“Baking is a very old art, but a very scientific one too.” – Uri Scheft.
Bread is one of the humblest creations of mankind. For me baking bread is an infatuation; admiring the bread rise and come to life is a feast for the eyes and stomach too! Infusing the whole house with its smell, breads are intoxicating and rejuvenating. Be it a Baguette for a French or Roti for an Indian, they hold a very special place in one’s heart without which life becomes kind of humdrum.
With Breaking Breads – A New World of Israeli Baking, the author Uri Scheft brings together traditional bread recipes with modern ingredients and methods just like an amalgamation of cultures. The author’s love for bread; learning from different cultures is evident and literally takes this cookbook from a mundane bread baking book to something unprecedented and liberalizing. The book transports you around the globe, be it a symbolic Challah to the world-famous Chocolate Babka from Breads Bakery in New York City or putting two classics into one by making a Shakshuka Focaccia.
While reading this it makes me think about my own life, how I from India now call US my home. For a first generation immigrant memories of food is something we carry very close to our hearts but food is something which keeps on evolving. We adapt to the changes around us and incorporate things we find locally to our food, making new memories along the way. Life sans both of them is inconceivable.
You may feel that baking bread from scratch is a nerve-wracking task but the book literally holds your hand and guides you through it. Basic techniques like kneading, resting and proofing are concise yet precise for a beginner and the modern twists are inspirational for an advanced baker. I was smitten by the section of Flatbread as it ventures into many lesser known flatbreads, beyond the humble Pita like Malawach (flaky pan-fried bread), Jachnun (crepe like Yemenite bread) and Mofleta (sweet Moroccan bread). Finding some of the ingredients like Labneh and Za’atar might be a daunting task but they are readily available in a well stocked Middle Eastern store.
Newfangled and off the beaten track recipes like Kubaneh (cross between Brioche and Flatbread), Beet Hamantaschen (triangle short bread cookies) to Sufganiyot (yeast doughnut) are something which I will definitely try. Recipe of Cinnamon Roll Challah is nascency on how cultures form solidarity.
Author’s fervent and devout attitude towards baking showcases the world how combining different flavors and techniques results in something beyond one’s wildest dreams. Photography by Con Poulos and food styling by Simon Andrews is bewitching and scintillating telling me to put everything aside, don an apron and put my hands in the dough; toute de suite. With colder temperatures, curl up with this book, coffee, and eventually air-filled with freshly baked bread in the days to come!
Disclosure: I got this book from publisher but all opinions are my own.