Book Review: The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking From Around the World, by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez

The Hot Bread Kitchen CookbookJessamyn Waldman Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen, originally established in New York City to help immigrant women get established, learn a trade, and prepare them to move on into their own businesses and/or culinary endeavors. The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking From Around the World is a culminating work of all these bakers, including bread recipes from their respective cultures of origin, as well as other recipes that often go alongside the bread recipes (e.g., hummus for pita, carnitas for tortillas, iced Vietnamese coffee with bahn mi, etc.). Unleavened breads to stuffed pastries; this is a treasure chest of recipes from around the world unlike any other bread book I’ve found thus far.

For those interested in more about the story and bakers of Hot Bread Kitchen, there are spotlights on individuals who have provided specific recipes and significant contributions to the company, which lends a much appreciated authenticity to the book and brings the reader into HBK’s story and mission.

What I appreciate most in the book’s organization are the references to other recipes and their respective locations therein. For example, many recipes call for a pâte fermentée to begin the fermentation process, for which there is a recipe in the book to which all other relevant recipes point. The same goes for many recipes that build on the foundation of a particular type of dough. Rather than unnecessarily replicating the recipe over and over or requiring the reader to search for it in an index, all are referenced. This also applies to relevant tips and means of procuring some hard to find ingredients. Basically, there’s an embedded map to keep the reader from getting lost.

The biggest drawback I found, which isn’t necessarily that bad if the text can be reasonably followed, is found in sequential photographs intended to demonstrate some method. They are virtually unhelpful due to a step missing, poorly organized, or simply ill captured in a way that would make sense to someone who doesn’t regularly work with these steps (which would be anyone for whom they are provided). The most obvious of these examples is that of braided challah bread, where there are several photos demonstrating how to fold two lengths of dough over one another from an “x” shape immediately to a fully braided and tucked shape. There’s definitely something missing there.

Overall, I think it’s a wonderful book that will definitely benefit those who want a culturally eclectic collection of bread recipes rather than one particular type or one that uses one particular flour base.

 

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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