The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


Urchina's picture

ITJB Round Two Week 1: Sour Cream Spritz Cookies (4/28/12 - 5/5/12)

April 21, 2012 - 11:12am -- Urchina

I love spritz cookies. For me they are forever associated with Christmas, when my mom would make plates and plates of tree-shaped ones, almond-flavored and impossibly addictive. So I'm looking forward to expanding my spritz-cookie repetoire, and also finding a way to expand their presence into non-holiday seasons as well (it's sort of a shame that I only have them at Christmas. May feels so left out!) I also figured that these would be a relatively simple entree into this semester's baking. 

Looking forward to this new semester and everyone's experiences!


Urchina's picture

Calling all bakers! Round Two of the Inside the Jewish Bakery baking challenge is now under way!

April 21, 2012 - 11:08am -- Urchina

Hi everyone!

Round Two of the the Inside the Jewish Bakery baking challenge is officially under-way. Those of us involved in this challenge are attempting to bake our way through Stan Ginsberg and Norm Berg's excellent and recently-published book "Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking." The challenge is being hosted here at the Fresh Loaf, under the "Challenges" forum header, and will go from this week until the end of July. We'll take an August recess, and come back for the third round in September. 

pmccool's picture

Last weekend, as I was trying to decide what I wanted to bake next, two things occurred to me.  First, I had only baked one bread from Inside the Jewish Bakery so far.  Second, a rye bread sounded like a good thing.  

Although it was a matter of moments to pull the book from the shelf, it was probably half an hour later before I actually got to, and selected, the Rustic Pumpernickel bread as the weekend's bake.  Part of that is me; I'm easily distracted by books and usually spend more time in them than intended.  Part of it is the nature of ITJB itself; this award-winning book has so much interesting information which is presented so lovingly that, well, how could I just look at the formula and ignore everything else?  It's a good thing that I'm not looking at it now, or I wouldn't be writing this post.

Note: I consulted the errata sheet available here and marked the corrected quantities in my copy of ITJB before starting.

Since I don't keep a rye sour on hand, I seeded the sour with my mostly-white starter and built it up as directed, trusting that the coarsely-ground whole rye flour I had on hand would suffice for the dark rye called for in the formula.  There's something magical about a rye sour.  It looks like a grey-brown sludge but has the most amazing aroma!  Sour, yes, but also fruity and spicy, all at the same time.  Good stuff!

 The dough came together very easily as I mixed it by hand.  Since I don't have first clear flour on hand, I subbed in some bread flour in its place.  That's where I encountered a surprise.  This bread is about 80% rye to 20% wheat.  It should have been hyper-gluey, but wasn't.  An occasional moistening of my hands was enough to keep the stickies at bay.  Understand, it was sticky and I did need to clean some paste from my hands when finished, just nowhere near as much as I have experienced with other breads of similar composition.  Maybe it was because part of the rye was scalded.  Or maybe not.  I'm not sure.

Since one member of the household is not fond of caraway, I elected to include dill seed instead of caraway seed.  Rye and dill get on very nicely.

Although the yield for this bread is listed as one loaf, I elected to shape it into two loaves.  As two loaves, each was large enough to provide a week's worth of sandwiches.  The final dough rose quickly in the warmer temperatures that we were experiencing last weekend.  Given the high percentage of rye, I was concerned about the amount of expansion I was seeing.  Rye breads that go one step too far tend to collapse spectacularly.  I needn't have worried:

In fact, I could have let it ferment a while longer, as is evidenced by the cracking caused by a vigorous oven spring.  Why the dough was so resilient, I don't know.  Maybe it was related to what I saw with the less-than-expected stickiness.  Still, these loaves were almost doubled in size before they went into the oven.  In my rye experience, that's living on the ragged edge.  

The crumb shows good aeration, especially for a high-rye bread.  It is a solid, hefty loaf and works very well as a base for sandwiches made with ham or other flavorful meats.  Turkey breast, unless smoked, really doesn't have enough flavor of its own to compete with the bread.  Although, with bread this good, it's still a good sandwich!

Thank you to Norm and Stan for bringing ITJB to fruition, and to the TFL testers.  I'll be making this bread again and I'll be a bit bolder about pushing the fermentation envelope.


Elagins's picture

ITJB Named Finalist for's 2012 Best Jewish Cookbook - Please vote!!!

February 26, 2012 - 3:23pm -- Elagins

Great news! Just learned that Inside the Jewish Bakery has been named a finalist for's Eastern European Food Best Jewish Cookbook. Please cast your vote for Inside the Jewish Bakery! Voting runs until March 21st. Click here to vote.

