While I may not be a big fan of Jewish food, the truth is I’m quite fond of what are considered Jewish breads. From bagels to bialys, rye bread, pumpernickel, and challah, I love it all.

Because the Bay Area isn’t exactly famous for Jewish breads, making them yourself can be very satisfying. Two books out right now are worth taking a look at in this regard. Secrets of a Jewish Baker is a reprint of the 1994 James Beard award-winning baking book. While not limited to Jewish-style breads, it is a survey of 125 breads from around the world. Each bread has separate instructions for making it using a stand mixer, food processor or by hand. There is also an interesting section in the back called “A Morning of Baking” that shows with a detailed timeline, how you can make 4-5 loaves of bread (sometimes one is for muffins or coffeecake) in the space of about 21/2 to 4 hours.

Secrets of a Jewish Baker has plenty of quick breads, biscuits and muffins in addition to sourdough breads, including rye breads, challah, pretzels and more. Because author George Greenstein is a retired third-generation professional baker, his knowledge is deep and broad. This is just a great all-around baking book to add to your collection.

The second book is a bit more unusual. It is dedicated to one specific bread–challah. A Taste of Challah is subtitled a comprehensive guide to challah and bread baking and I’m not sure I would agree. For one thing, the basic recipe is an eggless version of challah and makes 6 loaves. This is great for some cooks I’m sure, but for many households it’s just too much. The book has a ton of illustrated instructions for how to form the bread into a myriad of shapes and sizes including braids, an edible bread basket, a pull apart loaf and rolls.

A Taste of Challah has a section on health breads, though no rich egg version of challah that I prefer. There are some other recipes for breads like bagels, bobka, and quite a few middle eastern breads. Because challah is a bread served during holidays, especially the sabbath, there is a section on blessings over the bread too. If you are a real challah enthusiast you might want to check this book out, but if you are looking for a more practical recipe–I’d stick with the one in Secrets of A Jewish Baker.

Jewish Bread Books 9 May,2007Amy Sherman

  • shuna fish lydon

    Mmmmmm challah!

    At the last Baker’s Dozen meeting I watched Evie Lieb (a baking instructor based in Sacramento) lovingly talk about and demonstrate a number of challah techniques. For some reason I had it in my head that it was much closer to brioche than it is.

    Now I understand all the braiding– it has religious holiday/family events connotations.

  • Foodie Pam

    If you are interested in seeing the “Challah” recipe from “Secrets of a Jewish Baker you can find it here.


Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman began blogging in 2003, because all her
friends and family were constantly asking her where
and what to eat. Three months after it launched,
Forbes chose her blog, Cooking with Amy, as one of the
top five best food blogs, praising her writing as
“smart, cozy and witty”. Since then her blog has been
featured and recipes reprinted in many newspapers and
magazines in the U.S. and the world.

In addition to regularly updating her blog, Amy is a
guest contributor to the Epicurious.com blog, and
Contributing Editor of Glam Dish. She also writes
restaurant reviews for SF Station.

Her focus on Bay Area Bites is primarily cookbook
reviews along with some interviews and current events.

Amy is a recipe developer and freelance food writer.
She is author of WinePassport: Portugal and wrote the new introduction to the classic cookbook, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, published by the University of Nebraska Press. She recently completed 45 recipes for a Williams-Sonoma cookbook and wrote her first piece for VIA magazine.

She is currently serving on the board of the San Francisco Professional Food Society and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Amy lives in San Francisco with her husband, tech journalist Lee Sherman.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor