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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the serious baker
The point of "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" is not just to provide you with recipes, but rather to help you create professional-quality loaves in your own kitchens. If you find you have difficulty making a truly light and airy loaf of bread, a whole-grain loaf that's tasty as well as nutritious, or a crusty loaf like your favorite baker's, you won't have any trouble with...
Published on June 16, 2007 by H. Grove (errantdreams)

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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent basic book
Filled with (so far) reliable and tasty recipes. I gave it only three stars because it lists ingredients in volume measurements only, wherein more and more home bakers prefer ingredients in weight measurements (English and/or Metric). Furthermore, baker's percentages are not provided. English volume units, and lack of hydration percentages makes scaling its recipes very...
Published on March 20, 2010 by David J. Griffiths


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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the serious baker, June 16, 2007
This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
The point of "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" is not just to provide you with recipes, but rather to help you create professional-quality loaves in your own kitchens. If you find you have difficulty making a truly light and airy loaf of bread, a whole-grain loaf that's tasty as well as nutritious, or a crusty loaf like your favorite baker's, you won't have any trouble with these tasks by the time you've made a few recipes from this book.

The book opens with wonderful notes on basic materials you'll need (as well as optional ones), ingredients, special bakers' techniques, handy tricks and tips to make things easier on yourself, and even a trouble-shooting section to help you figure out what might have gone wrong with a loaf of bread and how to fix it. Usually such sections teach me nothing new; here I definitely learned things.

As for the recipes, they come out nothing short of stunning. The cheese bread disappeared so fast you'd think it had been a figment of our imaginations. Most surprisingly for me, the cracked wheat bread and bran bread disappeared just as quickly-I think of bran as tasteless and unappealing, but these healthy breads were moist, tender, and delicious. The coffee cake made a yummy (if rather sinful) breakfast, as did the peach streusel muffins. The techniques for creating great crusts worked like magic, particularly on the Irish raisin bread, which was similarly delightful.

The book includes a handful of morning "programs" of baking that interleave instructions for several recipes at once, enabling you to easily make a week's worth of bread in one morning. This worked beautifully for us. The recipes also include variations designed for the food processor and the six-quart stand mixer, with different ratios of ingredients to take advantage of those items' form-factors; thus you can easily adapt the recipes to the equipment you have on hand. My only warning is that the stand mixer recipes seem sized to the new, heaviest-duty six-quart stand mixers, so be sure to double-check your mixer's rating for how many cups of flour it can tolerate. (You can always use his basic recipe amounts in your stand mixer if it won't tolerate the higher-quantity mixer variations.)

