As an avid fan and follower of Shannon Sarna on The Nosher, I have been looking forward to the September release of her cookbook Modern Jewish Baker for months. And I mean “looking forward to” at the pre-ordered, delivery tracking, and mailbox stalking level. Even with such great expectations, Modern Jewish Baker did not disappoint.
The book is divided into 7 main sections with “master recipes” for challah, babka, bagels, rugelach, hamentaschen, pita, and matzah. Sarna keeps it simple, in the organization, photography, and typeset, rightly focuses the reader’s attention on the recipes and directions, resulting in a user-friendly cookbook. While the design makes it coffee-table display worthy, you’re better served keeping it handy and using it in the kitchen.
Throughout the book Sarna celebrates her Jewish heritage and brings diverse ingredients to the table. She raises the standards of Eastern European favorites to new culinary heights, with a decidedly cosmopolitan approach and international flair.
The recipes are so clear, and the results so delicious, that anyone who loves Jewish baked goods will find a way to incorporate Sarna’s work into their Shabbat and holiday menus, and will want to make enough for the rest of the year too. My family inhaled the onion jam babka and balsamic apple date stuffed challah so fast on Rosh HaShanah that I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t bake them again next year. Actually, I suspect that my freezer is about to start working harder than ever. Sarna expects her readers to have access to a well-appointed kitchen, but the ingredients and timing proved more important than the equipment. Modern Jewish Baker is a gift to bakers who are willing to experiment, and who appreciate the solid back-up of detailed directions. Sarna has clearly done her homework in the kitchen, and the result is a book with the power to create mouth-watering Jewish memories for generations.