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.