This is a stunning bread cookbook, particularly for anyone who wants to make professional-quality breads in their home kitchen, or who wants recipes for healthy, whole-grain breads that taste amazing!
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book for new bakers, February 19, 2009
By 
Lazy Cook (Virginia Beach, VA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
I'm somewhat new to bread baking and I found this book to be informative and flexible with its recipes and directions. I started with the King Arthur Baker's Companion, but was a bit discouraged by the lack of variation in the recipes (mostly white wheat flour, lots of dairy, great chemistry review but not as much direction as I needed). This book, on the other hand, lists a white and whole wheat variation for almost every recipe, recommends substitutes to keep the recipes kosher/dairy free, and has a variation for food processor/steel blade and stand mixer for almost every recipe. The chapters include: basic materials, bread making from A to Z, basic yeast bread, corn and potato based breads, breads of all nations, sourdough breads, rolls, biscuits and muffins, quick breads, and twelve menus of baking. I've followed several recipes and have had great success with all. I've been trying to make a 6-braided challah without success for a few weeks now; I had followed written directions and watched videos that helped but always left me hanging mid-braid, but the directions in this book made it so simple to understand that I had it down in minutes. Now I can't see what was so hard about it! Finally, my son can't have dairy or soy, and so the recommended substitutes and notes when a dairy ingredient are optional in a recipe are really helpful.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not glossy and slick, but a goldmine of great recipes!, May 17, 2007
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This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
As a child, I hung around bakeries. That was in the '40s and '50s when bakers followed recipes written on scraps of paper, dough rested in giant troughs, and loaves were formed by hand. I still make Kaiser rolls the way those bakers did, by smacking the ball of dough with the edge of one hand, to make flaps that get folded over the top of the roll. This book is like a bakers collection of recipe cards, and includes the hints that were scrawled on the back of the cards. These are traditional bread recipes, well detailed and documented. Quantities are a bit loose as they have to be, like '4 to 4 1/2 cups', and might bedevil someone who wants recipes with exact weight of ingredients. But, bread baking is a craft, not a science. For those who want to bake like a baker, this book is a goldmine. The Rye Bread and Corn Bread recipes yielded perfect NY style breads. And I'll keep working my way through the breads over time. George, you did good!
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real Keeper!, September 22, 2010
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This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
I still remember the first time I saw someone make bread. I had spent the night at Nana's and woke up in the morning to find her in the kitchen putting loaves of homemade bread into the oven. The was a big bowl full of puffy dough on the little shelf behind the stove. Quick as a wink, she turned that into my then-favorite thing in all of the world: her Kuchen. Three kinds - streusel, apple and peach! I was about three I think. I started turning out my own bread around the age of 10, simple things mostly - cornbread from the 4H recipe, Moravian Sugar Cake (such fun to poke the holes and fill them with brown sugar) and the Cranberry Bread for Thanksgiving - and I've been baking bread ever since. There is no easier & faster way to trim your grocery bill than to make your own bread.

Along the way I've also been collecting cookbooks - I now own something on the order of 400 or so, many going back 100 years or so. Quite some few of those are collections of bread recipes from names you know like James Beard and Peter Reinhart and people you've never heard of. Most of them line the walls in my living room and kitchen. Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World is my latest addition and in an instant it has won my heart. Certainly it would have a prominent place in my All Time Favorite Cookbooks list - probably in the Top Five. And if I could own just one bread book, this would have to be the one!

Some while back Peter Reinhart taught me to bake bagels (finally!) from his The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. Not a week goes by that I don't produce at least one batch. I've made all of Peter's variations and then invented a few of my own using a locally grown whole wheat flour. ) So, I practically jumped out of my chair when I saw that Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World contained an authentic recipe for Onion Rye bagels, one of my long time favorites but almost impossible to find. I made those the very afternoon the book arrived, even though my freezer is full. The entire neighborhood feasted! Next up - George's recipe for rye sourdough starter and some authentic Jewish Rye bread.

I've been making a Jewish Sourdough Rye for a couple of decades now using my wheat flour sourdough starter - and it is lovely. George's rye sourdough starter was a revelation though - easy as the dickens to start with great rise and odor. I just took a batch of bread out of the oven made according to the recipe from Secrets of a Jewish Baker and it is stunningly good. (Yes, I sure will make it again!) And there are at least two dozen more recipes I'm going to try, but I'm out of rye flour and need a few other things.

George Greenstein comes from a family tradition of baking and has spent decades of his life as a master baker. He gives excellent recipes for all of your favorite breads, including some unusual breads that good recipes for are nearly impossible to find and a few you've never heard of, recipes that appear nowhere else in all of my collection.

I've been a bit surprised to see a couple of criticisms - first that there are no pictures and secondly that the book (horrors!) uses the common volumetric measures found in every household in America. To those who complain about lack of pictures, let me just say that virtually none of the classics that have withstood the test of time have much in the way of pictures other than a line drawing or two to explain how to cut up a chicken or roll out puff pastry. Pictures add greatly to the cost of a book without adding a whole lot in the way of explanation.

