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Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking--Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka Hardcover – October 18, 2016
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—Food & Wine, The Best Cookbooks for 2016
“A delight to contemplate, offering up utterly creative and beautiful challahs, babkas, rugelach, burekas, and pita, with a small array of savory dips, salads, and condiments at the end. It’s baker porn.”
—The Boston Globe, The Season’s Best Cookbooks
“Uri Scheft’s new cookbook falls midway between two trends—Old World baking and Israeli cuisine—and the results are deeply satisfying. . . . Scheft’s recipes are fairly simple for a baking book, without the torturously long instructions many traditional methods can include. And there are plenty of sidebars, with tips.”
—Los Angeles Times, Our Favorite Cookbooks of Fall 2016
“Stunning. . . . Scheft, the force behind Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv and Breads Bakery in New York, has contributed mightily to the canon of bread-focused books not only for his wizard use of Middle Eastern ingredients but also for helping to create such stunning process and technique photography.”
—The Washington Post, The Best Cookbooks of 2016
“[Scheft’s] generously portioned recipes for basic doughs (e.g., challah, babka, brioche, flatbreads) lend themselves to endless variation, and general home bakers can use them to produce both simple rolls and dramatic, festive loaves. [The book] explains the dough’s look and feel during all stages of preparation and includes plenty of step-by-step photographs to illustrate more challenging braiding, coiling, and other shaping techniques. . . . An essential modern Middle Eastern baking collection featuring delights such as shakshuka focaccia and chocolate rugelach.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“No matter your heritage, this collection will expand your horizons.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“This beautiful book . . . provides a thorough look into the many influences that have shaped the world of Israeli baking . . . full of enough details and photos to encourage even a novice baker to bake.”
“Drawing from his Israeli heritage, childhood love of fresh breads, and global travels, Uri makes the international classics . . . and lesser-known European, Israeli, and Middle Eastern Breads . . . accessible for the home baker. . . . This cookbook is truly a bread baker’s guide to Europe and the Middle East.”
—Bake from Scratch magazine
“A bold and beautiful collection of updated classics and playful riffs.”
“To sample Scheft’s chocolate babka is at once a blessing and a curse: It’ll become an obsession. But thanks to [Breaking Breads] you can make it at home—with the help of step-by-step photograph instructions that ensure babka success.”
“Uri Scheft is the quintessential Israeli baker. His breads, pastries, and babkas have been blowing my mind
since I first ate them on the sidewalk of his bakery in Tel Aviv. This is the book that I have been yearning to
—Michael Solomonov, author and chef/owner of Zahav
"Uri Scheft's reader-friendly instructions, gleaned from a lifetime of baking, lead would-be bakers into the kitchen. I love this book."
—Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table
“I've been waiting for Uri to reveal the secrets to his incredible babka and chocolate rugelach. He finally reveals them and more in Breaking Breads, which melds Middle Eastern flavors with modern tastes. I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and baking my way through his groundbreaking book.”
—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen
“The ultimate modern guide to the world of global Jewish and Middle Eastern baking. Master baker Uri Scheft shares his craft and knowledge of craveable savory and sweet baked goods, inviting you to make them in your own home.”
—Lior Lev Sercarz, author and owner of La Boîte
"From challah to kubaneh, burekas to pita, this is the most definitive and important book on Israeli breads and baking."
—Einat Admony, author and chef/owner of Taïm and Balaboosta
About the Author
Raquel Pelzel’s work has been featured in Saveur, the Wall Street Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Shape, and Epicurious, among many others. Formerly an editor at Cook’s Illustrated and the senior food editor and test kitchen director for Tasting Table, Pelzel has written more than 20 cookbooks and has judged Food Network shows including Chopped Junior and Beat Bobby Flay. Pelzel lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her two sons.
Top customer reviews
I've made three recipes so far and all of them were riddled with errors: inaccurate proof times, lack of cohesive shaping instructions, recipes that needed altering in one way or another: too much salt, not enough water, incoherent shaping instructions. This isn't a big deal for the experienced baker, but these kinds of errors are disaster for a less experienced cook. Without prior bread baking knowledge these recipes would not have turned out. We're there any recipe testers??
I'll go recipe by recipe. Light brioche was anything but. Proof time was written as 40 min - 1 hour. Note, the recipe includes FROZEN butter. It took over three hours for the dough to warm enough to rise and that was putting it near the fire in the living room. The end result was a slightly dense, overly chewy brioche, a far cry from what I love about brioche: light, airy, pillowy.
Focaccia: the instructions manage to be overly verbose and vague at the same time; the amount of shaping and the cryptic instructions on rolling into cylinders multiple times then dimpling kills the beautiful supple pillowyness of focaccia. Again, proof times were seriously underestimated. The flavor was seriously lacking, so next time I'll try his rather confusing instructions on prefermenting part of the dough (there's some mathematical computations to sort this out) but I can't imagine a two hour pre ferment to help much. I'd call that an autolyse rather than pre ferment. The cook times are grossly understated for all three of these breads leading me to wonder if these recipes were tested by home cooks.
Lastly, the za'atar pitas. This was the most accurate of the three recipes that I tried. The only problem was the baking instructions to cook two trays at once, rotating part way through. The bottom tray poofed beautifully but did not brown, the top tray browned but didn't rise as they should have had I baked the trays one at a time on the baking stone in the bottom of the oven. Like the other three breads they required 25-30% longer bake times than suggested.
These are all minor adjustments that any experienced baker can compensate for but the most glaring problems with the book are layout issues. There are photos throughout without instructions on how to achieve such breads, just eye candy. I feel this failing is widespread in cookbooks today, gorgeous impressive books that wow with photography but fall short in instruction. But the largest problem is how the recipes are written, there is no timeline, no bakers schedule. So you have to read through two, three, four pages adding up proofing times to see how long any particular bread will take. Can it be made in a day, an afternoon, a weekend? You don't know this unless you read through each recipe and with the proof times being wildly inaccurate it's hard to make an educated guess.
After making just three breads my book is riddled with notes and adjustments, which is not a good start. I'd suggest this for the experienced baker and I will continue to cook from it, but not with confidence. It's more inspiration, than education.
This book mostly supplies those things. But be warned, most of these recipes not only call for but apparently require the use of a stand mixer -- if you don't have one that can handle stiff doughs, don't buy the book. I also found his instructions to be on the skimpy side. Note there is no instruction for the bread on the cover; he only includes a single, simple style of braiding in the book. It's easy to figure out, but I suspect the ring requires more dough, longer braids, and at least possibly a longer baking time. I'd like to be told that rather than have to wonder and experiment myself -- especially for the bread that graces the cover.
I am also a little bewildered by some of the proofing times. He says his dough should increase in size by 70 percent after a forty minute proof in a "warm kitchen." Honestly, I think the kitchen would have to be in the upper 90s to achieve that kind of proof, if even then. He does not give temperatures in any event, instead instructing the reader to use "cool" water for example. This is not a huge problem for experienced bakers, but I think he could have given some time/temperature starting points.
There also are not a large number of bread recipes, only a few; the remainder is sweets and savory pastries. That's fine, but it is advertised as a bread book and I was hoping for a bit more variety than it offers in that regard.
In sum, if all you are looking for is challah, you can find that in many places, including the Internet. If you are looking for a variety of Israeli/Middle Eastern/Jewish flatbreads, don't expect a lot of that here. If you want precise instructions, those aren't here either. If you don't have a stand mixer and aren't about to get one, this book will be of no use to you. But as an introduction to challah and a manual of other sweet and savory baked items, it's pretty good.