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.
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the site. 🙂
What is “Real Bread?” According to the The Real Bread Campaign, co-founded in 2008 by Andrew Whitley and the charity, Sustain, it is bread that is made without artificial additives or processing agents. At the very basic definition, bread contains just flour and water, and a little salt for flavor and sometimes sugar. The Real Bread Campaign is a community effort to support local bakers and the art of breadmaking, and the effort has spread to over 20 countries.
Homemade Bread at Home
Baking bread at home for me is both cathartic and energizing – it gives me an outlet during a busy day and both relaxes and energizes me. From the first addition of yeast to the water and watching it foam, to kneading it and dividing it into loaves. I have to admit that having a convection bread maker has made the process so much easier and at times I don’t even think about the process; I just love the feeling when I grace my dinner table and make my kids’ sandwiches with unprocessed bread. I’m a busy mom and run from practice to practice, and having a machine knead it for me is wonderful.
Making bread now is quick and easy even though the process still takes more than 3 hours to complete. And every single loaf made this way from my very basic bread recip tastes just the same as the previous.
What is Slow Bread?
Enter in slow bread. Slow bread is more than just spending time kneading and causes you to actually think about the fermentation process. It uses less yeast and needs a much longer fermentation time. It is in this fermentation process that the flavors of the bread come through. Not only does the crumb of the bread improve along with the digestibility of it, but the actual flavor improves as well.
Chris Young writes in the introduction:
Increasingly, however, Real Bread Bakers are reminding people that long and slow tends to be far more satisfying than a quick finish. Far from farinaceous folly, a long-proved dough has more time to develop flavour, tends to produce a less crumbly loaf, and in the case of genuine sourdough, might even offer health benefits.
Slow Dough: Real Bread and the Recipes
This is The Real Bread Campaign’s first cookbook, and the 90 recipes it contains are wonderful. The recipes were contributed by bakers in the industry, and all have been tested. Their names and a brief bio are alongside each recipe.
You’ll find everything from a very basic white loaf using ‘old dough’ to boost flavor to a gorgeous beetroot sourdough. The cookbook begins with a great overview of the slow bread movement and what the bread really is all about. Terms, techniques, ingredients, and equipment are defined, and really great info is presented on the kneading process with Q&A (How do I knead? For how long? How do I know when the dough is properly developed?).
The bread recipe chapters are divided by how the bread has been leavened: pre-ferment, long ferment, and sourdough. The last chapter incorporates the bread leftovers into new menu items.
This is a perfect companion for home bakers and those who bake for a living. It is refreshing that this is more than simply a collection of slow bread recipes but a full guide on why and how slow bread is good to bake.
According to realbreadcampaign.org, all author royalties of this book go to support their campaign.
Pulla is a Finnish cardamom-spiced coffee bread. This version is a long ferment dough made into buns.
- 15 green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon fresh yeast
- 3 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
- 3 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten, for glaze
- Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, discard the husks and grind the seeds.
- Rub the yeast and butter into the flour, then add the milk, egg, sugar, salt, and cardamom and mix thoroughly. Cover the dough and leave to rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight.
- Grease a large baking sheet with butter. Divide the dough into 12 equal sized pieced, shape each into a ball, and place on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Cover and leave to rise at room temperature for about 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the top of each pulla with beaten egg and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
This recipe was adapted from Slow Dough Real Bread: Bakers' Secrets for Making Amazing Long-rise Loaves at Home by Chris Young and the Bakers of the Real Bread Campaign, Nourish Books, 2016.
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.
Looking for quick and easy old-fashioned cookbooks for baking (or even giving) this holiday season? The ABC series from Peter Pauper Press may have just you are looking for. Peter Pauper Press recently is releasing several of its older titles from the 50s and 60s and I had a chance to read and review these two books perfect for Old School Pastry readers.
The concept for each of the ‘ABC’ cookbooks is simple: provide an alphabetical list of tried-and-true recipes on various topics. The ABC of Desserts and ABC of Cookies each contain many different recipes that were popular at the time of printing. What I enjoyed about reading each of the books is that none of the recipes in the series have been altered or adapted to modern times. Even though the printing is (only) 50 to 60 years ago, some ingredients and procedures called for either aren’t in production or aren’t used used. I’m a food safety stickler, as any parent would be when recreating old recipes, so ensure all raw products are cooked thoroughly before serving them to the youngsters.
Read on for a recipe for Gingersnaps, too.
The ABC of Desserts
Originally published in 1958, there are 64 different recipes covering classics such as Vienna Sacher Torte to recipes that seem modern even today like the Strawberries a la Tsarina. The table of contents list each recipe by name rather than by grouping the recipes into like categories. Just about every recipe was familiar to me, and going through the list of ingredients made me realize modern recipes contain far too many at times. The Pears in Wine recipe contains just a handful of ingredients, and makes the simple dessert seem so elegant because of it; no strange ingredients, just the clove-spiced port wine poaching liquid and the pears. Along with the ingredients, the procedures are straight forward. Ideal book for anyone looking for a recipe that an aunt or a grandmother made when you were a kid, and couldn’t find the recipe anywhere else.