More important is this horribly mistaken idea that good bread can only - MUST only - be made by weighing the ingredients with extreme accuracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to be a medical scientist. Back when I was at university I had a chemistry professor who would wail, rail and cringe every time one of us mentioned microbiology, calling it "witchcraft" rather than "science". Chemistry is extremely accurate. Microbiology is art & instinct. Working with yeast is microbiology. When you are working in a professional bakery, turning out 200 loaves of the same bread in a single batch that starts with two 100 pound bags of flour, then obviously weighing the other ingredients is the way to go. This is not true in the small batch home kitchen.

Bread baking is quite similar to making fine wine. It all starts with the wheat. Every bag of flour that you buy is different - even bags of the same brand. Flour varies from year to year, season to season. It is affected by rain and sun, where it was grown, how it was milled, how it was stored, how old it is and much, much more. Even the humidity in your kitchen can change the properties of the flour you are using. What absorbs 1 cup of water today might need an extra two tablespoons tomorrow. Today your bread might cook in 25 minutes even though it took 30 minutes day before yesterday. Judging how much is enough is about touch and smell and appearance, not weights on a scale. Anybody who tells you that you need a digital scale to bake good bread isn't much of a baker. George Greenstein won't tell you that. He will, however, help you learn to judge for yourself.

Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World includes several features that are worth their weight in gold, things I have seen nowhere else. George has taken the time to give instructions for each recipe for mixing by hand, mixing in a large food processor or using a heavy duty stand mixer. He has been careful to give alternate ingredients where appropriate - changes to make a recipe kosher for a non-dairy meal, substitutions for first clear flour (very hard to find!) and so on. He tells us about various kinds of yeast, but gives amounts in both packets and tablespoons. (I haven't bought a packet of yeast in 30 years or so, but they are convenient if you are just starting.) The book is full of tips about freezing your baked goods & keeping biscuits on hand to slice & bake as needed. George includes an entire section outlining the process of turning out a half dozen loaves of bread and a couple dozen rolls/muffins in a single morning, as well as his recipe for a bread glaze that turns out the prettiest loaves I have ever made.

If I have one single quibble it would be this: I have no idea where George got his Baking Powder Biscuit recipe, but it is the single leanest biscuit that I have ever seen, what we used to call poverty biscuit when I was a military wife, the kind of biscuit you whisper shortening over and call it good. Nowhere in all of my cookbooks can I find a single biscuit recipe that calls for only a single tablespoon of shortening. Trust me, use George's variation for "rich biscuits" when you want biscuits and if you really want rich biscuits, double the shortening called for in that.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a long time homemade bread baker...., September 18, 2007
By 
Parapet (Hendersonville, NC USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
I consider this book (in its earlier paperback edition) to be one of the best books for making good basic breads I've come across. One of the reviewers here was unhappy with recipes that state "2-3 cups of flour"... but this is how bread recipes often work. Flour retains a certain amount of moisture depending on humidity levels, one learns to adjust the flour levels for that humidity so the feel of the dough is right. It is never an exact measure, breadmaking is meant to be flexible. I bought this book originally when I was looking for a good recipe for the kind of Jewish Rye I remembered from the good bakeries I knew up north, something I could not get here in the South. This book provided it, and it was the flavor and texture I remembered. A terrific book with lots of good advice and nostalgia, but maybe not for rank beginners.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't bake everything in this book, not yet... but..., March 3, 2009
By 
Geoffrey F. Arnold (Hillsboro, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
... what I have managed to produce, following the very clear instructions, has been nothing short of beautifully produced and a feast to the taste buds.

As a former professional baker (but not of Greenstein's experience or discipline), I can attest to the quality of care and attention paid in the assembling of not just the recipes included in this offering, but the choices, the descriptive instruction and some of the wonderful humorous asides thrown in for good measure. I will never cut and stipple at the same time -- not that I ever did to begin with.

Out West, where I live, it is difficult to get "first clear/common" flour so I have not yet baked the Jewish Rye (NOT caraway or "light"), but I am absolutely convinced it will be everything one expects.

As a native New Yorker, and having recently visited and feasted on the varied cuisine, I can tell you that when you bake these recipes, you're going to get a real taste of New York Jewish Bakery fare.

