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Breaking for bread: Favorite recipes fit for holiday tables or morning coffee

The bread machine offers an idyllic vision: waking in the morning in the morning to the aroma of a freshly baked loaf; watching from a safe distance, dry and clean, as it manhandles that sticky brioche dough; turning out batches of holiday breads without breaking a sweat. Before entering this yeasty utopia, however, a few hard questions must be confronted: Where will I find space for it next to the coffee maker, microwave, and toaster? Isn't $150 or $200 a lot, especially for something I may end up not using? And most difficult of all isn't making bread something that's meant to be done by hand?

Evidently, many people have been deterred by such questions. According to an appliance buyer for Crate & Barrel, the market for bread machines has flattened out. Everyone who's going to buy one already has, the theory goes, and the remainder of the population remains uncertain or unwilling.

If, like me, you've so far found yourself in the second camp, you probably love the tactile joy of the dough taking shape under your hands, and the aromas and tastes that reward your efforts. Even giving up a large part of a day to the process doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to us die-hard hands-on bread makers.

However, technologically naive bakers find their time limited, too. When I set aside several hours to produce that perfect loaf, I want it to be a standout. That doesn't mean impractical -- something that will go with one meal or appetizer and then get lost in the freezer -- just special. The recipes that follow, all longtime favorites, can make a splash at a holiday table or with your morning coffee. Some can double as top-notch dinner rolls and stellar sandwich bread.

They're so good, in fact, that even those who love their bread machines may want to try them -- with or without the machine.

  • Chocolate Bread
  • Raisin Bread
  • Honey Curry Bread
  • Sour Cream Bread
  • Semolina Bread

    By Deborah P. Jacobs, Globe Staff

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