Another Secret from Greenstein, Jewish Baker September 30, 2009



This is a lovely cheese bread recipe from George Greenstein which I plucked out of his book, Secrets of a Jewish Baker.

Any novice “breadster” can make it.  The recipe won’t jangle your nerves; you simply follow the steps without feeling intimidated that you’re doing something wrong. It’s not a recipe that resembles a calisthenics session in the kitchen (I’ve had my share of recipes that read like an Olympic marathon). Greenstein writes it like you’re both in his kitchen and he’s talking to you as he goes through the steps, minus the mumbo-jumbo. 

In Secrets of a Jewish Baker, Greenstein offers you the choice of doing this bread using either the sponge method or the direct dough method.  I chose the sponge method.  The making of a sponge gives bread that extra soft texture, almost like getting a milky finish.

Greenstein says that this bread recipe is a favorite of many farm families.  That clues you into the kind of bread it is:  homemade, wholesome and farm-tasty goodness.  I used sharp cheddar cheese but he says you can vary the recipe with an assortment of hard cheeses.  Another option is to mix in your shredded cheese with the dough when you’re combining the ingredients prior to kneading; or before the second rising, flatten your dough into a rectangular shape, sprinkle the shredded cheese over it and roll it up jelly style.  Doing it this way gives you that wonderful swirl inside the bread.  Greenstein says he prefers this method because it “has more cheese flavor and added eye appeal.”

The top picture above shows one loaf already brushed with egg wash (I applied the egg wash twice, by the way) with Kraft parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, ready to go into the oven.  The second picture shows the two loaves coming right off the “hot presses.”  The parmesan gives it that appealing crusty look, as if saying, come, sink your teeth in…

At first, I doubted that the swirl would be apparent.  I had made raisin bread before and the cinnamon swirl was very subtle; you could see it but the swirl lines looked anemic.  So when I made this bread, I was expecting to see a similar faint swirl. 

Was I wrong!  Here’s the final product, sliced:


How could I have doubted a master baker like Greenstein?  That rich yellow swirl tickled me pink.

To respect the author’s copyright, I won’t post the recipe here.  If you’re interested, send me at email at I’d be happy to send it to you, although a better alternative would be for you to buy his book (no, I’m not on commission) or else borrow it from your local library.  Title:  Secrets of a Jewish Baker.  Author:  George Greenstein. Recipe title:  Cheese Bread.


George Greenstein, Do You Give Classes? June 22, 2009

greenstein2 In a bread discussion forum that I joined in early winter when I was struggling not to be such a greenhorn with breads, the book Secrets of a Jewish Baker kept popping up.  Members would praise it to high heavens and some thought it was the bread bible of the 21st century.  The author, George Greenstein, seems to be a favorite of many bakers and bread fanatics.

Lingering in the food section of my local library this afternoon looking for herbs and spices to write about for my other blog on translation, something caught my eye.  At first I saw the word “Jewish”, and then the other word “baker.”  That’s when it clicked.  I bent over and eureka – it was THE book that forum members have been treating with unusual reverence!  Others were proudly announcing that they had put an order on the book and couldn’t wait to start trying the recipes.

Secrets of a Jewish Baker must be in everyone’s kitchen.  At first I thought that Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice would suffice.  No.  You ought to add Mr. Greenstein’s book if you like creating bread – yeast or non-yeast.  greenstein The Reinhart and Greenstein combo will help increase your baking confidence.  Keep them within reach! 

What rare gems did I find in Mr. Greenstein’s book, you ask.  Plenty.

The first chapter deals with basic materials.  In chapter 2, he discusses bread making from A to Z.  The subsequent chapters cover all kinds of bread:  from different countries, from corn and potato breads of the Americas, from sourdough to rolls, biscuits and muffins.  He includes a menu program for what he calls a “Morning of Baking.”

What I enjoyed reading were the baker’s secrets that the book is generously sprinkled with.  I gained valuable tips and I don’t want to offend Mr. Greenstein by putting them all here.  Besides I do encourage you to purchase the book.  It’s available on Amazon for about $20.00 (ISBN:  13:978-1-58008-844-2 and ISBN-10:1-58008-844-9).  As I’m scrolling down the Amazon site, I see that Mr. Greenstein has also published Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets:  The Art of Baking your Own Babka, Danish, Sticky Buns, Strudels and More (April 2009).  Amazon does not have it yet on stock but will inform customers once the book arrives.

A few tips from Mr. Greenstein:

  • If you leave fresh bread flour to age for 5 to 6 weeks, its flavor and color are enhanced.
  • Before sprinkling seeds on challah, allow egg wash to air dry.  Brush bread with egg wash the second time.  This gives it more shine.
  • When you have empty muffin cups in the muffin tray (because you ran out of batter), put 1-2 tablespoons of water on the empty cups to keep them from burning.
  • “Irish soda bread made with whole wheat flour is nutritious and has a sweet, nutty flavor.”

When it’s time to return this book, I’ll have to order my own copy and maybe treat myself to his pastry book. 

A very minor disappointment with Secrets of a Jewish Baker: there are no color photos of Mr. Greenstein’s masterpieces.  But the absence of color photos does not in any way diminish the quality of the book.  It reeks of wholesome flavor…and expertise you don’t come across everyday!

So Mr. Greenstein, do you give classes?