I do everything by hand, no machines; I prefer the interaction with the dough, to feel when it's ready at each stage. BUT, if you MUST use a mixer, Greenstein has included modified recipes for you, too. Fact is, in a bakery when you're making 25 loaves or more at a time, you use a machine! But, when you shape the loaf, you gotta use your hands.

The bagels, the Potato bread, the challah, the sour dough, the wheat, the everything I've made thus far is everything you should expect from a guy who baked as a kid and then made a career out of it, as he came from the "family" business to make it his own.

You really want this book more than any other, trust me.

I can't wait for his Pastry book. I salivate just thinking about it. I know it will take me back to New York and the Jewish and Russian bakeries. Ah, I can smell them even now!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Bread Baking Book I've Found, December 25, 2011
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This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
Simply put, this is the best bread baking book I've ever found! Here's why:
* All terms are explained and are easy to reference at the front of the book
* Chapters all well-organized
* Tools and materials needed for your kitchen are listed and explained
* Differences of flours are given
* Easily understood glossary is included
* Baker's Sources contains names, contact information (even online!) and what can be purchased from each of them
* Recipes include directions for using both stand mixer and food processor
* Variations are given for changing recipes
* Explanations of what went wrong and why are helpful
* Recipes include around-the-world breads--not only `Jewish' ones
* Recipes' results are excellent
* Recipes for sweets (such as Black and Whites) are included
* `Baker's Secrets' often accompany recipes, giving expert advice
* Ingredients lists and directions are easy to follow
* Morning Menus (efficiently using your time to turn-out a variety of baked good in a single morning)

My dad's father was a European baker. I grew up hearing about his rye bread and especially his raisin pumpernickel. With George Greenstreet's Secret's of a Jewish Baker, I feel like I'm an apprentice in my grandfather's bakery. Where else will we find a tip for making and using `altus' to enhance our ryes and pumpernickels? My rye has lacked the depth of flavor found in a terrific Jewish rye bread. Now I know why!

This book is to bread baking what the Cake Bible is to cake baking. There is no better authority. The similarities end there. It's easy to read, easy to understand, easy to use. It's not intimidating at all. Even a friend who had a bakery supply business is impressed with this book.

I spent many months searching for one outstanding book for bread recipes. I bought this one. I'm not disappointed with my purchase.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic., August 19, 2008
This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
George Greenstein, Secrets of a Jewish Baker (Ten Speed Press, 1993)

Warning: if you have been tasked by your doctor with a gluten-free lifestyle, avoid this book.

Yeah, Greenstein does offer a number of gluten-free recipes (and just-about-anything-else-free, depending on your dietary restrictions), but you'd have to have the willpower of Hercules to resist the rest of the recipes in this tome. Secrets of a Jewish Baker starts off with a quick overview of the tools of the trade and some generic tips, then dives right into the recipes. Hundreds of breads, cakes, muffins, rolls, and other baked goods just cry out "try me" from the page. More importantly, the recipes also, if you read between the lines, show you the commonality to be found within, to give you license to perform your own experiments. Just thinking about it has me to the point where I'm scurrying off to lunch after I finish writing this. This one should be in the kitchen of every home baker. ****
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best, December 28, 2010
This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
In reviewing my cookbook library, I came across my tattered copy of this great book. I used to have a kosher bakery here in Seattle and the rye bread recipe came from this book. It is fabulous. I loved reading the recipes, the tips in the easy conversational tone. I felt like I had a master in the bakery with me coaching me through the process of making old-style breads. I made the Kaiser rolls the other night, klopping to make the flaps. This is more than cookbook, it's a bit of history.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!!!!, October 11, 2009
This review is from: Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World (Hardcover)
This book is great! Yes, it doesn't give exact ingredient amounts, so if you're looking for that, then go somewhere else. But what is great is that it gives a range and considering where you are baking and weather conditions you are baking in, these amounts might be different. I say buy it!
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Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World
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