Book review: Middle Eastern bakery recipe books

Yotam Ottolenghi started the trend which saw the likes of pita, za’atar and techina reach restaurant and kitchen in Europe and the US. Trendy Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries have also started publishing their own recipe books: Uri Scheft’s Breads Bakery of Tel Aviv and New York, and Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick’s Sofra of Cambridge (Massachusetts) are two which have done so over autumn with their respective Israeli “Breaking Breads” and Turkish “Soframiz”.

Soframiz and Breaking Breads.
Soframiz and Breaking Breads.

Soframiz is definitely the more adventurous of the two. Its front cover promises “Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from the Sofra Bakery & Cafe”, and while the book certainly delivers, it feels as if it is more oriented towards the serious baker than more casual home-based cook. Recipes tend to be on the labour-intensive side and require somewhat hard-to-find speciality Turkish ingredients. It is also lacking in some of the more basic recipes and techiques, so is probably best suited to the more experienced chef.

In contrast to this, I much preferred Breaking Breads. With an early spread on the basics of baking (differences between types of yeast, how to knead and a guide to telling if dough is over-proved etc.), it caters to a more novice baker than Soframiz. There are also far more basic recipes, as well as the more advanced ones. Readers have the option to make a more basic, or advanced chocolate babka, for example. Particularly nice, though, are Scheft’s personal touches relating to his and his family’s culinary experiences. He also includes a section with useful extras such as hummus and salads that go with the bread recipes earlier on in the book.

About the Author
Daniel J. Levy is a graduate of the University of Leeds and Oxford, where his academic research primarily focused on Iranian proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. He is the Founding Director and Lead Consultant of the Ortakoy Security Group, and has contributed editorial pieces to The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Israel Policy Exchange. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, and cooking. He can be followed on Twitter @danielhalevy.