Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft gives spirit to old favorites, and is a reflection of the author’s travels. Traditional challah, laminated breads, flatbreads, and stuffed breads are all greatly described and made, and he mixes contemporary ingredients with traditional methods. And it’s not just about yeast breads – we are presented with wonderful treats for afternoon tea or coffee, too, and all the things to serve them with, a surprising focus on the savory here.
Secrets of Well-Proofed and Well-Handled Dough
While there are non-bread recipes, the bulk of the book details on creating the best bread at home, from start to finish. Actually, the introduction contains a great section on bread basics, from ingredients and mixing, to baking and creating your own steam oven easily at home. Scheft even goes into bakers percentages (using flour as your 100% benchmark) and the proper way of scaling up a recipe precisely and mathematically, since baking really is a science.
The color photos throughout Breaking Breads show the perfect baked recipe and step by step instructions on how to complete tasks. Examples include showing how to shape and braid a perfect challah and how to stretch the paper thin strudel needed for all its glorious wafer-thin layers. And let me tell you, nothing is as much fun as stretching strudel dough over a large table.
Most of the recipes have long instructions, but don’t be turned off by that. It is like the author is there instructing you step by step. Without his clear guidelines it wouldn’t be as easy to recreate some of the treasures in the book.
All the recipes make you want to spend a few days in the bakeshop baking, but my favorite recipe in the book isn’t even a bread at all, though. It’s a Middle Eastern twist on the traditional Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes (same thing) – with the addition of tahini paste and sesame seeds. A really lovely book all around.
Yield 40 cookies
Middle East version of the sweet baked snowballs we call "Mexican Wedding Cookies" or "Russian Tea Cakes." They are rolled in sesame seeds rather than powdered sugar before baking.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup almond flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup tahini sesame paste
- Scant 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white rum (optional)
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds, plus more if needed
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in the bowl of a stand up mixer. Add in the almond flour and sugar. Mix on low speed to combine, and then add the butter, tahini paste, honey, and vanilla. Mix on medium low speed until the mixture is pebbly with no butter pieces larger than a small pea, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rum now, if using. Continue to mix the dough until it is just combined.
- Pour the sesame seeds into a small bowl and set aside.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Adjust one oven rack to the upper-middle position and another to the lower-middle position, and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble (you should get roughly 40 cookies that size). Dip one side of a ball into the sesame seeds, place it sesame-side up on a parchment lined sheet, and press gently with your finger to flatten it slightly. Repeat with remaining balls.
- Bake the cookies, turning the sheets and rotating them between top and bottom racks midway through, until the are firm to the touch and only slightly golden, about 8 minutes. Do not overbake them.
- Let them cool completely on the pans before transferring them to a rack.
- Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft
- Artisan; 2016.
- ISBN13: 9781579656829.
- Hardcover and ebook versions available.
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the site. 🙂