A bread for every baker, Jewish and not

For more than 20 years, George Greenstein owned and operated a Jewish bakery on Long Island, N.Y. In “Secrets of a Jewish Baker,” he reveals the unwritten tips that were passed down in his family through three generations of bakers.

First published in 1993, and revised and reprinted this year, this book has extremely clear and thorough recipes for almost every kind of bread imaginable, from challah and chapati to marble rye and muffins.

This is not a book on Jewish baking, rather a book on baking written by a Jew. There are recipes for several kinds of challah, bagels and Jewish corn bread, but no explanation on what makes them Jewish. But the recipes are so thorough, well thought out and well tested that the misleading title is quickly forgotten, and this book will be appreciated for what it really is: an excellent reference on bread baking. I am particularly grateful for the food processor and stand-mixer directions that are included with each recipe.

Cheese Bread | Makes 2 loaves

2 cups warm water
2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 Tbs.)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter or shortening, softened
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 oz.)
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup skim milk powder
2 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil or melted butter, for brushing loaves
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese,

for topping
Sponge: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume (30 to 45 minutes).
Dough: Stir down the sponge and add the sugar, butter, cheddar cheese, milk powder, 3 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary. Knead until the dough feels soft and silky (8-10 minutes).
Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and allow to rise until puffy (15-20 minutes). Cut the dough in half, shape into rounds, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Shaping: Shape the rounds into 2 pan loaves. A pan loaf is baked in a rectangular bread pan. With your hands or a rolling pin, press a piece of dough into a rectangular shape and fold it in thirds, right over left, two-thirds of the way, then left over fight. Flatten out with your hands.
Without turning the dough, fold the top down to the center. With your knuckles or the heel of your palm, press a seam down into the center of the dough. Turn the bottom half up to the center and seal the edge with your knuckles or the heel of your palm. Roll and fold the top half over the bottom and seal the seam again. Squeeze and roll back and forth to elongate. If necessary, lengthen the loaf further with a back-and-forth motion, working from the center of the loaf to the ends. Roll the seam around so that it is centered on the bottom. The loaf should be tight and extend the length of the baking pan. Keep the seam down when you place the bread in the pan so that it cannot crack open while baking.
Place into 2 greased 8- or 9-inch loaf pans, seam down. Cover with a flour-dusted cloth and proof in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, or the loaves rise 1 inch above the tops of the pans (45 to 60 minutes). Brush the tops with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Punch 3 holes in the top of each loaf with an ice pick or a skewer.
Baking: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake with steam until the bread is golden brown and emits a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom with your fingertips (25 to 35 minutes).

From “Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World” by George Greenstein (328 pages, Ten Speed Press, $29.95).

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].