If you really want to master baking, Malgieri suggests investing in an inexpensive scale. Most baking recipes call for metric weights for liquid and flour — Malgieri’s do, too, but he’s provided cup measurements for us — and a scale will help you make sure your measurements are precise.
Malgieri stresses the importance of using bread flour when baking because it creates the perfect texture. Since the bread machine revolution, most supermarkets carry national brands of bread flour like Gold Medal Better for Bread and Pillsbury.
A lot of baking recipes call for extra flour for dusting, but Malgieri warns against being heavy-handed during this process. Too much flour will make the bread heavy-textured and will give it a dull taste.
Along with a scale, an instant-read thermometer is a must when baking. It’s the most efficient and best way of determining whether bread is done or not.
If you’re not going to eat your bread right away and are freezing or storing for later use, make sure to let it cool completely before wrapping or bagging it, says Malgieri. When you’re ready to defrost, do so at room temperature and then reheat the bread at 350 degrees for five minutes before serving.
Last but not least, Malgieri says to remain calm. Getting worked up over activating yeast or letting the dough will only cause you stress. Have faith in the process and the recipe you’re using, and he promises the effort will result in a better tasting and less expensive bread than any you can find at the store.
Olive bread is another fun addition to your holiday meal. If you don’t like olives, try substituting another ingredient like roasted red peppers or capers. People will be asking for more seconds of the bread than of the mashed potatoes this year.
If you’re venturing into fresh bread baking with baguettes, Malgieri’s crostini recipe is a great one to try. Malgieri loves these for the holidays because they’re great to make in advance — just prepare the bread slices and toppings a day ahead of time. This recipe is great using the flatbreads and olive bread as well.
Have a few extra rolls lying around after the holiday meal? Malgieri’s stuffed peppers are a delicious and satisfying way to put them to good use.
Go beyond the pie this year and bake a chocolate almond cake. Malgieri suggests using a few slices of sandwich bread or a large roll to make the breadcrumbs this recipe calls for. For advance preparation, he suggests baking the cake ahead of time. To store, let the cake cool completely, add it back to the cake pan, wrap, and freeze. Defrost the cake earlier in the day while you prepare the chocolate glaze for serving.