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.

Book Review: Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

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I buy a lot of cookbooks. You know this about me already. You know that it’s somewhat of an addiction, but I’m proud to say that I’ve got it somewhat under control. (The bookshelf that I bought to house them all is already looking a bit cramped…)

So, instead of buying more, I decided to take a little breather and dive into the ones I already own. My wallet, which up until now I didn’t think could speak, just loudly whispered “Thank You” from my purse. Don’t get too comfy, wallet, for there will come a time when I will need to fuel my CA (cookbook addiction. It’s a thing) again.

This weekend, my best friend Anna held a cocktail party that was inspired by her recent trip to Peru, and it reminded me of this beyond AWESOME book I found once called Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook. I am obsessed with it, and after this post, you better be too so that we can talk about it together.

It’s one part retro, one part boozy, and one part extra colorful, and it’s the exact read you need when you want to become your own bartender. Ever wondered exactly what goes into that whiskey sour you always order? This little book’s got you covered. (P.S. I’m just curious: when you hear that a cocktail has egg whites in it, what’s your reaction? To me, it’s fine, it adds a little foam and body. For others, it’s all they can talk about.)

There’s a drink for every occasion, every taste, and I’d say every budget. And if you really want to cut a corner or two, there’s always the option of making your own simple syrup!

From Mrs, Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

Another entry from Mrs. Lilien’s Cocktail Swatchbook

I know Christmas is over, but this makes the perfect stocking stuffer. Buy it now, save it, don’t forget about it, and you’re set for next Christmas. You’re welcome.

 

Happy cocktail mixing!

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