Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft

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.

Tahini Cookies

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Pour the sesame seeds into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Let them cool completely on the pans before transferring them to a rack.

Book Info:

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the site. 🙂

ABC Cookbooks – Desserts and Cookies

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.

Gingersnaps

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Sift together dry ingredients.
  2. Mix butter, sugar, molasses, until creamy. Add flour mixture, then bran; mix well.
  3. Shape into a roll, wrap, chill overnight.
  4. To bake: Slice dough 1/8 inch thick; place on un-greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree F. oven 10 minutes.
  5. Yields 5 dozen.

Notes

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.

 

Book Information:

Disclosure: Both books were provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.

The Art of Making Good Cookies Plain and Fancy by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney

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.

Book Information

  • 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.

All About the 10x Grind and Chocolate Espresso Snowcap Cookies

What is 10x (or 6x for that matter)? It is a particular grind for powdered sugar, which typically is mixed with an anti-caking agent, such as a starch. Powdered sugar is also called confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar, and is used for quick mixing buttercream and icing recipes, and for sprinkling and decorating desserts.

Read more about the differences between powdered sugar and superfine sugar, and try the recipe below using powdered sugar as a cooking coating.