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In the Mood for a Holiday? Celebrate Bread Day!

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Is there any scent more heavenly than warm homemade bread? How about dozens of breads of varying sizes, shapes and flavors, all fresh from the oven?

If you're in the mood to bake or the weather's keeping you indoors or you feel like socializing and there's no holiday in sight, it's a great time to declare Bread Day--the anytime holiday. It's inexpensive as cook-offs go, and it allows for group participation at all ages and skill levels.

As you invite people, note the category they're apt to fit into: bakers with their own projects, who often bring special ingredients or equipment; helpers willing to be assigned specific tasks or recipes; and spectators who'll mainly kibitz and sample the goods but might help grease pans or fetch eggs if needed. Knowing your participants makes shopping and planning easier.

Buy plenty of flour, Bisquick, yeast and other staples plus any extras your recipes require and foil bread and muffin pans in assorted sizes so breads can be shared easily. Also get quick bread, cornbread and cake mixes; the latter allow kids or other novices to make "dessert bread" in loaf pans. Don't dismiss the use of these items as cheating; they increase participation and variety.

Create zones for prep (mixing, rolling dough), cooking (readying bread for the oven, getting it in and out) and cooling/displaying completed items. Also set up a "break" area for spectators and those waiting for bread to rise and finish baking. Have all but the youngest cooks time their own projects. And don't clean up while they're working unless there's hazardous spillage or you need to make more space or reuse utensils.

While bread is the star refreshment, baking it is a long process. Provide snacks like veggies, cheese and hummus with a starter round of biscuits or machine-baked bread so the day's aromas won't torture everyone. As baking winds down, set out beer and wine with a self-serve entrée such as stew or soup. Then finish with coffee and fruit to go with dessert breads-assuming you have room for any.

And any holiday calls for photos so take lots of them. After all, a table covered in baskets of bread is a thing of beauty and everyone looks hilarious dusted with flour.