Elagins's picture

ITJB Sour Cream Cheesecake and Salt

February 21, 2012 - 9:59am -- Elagins

hi all,

I just went back to Norm's original bulk formula and recalculated the quantities down to home-baker scale.  In fact, the ingredients and quantities in the book match his formula, so if the quantity of salt is too high, it was too high in the bakeries where he worked also.

However, given that it's obviously a recipe spoiler, I recommend eliminating the salt entirely, and we'll make that change in the next printing.


loydb's picture

It's week 8 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week is Onion Rolls. Sadly, I'll be sitting out the next few dessert-heavy weeks.

Once my confusion over how to deal with the onion mix was clarified (thanks all) this proved to be an easy, fast bake (in terms of actual prep). My notes follow:

  • I used 1 oz of the onion water and 9 oz plain water
  • My egg was almost a full ounce heavier than called for
  • I used 100% milled wheat, a 50/50 mix of hard red and hard white.
  • My cooking time ended up being around 25 minutes.

These are tasty and the outside is crunchy. They aren't overpoweringly onion-y, which I'd been concerned about. I think the flavor would be improved if I make a soaker with the whole wheat next time and let it sit in the fridge overnight prior to adding yeast. I'll make them again for sure.

loydb's picture

There seems to be some missing information in the Onion Rolls recipe on p. 114.

  • In Step 2, you spread out 1/4 of the onion filling, and push out the discs of dough. This is the last mention made of the onion filling, leaving me with 3/4 of the recipe unused. 
  • In Step 3, do you put them onion-y side up or onion-y side down to proof? 
  • In Step 4, we poke down a hole in the center. Is this when we add the rest of the filling? If so, I assume we leave the onion-y side down during the proof?





loydb's picture

It's week 6 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week is Polish Potato Bread.

By procrastinating my bake until the end of the week, I can learn from the experience of those who have their act together and baked earlier! A common theme seemed to be "dough too wet," so I was meticulous about my measuring. The biggest opportunity for adding moisture seems to be during the process of boiling the potatoes. I weighed them prior to boiling, and again after draining, and they had gained a half-ounce. I reduced the potato water in the recipe accordingly.

For the flour, I milled hard red wheat and sifted it to ~80% extraction through a #30 sieve.

As you can see, the dough was still wet, but it wasn’t the batter that some folks have gotten. I was able to more-or-less wrangle it into a shape with well-floured hands.

I would change the following things next time I made it:

First, I would allow the proof to continue until the loaf was higher than the top of the pan. Like many others, I got no oven spring at all. I had gotten such a vigorous rise in the fermentation, I think I could have easily gotten another inch during the proof.

Second, I got burned (almost literally) by putting the pans into the top third of the oven rack. The tops were starting to get really dark at the 40 minute mark, so I pulled the pans. I left the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then moved to a cooling rack. The bottoms were very undercooked. If you look at the bottom of the slices in the last picture, you see no crust at all. Next time, I’ll put them lower in the oven, and tent with foil if necessary to get a longer bake.

And there will certainly be a next time. The bread is unbelievably soft – the softest milled wheat bread I’ve made. I made potato soup to go with it, and they paired perfectly. I would imagine I’ll make this every time I make potato soup in the future – I’m already boiling them, it’s really easy to add a couple extra for the bread.








loydb's picture

I'm almost caught up! It's week 5 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week was Honey Cake.  

This called for white rye flour. To make it, I milled whole rye and then sifted to 80% extraction. I think the walnuts were a little heavy, the centers never really rose even after 3 hours of cooking. Almonds may have been a better choice.

In spite of it being a really runny, gummy, goopy batter, it baked up incredibly light, and not nearly as sweet as I would have anticipated from the pound of honey in it. There is no gumminess at all.

loydb's picture

I'm not dead, it just feels that way. I spent the holidays either travelling or cooking for New Year's, so didn't get around to the challenge until 2012. I made a fatal error, as well, relying on memory instead of looking at the schedule. Thus, we have Almond Horns instead of Almond Buns.

Let me start by saying that I think there's an error in the Almond Horn recipe in that it calls for zero flour. Without flour, as written, it makes a soupy, almondy-eggy batter. I ended up adding 1.25 cups of AP, and it was still flat and runny. If it's not an error, then the egg weights are too high or something.

These ended up tasting fabulous -- but they are more like flat almond sugar cookies than anything else.

I'll work the actual challenge -- almond buns -- into the schedule this month hopefully. :)




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