Comprehensive and engrossing, The World of Jewish Desserts
takes you on a trip through the world's Jewish communities, sampling their redolent traditional pastries, cakes, and sweets. Gil Marks, author and rabbi, blends baking and history as he explores the Jewish Diaspora and the resulting dissemination of culinary customs and influence around the world. Most of the recipes are culled from the two largest Jewish cultural groups, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim.
In the section on yeast cakes and pastries, Marks begins with a recipe for Pandericas/Heifeteig (sweet yeast dough) which is the basis for many of the following recipes. Each recipe is prefaced by a historical and cultural interpretation and baking tips. Every few pages, Marks inserts a few paragraphs about the country a recipe comes from, a chronicle of the use of certain spices, or baking styles. For example, after a recipe for Kahkahaw Babka (Polish chocolate sweet bread), Marks gives a short history of Jews in Poland and the Baltic States which explains how these dishes developed and were sustained. He also gives a scientific explanation on the properties of basic ingredients and how they interact with one another.
With 12 chapters of desserts, including cookies and bars, phyllo and strudel, fried pastries, and Passover desserts, the book is almost mind-bogglingly inclusive. More than a cookbook, it is a culinary history and discourse on a people whose traditions and culture have affected--and been adapted by--many of the world's countries. "The act of serving and consuming food can be an expression of who we are, as well as a genuine spiritual experience," says Marks. "And few foods have the power to please and uplift as well as desserts do." --Dana Van Nest
From Publishers Weekly
Marks returns to the territory covered in The World of Jewish Cooking and The World of Jewish Entertaining with this third effort encompassing Jewish food from all corners of the globe. While those first two books distinguished themselves with the great diversity of recipes offered, it seems that Jews the world over tend to eat similar types of desserts. Items such as Hungarian "Farfel" Bars, which cleverly call for grating the dough into pellets, and Ashkenazic Honey-Spice Cookies outnumber more exotic desserts such as Calcutta Coconut Bread Pudding and Persian Rice Flour Cookies. Marks again delivers solid, flawless recipes along with great bits of information: among them, the Talmudic mentions of sweets and an overview of the different cheeses used in Jewish cooking. An entire chapter on fried pastries includes Greek Anise Fritters and Italian Anise Fritters, in addition to Algerian Raised Donuts and Dutch Yeast Fritters. German Apple Coffee Cake (made with a yeast dough) has much in common with Ashkenazic Fruit Coffee Cake (which Marks suggests making with apples, pears, plums or peaches). There are plenty of treats appropriate for the holidays, including numerous Hamantaschen variations and a chapter on desserts for Passover that ranges from a simple Passover Sponge Cake to a Sephardic Baked Matza Custard. All and all, his volume makes a zesty compendium of traditional foods. (Oct.)
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