family favorite, sweet potato/marshmallow casserole. Then there are other meal-makers who are so uncompromising with their feast that they insist on preparing every morsel from scratch, save the butter itself. We find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Roasting the bird is a job we wouldn't part with; it not only gives us a modicum of control over the juicy/dry issue, but the smell of turkey is as much a part of the day as sitting down at the table. Likewise, potatoes and vegetables are in our domain. Desserts are a nice course to delegate: That way, everyone invited gets to contribute. Where we often turn to the pros is the bread. There are too many wonderful bakeries in town and there is too little oven room to take on that task ourselves. And truth be told, the pros just seem to do it better. We've canvassed bakeries in the area to see what they will be preparing for the holidays, so you can at once wow your dinner guests and leave the baking to others. – Barbara Chisholm

Central Market

4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000

4477 S. Lamar, 899-4300

In addition to the usual wide range of dinner rolls that is always available (olive, pumpernickel, honey whole wheat, etc.), Central Market offers Brioche de Nanterre (brioche in loaf form) that can be pulled into nine- or 12-count rolls. For a very special look (and a bang-up hostess gift), get the holiday special breadbasket made of ... bread! Call for availability; the Westgate location anticipates having them by Thanksgiving, while the north store may not have them until closer to Christmas.

Great Harvest Bread Co.

3201 Bee Caves Rd., 329-9216

4815 W. Braker, 345-0588

Any of their flavored bread varieties (cheddar/garlic is a popular option) can be made in roll form by special order. There's a three-dozen minimum for these orders, but we doubt if you will have too many left over. Pumpkin spice loaves and muffins are on sale now, too.

Sweetish Hill Bakery

1120 W. Sixth, 472-1347

Bakes up some special breads for this time of year only. The herb onion bread is a wonderful base for stuffing, and the black sesame seed in the semolina loaf makes the breadbasket special. For individual varieties, there are 2 oz. baguettes, ciabatta rolls, and their usual roll assortment.

Texas French Bread

2900 Rio Grande, 499-0544

3213 Red River, 478-8794

1722 S. Congress, 440-1122

For old-fashioned dinner roll goodness, it's hard to beat the soft, buttery Parker House rolls that Texas French Bread bakes up for the holidays. Extra butter on top is gilding the lily, but isn't that what holiday dinners are all about? The ciabatta bread gets gussied up in a ring form with rosemary, while the usual whole wheat and ciabatta rolls are also available. Some special tea breads found at this time of year are pecan/raisin and cranberry/ orange/walnut.

Upper Crust Bakery

4508 Burnet Rd., 467-0102

While the brioche rolls are available year-round, their buttery and eggy goodness is especially welcome at Thanksgiving and other holiday dinners. For more texture you might go for the Italian or French rolls or perhaps the whole wheat with wheat berry or Honfleur rolls. If you're looking for a more assertive flavor punch, try the ricotta/herb round bread. Banana, pumpkin, date, cranberry, and blueberry tea breads are sweet options.

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Central Market, Great Harvest, Sweetish Hill, Texas French Bread, Upper Crust

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