The ABC of Cookies
This fun little cookie book starts out with a poem about enjoying your time baking and ends with one about burning them (XYZut! Chut! and Flut! While my poor head was turned, the oven grew hot, and my cookies were burned!). As with The ABC of Desserts, recipes are listed alphabetically and range from piped cookies using a cookie press to drop cookies. Favorites of mine include the Pecan-Orange Cookies and the spicy Easy Chocolate Bars.
Gingersnap cookies are a household favorite, and I enjoyed this version very much. The recipe is below.
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup bran
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Mix butter, sugar, molasses, until creamy. Add flour mixture, then bran; mix well.
- Shape into a roll, wrap, chill overnight.
- To bake: Slice dough 1/8 inch thick; place on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree F. oven 10 minutes.
- Yields 5 dozen.
Reprinted with permission from ABC of Cookies, published in 1961 by Peter Pauper Press, Inc., White Plains, New York. www.peterpauper.com. Available as a Kindle edition.
Disclosure: Both books were provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.
My latest find at the library’s ‘Friends of the Library’ store – an older cookie recipe book from the sixties. The Art of Making Good Cookies Plain and Fancy (Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney, Doubleday, 1963) is a hardback covered recipe book with many different cookies, or cookies for special events like party cookies.
The substitutions chapter lists things still being applied today, nearly fifty years later:
- If a recipe calls for butter, don’t substitute
- Use 2 tablespoons less per cup of all purpose flour when in place of cake flour
- Coffee, fruit juices, and other liquids may be used in part or whole for liquids called for in a cookie recipe, except when the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk
- Use 2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa with 1 1/2 teaspoons additional fat for each square of chocolate
- With other substitutions, use the rule “If in doubt, don’t”
The cookies run the gamut from Plain Butterscotch Cookies to Fattigmand, from Norway, and for 3.00, was a very nice addition to my cookie cookbook collection.
Chapters and Cookbook Overview
There are 11 chapters in The Art of Making Good Cookies: What You Should Know About Cookies Before You Begin; Substitutions; Cookies At Home; Three R’s Mean Cookies Galore; Four Score or More; To Mail With Love; Decoration Ideas and Frostings; Lets’ Plan a Party; Christmas Cookie Baking Time; Cookies With a Foreign Accent; and Cookie Spectaculars. In case you’re wondering, the ‘Three R’s’ chapter is all about cookies for the school lunchbox, or for after school treats for the household cookie jar. The ‘Decoration’ chapter deals with frostings/icings, cutting out cookies, and the general decoration of them.
In all, if you can find this book at a used book store, it will be a fun read. The only pictures, though, are around the center in the form of a two-page spread with different cookies. Numerous illustrations are throughout the book though.
- The Art of Making Good Cookies Plain and Fancy: A Collection of Recipes For Cookies of all Types, Shapes, and Sizes, and for Every Occasion; by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney
- Doubleday & Company
- Hardcover with dust jacket, 252 pages
Disclosure: This book was purchased by the author and any opinions are the authors own.
Following suit with a review of The True History of Chocolate on the Pastry Sampler blog, I’d thought I’d talk about Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes for Old School Pastry, a little chocolate cookbook published in 1909 by Miss Parloa. It included Home Made Candy Recipes by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill.
Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes was more of an advertising manual rather than a cookbook as it was sponsored and created by Walter Baker & Company, a popular chocolate manufacturer back then, and written by a noted foodie of the time, Maria Parloa who was a cooking teacher. Parloa authored ten different cookbooks between the 1870’s to the early 1900’s. All the recipes were formulated to use that chocolate or to incorporate the brand name in the recipe.
Parloa’s chocolate book contains a little essay on chocolate and in it contains a couple of paragraphs of why Baker’s chocolate products are the best. She also adds quotes from Baron von Liebig, Brillat-Savarin, and others. In the Recipes part of the book, there are many recipes from drinks to breads, cakes to confections. There is a section by Miss Elizabeth Kevill Burr, who was also a cooking teacher and cookbook author, and one by Miss M. E. Robinson (which also included many recipes by assorted cooks). The Home Made Candies section was dedicated solely to recipes by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill, who founded the Boston Cooking School Magazine, and authored many cookbooks herself.
Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes contains a good cross section of what was prepared back then for both beverages and foods that were savory and sweet. Color images are included for some of the recipes, and advertising for the different chocolate products is sprinkled throughout.
- Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes by Miss Parloa, and Home Made Candy Recipes by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill
- Walter Baker & Co., Ltd.; 1909