A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets

"A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets" by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein and Isaac Bleicher.  As you see printed on the cover, it consists of recipes from a New York baking legend (George Greenstein) for strudel, stollen, danishes, puff pastry and more. This is a follow-up to George's James Beard award-winning "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" cookbook.  For me, this will be my first cookbook from George.

As a New Yorker, I've heard of George Greenstein and his pastries, but have not the opportunity to visit his bakery.  I'm not even sure it's still around.  Sadly, George passed away in 2012.  His children and grandchildren finished George's final cookbook to "honor and mourn him" (p2).

Back to this review, sort of - more like my thoughts.  I am not a baker. Definitely not. Not that I don't want to bake. I've tried on multiple occasions, and about 8 out of 10 times, I've failed.  On my husband's birthday during our first year of marriage, I've baked him a chocolate cake. Seems simple enough. It did not rise - at all.  It was pathetic.  I've tried several baking books, including one I reviewed, Against the Grain. Many turned out decent - after a few tries, which I finally gave up (no fault to the book), and have my husband do the baking. (My husband is the baker in the family - a good one too.) Get the picture?  Anyhow, when I read the description that George "has a gift for teaching home bakers to think, work, and bake like the pros", I was all in.

Now the book.  Chapters 1 and 2 are great resources for beginners to understand about what does a typical baker need, from equipment to tools to types of ingredients.  With that said, it was easy to understand, especially with the pace and tone of the language used.  Sometimes, you'll get a little history thrown in, which makes me picture a grandpa figure (George in this case), actually teaching me in a kitchen.  Kind of nice.  Add in some "baker's secrets" throughout the book, it feels like I'm an apprentice, and I'm being passed the torch. Silly, but nice to imagine at times.

Then when you get into the more complicated recipes from bundts to babkas and buns, it gets more complicated.  The conversational style of introducing the recipes are still nice, but as I read on with the instructions, it sometimes gets confusing.  With this being an old-style cookbook, in which it's straight up recipes only, no glossy pages or pictures, it can be hard for a beginner like me. For me, if I've tried to bake something, I'd always like to compare my finish product with the author's.  With this book, I'm unable to.

Overall, I have mix feelings because I know about George. I've tasted (once) his pastries (or at least from his family) and I like the feel of this book.  However, my attempts were done in some confusion and I don't think the finish product would be comparable to something from even a local bakery.  I think having some photos will add to its appeal.

NOTE:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House through Blogging for Books for an honest review.



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