BOOK REVIEW: Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking

I feel like I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I am a cookbook lover. You know this about me. But one thing that I am not is a cookbook hoarder. I don’t have the space for it. But more than that, I’ve realized that my life has to be about more than just collecting. The books the adorn these shelves must be able to earn their keep. So last Spring, I took a long, hard look at my bookshelf and made some tough decisions. I went through each cookbook that I have accumulated in the past four years. If I loved it for the pictures, but hadn’t marked any recipes, it had to go. If I bought it, read it once, then literally forgot that I had it, it had to go. If I hated it because the recipes were completely inconsistent, out it went. And so on. The process took a bit longer than I thought that it would, but in the end, it felt like a well-needed cleanse. I had donated books that were perfect, but not necessarily perfect for me, and freed up beloved real estate on my shelves. This left room for my absolute favorite time of the year: Fall Cookbook Season!  And number one on the list of new titles for Sydney’s Library? Breaking Breads!

You may know Uri Scheft as the owner of Breads Bakery, or you may be more familiar with what he has made so popular both in New York, and with literally every online food publication: chocolate babka. People lose their minds over it, and you’ll see tons of recipes all over the place trying to replicate it, but there’s nothing better than the real deal, so now you can make it in your jammies in the comfort of your own home forever.

Uri was born in Israel, but moved all the way across the world to Denmark during his formative years. This blending of two cultures (mixed in with the handful of cultures from countries that he’s lived in as an adult) gives his writing and recipes a sense of well-roundedness that is sometimes very hard to come by. For many, it will be an introduction to spice blends and flavor combinations that will both surprise and entice them.  For me, that’s the sign of a real winner. And you know I love me some fresh bread, so it’s like a win-win.

Let’s get this out of the way first: this book is not for beginners. Nor is it, I’m afraid, for bakers with very little patience. For starters, bread is never quick and it makes you wait. For hours. And hours. And Uri, who is truly an artist, not only wants your bread creations to taste good, but he also pushes and encourages you to become your own resident bread artist at home. It is challenging, it is sometimes confusing, and it’s also very delicious. And while the instructions can seem a little daunting (and at times you may feel like you have completely lost your will and ability to finish the project), Uri gives very detailed step-by-step instructional photos to help keep you on track. I needed those. Desperately.

I also enjoy that this book has tons of variety. Of course the core of this book is bread (flatbreads, challahs, babkas, etc), but you’ve also got cookies, hummus, and  great recipes for things like preserved lemons and babaghanouj. After completing a five-hour recipe for bread, you will want to take advantage of something quick and relatively easy to ease yourself back into the kitchen.

So, if you’ve made it this far, let me break it down for you:

The Good: This book is going to teach you how to make bread, or else. You will learn about yourself, and learn about your strengths and varying levels of patience. I also love how absolutely thorough and thoughtful Uri was when writing this book. It’s got everything from proper bread storage tips, to words of encouragement, to alternative designs and creations for when you want to deviate a little from the recipe. Every question is covered.

The Bad: There’s nothing bad about this book, really. One thing that I wish had been included was bolded estimates at the top indicating  how long each recipe would take altogether. Of course, I understand that each kitchen is different so therefore proofing times will be different, but a ballpark number  would’ve been so wonderful. I also wish that some instructions had been explained a little bit clearer, but I have always been able to soldier on and put something tasty on the table.

Overall: This was a book that I was so excited about, and my expectations were totally exceeded. Almost every recipe in this book has been bookmarked for further endeavors in the DD kitchen. This is my favorite book of Fall 2016, and I urge you to buy it for every patient baker you know. Once they’ve got it in their hands, encourage them to make the Sticky Pull-Apart Cinnamon Challah Braid (pg. 56), because it is my favorite and I need more people to talk about it with for hours and hours.

 

You can buy it here!

P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, GUYS!!! I have 100000 pies to make.

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Currently Reading: Homemade Decadence

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Homemade Decadence, written by Joy Wilson of “Joy the Baker” fame, is a book that I’ve been waiting for with bated breath since the release of her first book, The Joy the Baker Cookbook, all the way back in 2012. And the wait, by all accounts, was totally and completely worth it!

Initial Thoughts: 

The cover design is beautiful and inviting. Also, the idea of a pretzel crust is inspired and will definitely indulge anyone with salty-sweet cravings. And the pictures inside are just as beautiful with easy-to-follow recipes and funny stories to go along with each one.

From the book, Homemade Decadence

From the book, Homemade Decadence

REVIEW: 

Joy Wilson is fun. And this cookbook, just like its predecessor, feels like a true extension of the food blogger we’ve all grown to love. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, and it’s entirely unpretentious in the most sophisticated of ways. Homemade Decadence encourages you to get creative in your kitchen, and really connect with the world around you. It shows you that fear of failure has no place in the kitchen, so embrace the weird combinations that come to mind. You never know when one day you’ll meet a concoction that changes your life. You deserve fancy, out-of-the-box desserts every single day (without necessarily needing a special occasion), and the written words of JTB are there to help guide you. There’s everything in this book from cocktails, to doughnuts, to uniquely flavored ice creams, and tons of treats in between. And if you’re looking for new ways to re-invent your toast, never fear, because Joy’s got a whole page dedicated to it. Breakfast is a serious business after all.

From the book, Homemade Decadence

From the book, Homemade Decadence

If you’re a fan of JoytheBaker.com, you’ll be happy to see some true classics (Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes are now a go-to at my house) as well as loads of new recipes to go along with them (Hello, “Ultimate Pancake Syrup!”), and the exact same amusing conversational tone that makes Joy one of the best bloggers and authors out there. Homemade Decadence is a total win in my book.

Recipes on My “To Try” List: 

Blueberry Pancake Muffins w/ Maple Glaze, Blackberry Pie Cookies, Church Party Peach Cobbler, Brown Sugar-Raspberry Cheesecake, and Lavender-Lime Cucumber Spritzers.

BUY Homemade Decadence HERE

What I’m Reading

My cookbook collection is growing! It’s growing at a pace that is probably too rapid, and my wallet sometimes doesn’t appreciate it, but one can never have enough cookbooks right? Right? And anyway, sometimes I just can’t help myself. The colors, the concepts, the detailed descriptions and backstories! I just can’t get enough. Recently, I picked up a book that was at the perfect level of quirkiness, and I thought I would share it with you!

 

I’m currently reading:

 

BUY THIS BOOK. Not only will you impress your friends with your newfound ability to turn their favorite foods into cute, little bite-sized pieces, but you’ll have a blast leafing through the pages, taking in all the possibilities! The other day I made the most delicious muffin-sized cheese and green pepper pizzas,with red wine sauce. And for dessert, I tried (and failed, but hey, at least I know how to fry dough) to make mini eclairs! My only criticism would be that I wish they gave more troubleshooting  advice. I ended up burning a third of the dough in my saucepan! Next time, I’m making my eclairs full-sized!

Bottom Line: Buy the book. Impress your friends.

Happy baking!!

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