The other day I asked you to share with me something you tried recently and quite a few of you told me about a new recipe you’d made and how well it turned out. It’s so satisfying, isn’t it? I’m confident you’ll have all kinds of success with this book too. Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking by Uri Scheft of the famed Lehamin Bakery (Tel Aviv) and Breads Bakery (New York) is an approachable and inspiring guide that will excite both novice and experienced bakers with its inventive twists on classic and lesser-known breads, scintillating photography and clear, step-by-step instructions.
European, Israeli and Middle Eastern favourites are all here (and often married) in hundreds of sweet and savoury recipes derived from basic doughs. Think challah, babka, pain de mie and ciabatta, as well as new-to-me staples like jachnun (a crepe-like Yemenite bread) and Mofleta (a sweet Moroccan bread). There are sweet breads and stuffed breads and breads turned on their heads, bagels and baguettes, cookies, sticks and a strudel.
“To me, this is modern Israeli food,” Uri writes. “It’s taking the old and infusing it with the new. It’s taking traditions and flavors from all of its people — from Denmark to Ethiopia, Morocco to Poland — and funneling them through the creative minds of cooks who are constantly trying to create and conceive of new compositions. It’s dill and cumin, it’s pomegranate and ricotta, it’s Nutella and pistachios. It’s the most ancient of flatbreads as well as apple-stuffed, cinnamon-laced strudel.”
I tried the challah buns (above) and Uri’s famous chocolate babka (below) and was delighted with the result. Instructional photos made the kneading, folding and shaping easy to follow and reassuring.
“When I create a new pastry, it is very important for me to make a psychological connection to the pleasures of childhood, and in Israel, just about every schoolchild eats a lunchtime sandwich made with chocolate spread,” Uri writes in the introduction to his chocolate babka recipe.
“To tap into that taste memory, I use Nutella to give this babka its intensely chocolate taste. The croissant-like babka dough is loaded with Nutella and chocolate chips and then twisted into a loaf shape. I first called this cake chocolate krantz cake, but in all honesty, that name didn’t effectively communicate the deep, ephemeral pleasure of biting into the wonderfully rich and deeply chocolaty pastry. We decided to call is chocolate babka instead, and within three months, our babka was selected by New York Magazine as the best in New York City. ”
(Did your stomach just growl? Mine too.)
I’m anxious to try so many more recipes, from the shakshuka focaccia to the spinach burekas and everything in between. Uri reminds us that bread-making doesn’t require fancy equipment, just some basic building blocks and a watchful eye.
“Bread is infinitely forgiving and versatile,” he says, “As long as you pay attention to what is happening with the dough — its moisture, its warmth, its vitality — it will yield wonderful results and will never fail to make you happy when you pull this beautiful and living thing (Yes! Yeast is alive!) from your oven. You made that! With your hands! Bread is something to be proud of and to share.”
Pick up a copy of Breaking Breads, roll up your sleeves and get baking!
To enter to win a copy of Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking, tell me one of your favourite breads in the comments below. This entry is mandatory.
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#Win Uri Scheft’s “Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking” from @trysmallthings CAN 12/07 http://bit.ly/BreakingBreads #BreakingBreads
The giveaway is open to Canadian residents 18+ and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on December 7, 2016. The potential winner must respond to prize notification within 48 hours, including the correct answer to a skill-testing question, otherwise another winner will be selected.
Update December 8, 2016: Congratulations Sarah H!
Thomas Allen & Son sent me a copy of Breaking Breads in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.