A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets

Friday, November 06, 2015

 must admit, I never knew that Jewish bakers were superior to any other type of bakers. Or that there was a difference between Jewish coffee cake and say, Gentile coffee cake. That is, until my mother-in-law made the most delicious Jewish coffee cake for my sister’s bridal shower. What made it different? Why did it taste so dang good? I had to find out more.

Enter this cookbook: The Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets. I’d never before heard of George Greenstein but upon reading the cookbook’s introduction, I learned that he was a well-known New York baking legend (James Beard award winner in fact) who had already published one cookbook, Secrets of a Jewish Baker. It was a hit, but there was never a follow-up to it until now. This book is a compilations of recipes and notes that were discovered by Greenstein’s children after he passed away. If you are like me and read cookbooks from introduction to index, you will not want to miss the introduction here. It sets the tone for how lovingly and painstakingly this cookbook and its recipes were carefully curated. Most of the notes are from George Greenstein himself, with little tidbits from his children- memories and such- sprinkled throughout. In that aspect alone, this is one cookbook that will give you warm fuzzies just reading it!

Before the recipes even begin, Greenstein takes a full chapter to discuss the fundamentals of baking— equipment, tools and techniques. Sprinkled throughout this chapter are “Baker’s Secrets” that really are helpful, interesting tidbits of information. He discusses everything you would need to know from oven temperature variations to proper cutting tools, all with an easy prose that proves without prattle this guy knows what he’s talking about. The recipes are both simple and complex. No shortcut is taken to perfection, and many of the danishes and pastries require a significant amount of time if not skill. There were some names of ingredients and pastries that I had to Google to figure out what they were, but all of the directions are very clear. If I had one complaint- and its a big one- it would be that there are no pictures within the book. None whatsoever. The only pictures you get are one the front cover and the back cover of the dust jacket. The sweet buns and delicious looking loaf in those pictures are certainly mouth-watering but I could find no note indicating what each picture is actually of. I like pictures in cookbooks, but I’m not even asking for step by step pictures, ala Pioneer Woman. Just show me what the finished product is supposed to look like so I’ll know if I succeeded at your recipe or went scarily wrong somewhere and should try it again. Maybe that is the indication that this book is not necessarily meant for baking novices (like myself) but for the more seasoned baker with a little (or a lot) more experience under her belt (like my mother-in-law). 

This book is an enjoyable read and presents a friendly baking challenge. It seems to say, "come bake with me and I will show you my ways.” I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to up their baking game. 

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

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