A review of Uri Scheft’s cookbook Breaking Breads. Outlining the author’s culinary influence, navigational clarity, and quality of recipes.
Uri Scheft is the founder of Tel Aviv’s Lehamim Bakery, as well as New York’s Breads Bakery which received a near cult-like following soon after it’s opening in 2014. Uri Scheft is Israeli, of Danish descent, and speaks of the influence of his wife, who is of Yemenite and Morrocan descent, throughout the pages of his book: Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking, and that’s clearly visible when looking at the diversity of baked goods. In this book, you will find recipes like Jachnun, Malawach, Babka, a whole section dedicated to a myriad of challah bread, and plenty more sweets with nordic, Mediterranean, and Levantine origin! Some of his recipes are a melting pot of different cultures kneaded into yeasty perfection! Take for example the Jerusalem Baguette, a hybrid of the French baguette and the Jerusalem Bagel.
Breaking Breads is on point in terms of navigational clarity. All the recipes have clear titles, grouped into categories by the bread type; i.e. Challah (wait until you find out how many variations there are), Flatbreads, Sweet & Cookies, and more. This cookbook starts off with an introductory, detailed guide to bread baking, discussing everything from essential ingredients to the processes of rising, proofing, and baking. For a novice baker, this is a definite must-read and will provide you with a little more intrinsic confidence to get started with the recipes. This book is approachable for all bakers, although it definitely leans towards more complex, time and labor-intensive doughs. For those who love the process of baking as much as we all love the reward of eating baked goods, I believe this would be a good fit.
Almost every spread has a photo to show what the finished recipes should look like. On some pages, Uri Scheft provides us with a detailed photo grid, in order to make the process a little easier for those visual learners out there! These visual grids mostly focus on the kneading and shaping parts of a recipe. A major perk of this cookbook is the fact that all recipes show both Metric and US Standard (cup) measurements, so no matter how you prefer to measure you won’t have to turn to online calculators to ‘solve the measurement equation’ of a recipe! Of course, in baking Metric measurements will trump US Standard measurements in terms of accuracy.
All the ingredients used throughout Breaking Breads are easily accessible and might I say: pronounceable! A bonus in the back of the book is a few condiment/dip recipes such as baba ganoush, hummus, z’houg, and preserved lemons which pair beautifully with the wealth of bread recipes throughout the book! Additionally, preceding the index, Uri Scheft recommends which utensils you could add to your very own “Baker’s Toolkit” to make bread baking just a little bit easier, without being unnecessarily wordy, just straight forward and informative.
This recipe is based on Uri Scheft’s recipe in Breaking Breads. These soft, pillowy, bagels are the perfect balance between warm, savory sesame seeds and slightly sweet bread. Best eaten the traditional way, dipped into some good quality olive oil and za’atar.
With my own vegan vanilla cream and blueberry jam filling!
Overall, I thought the recipes all turned out successful. Every single one of the bread and sweet recipes was tender and fluffy, the only thing I tweaked in almost every recipe was the amount of sugar. I usually decreased the sugar quantities by 1/4 and found it to be the perfect adjustment. Uri Scheft’s explanations are very clear and I never had an issue with the dough being too sticky, unworkable, or dry. I do think that for a novice baker, some more step by step images could have been added to some of the more complicated shaping processes, but luckily the shape generally doesn’t have much of an impact on taste! Since most of Uri Scheft’s recipes make quite a bit of dough, like almost two kilos of dough(!), he also leaves helpful tips on how to store the dough or baked bread for optimum storage.
Do I recommend this book?
Most definitely. I hope you enjoyed my review of “Breaking Breads” and I think this is a great book for anyone interested in delving into bread baking no matter how advanced as the contents are composed in a clear, instructional, and enticing manner. Also, for anyone interested in developing their knowledge of the culinary wonders that the melting pot of Israel has to offer – this cookbook won’t disappoint. From Scandinavian to Southern European, North African to the Levant, you’ll be learning something new.
You control the dough, not the other way around
Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking
Flatbreads, Stuffed Breads, Challahs, Cookies, and the Legendary Chocolate Babka..