there are so many books out there about making your own bread and i have bought more than my fair share of them, only for the majority to languish unused on my kitchen book shelves. this one is the exception. i found it in a charity shop while searching for old cookbooks and i must be honest the cover did not inspire me. the book is not particularly beautiful or expensively produced but crucially the recipes work and the tips are exactly the ones you need when facing the task.
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The recipes are good, but for now I have mainly used the tips when it comes to baking in general rather than one particular recipe, because it is a bit hard to convert some of the measurements to norwegian standards and some of the ingredients is so uncommon here that I can't find them even in the bigger supermarkets. Other than that, I really miss pictures, for inpiration and to understand better how something is shaped. If a new edition will come with pictures, that would be better buy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Perfect for the serious baker16 Jun. 2007
H. Grove (errantdreams)
- Published on Amazon.com
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!
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic book for new bakers19 Feb. 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Not glossy and slick, but a goldmine of great recipes!17 May 2007
Arnold L. Weisenberg
- Published on Amazon.com
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!
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A real Keeper!22 Sept. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
As a long time homemade bread baker....19 Sept. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
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.