Pros: Amazing bread; wonderful variety of recipes from all over the world; DVD included
Cons: One or two minor editing snafus; would have loved more photos!
Rating: 5 out of 5
As I mentioned in my recent review of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a friend asked us if we’d mind making bread for about 20 people for a Twelfth Night feast. We absolutely love to cook, so naturally we jumped at the chance. In an odd coincidence of timing, within the next couple of days I received two review copies of baking books that I’d requested before we were asked to do the baking—it was the perfect opportunity to test out both books!
The second of those books is Greg Patent’s A Baker’s Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes from America’s Rich Immigrant Heritage. Seeing as there was a medieval theme to the feast, baking traditional recipes from around the world seemed like a great idea.
The cookbook is thick with recipes of all kinds—fried sweet pastries and doughs, flatbreads, savory & sweet pastries, yeast breads & pies (both sweet and savory), cookies, cakes, tortes, and more. For the purposes of our immediate goal we stuck with various savory recipes.
There are a few small bundles of color photos in the book. Most of the time I’m happy either way when it comes to the presence of photos—they aren’t a must-have for me the way they are for some folks—but given the wide array of unusual (to me, anyway) treats in here, I would have loved more photos. The ones that are here are gorgeous, though.
There are plenty of notes on ingredients, which is incredibly helpful given that, for example, you might not have worked with lard before. Mr. Patent even includes instructions for rendering your own so it’ll be of better quality than that found in your average grocery. There are also plenty of notes on equipment; just because these are traditional recipes doesn’t mean you have to forgo modern convenience appliances!
A Baker’s Odyssey includes recipes from all over the world—Kahk from Iraq; Puff Puff from Nigeria; Casatelli from Italy; Lebanese pita; Norwegian lefse; and on and on. I’d say that hands-down the biggest hit at that party was the Kachauri, fried flatbreads stuffed with a spiced split pea mixture. Cheese Sambouseks were quite popular as well—pockets stuffed with an egg-and-cheese mixture. We made a delightful whole wheat oatmeal bread as well as the tasty, crunchy little Kahk nibbles.
The book comes with a DVD displaying techniques for making things such as Cannoli. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play the DVD on my computer; since I have a bit of an odd setup here (Windows XP running on a Mac Powerbook via Bootcamp) I’m tempted to put it down to that and not dock the book for it. I’ll come back and add notes later once I’ve had a chance to try playing it in a regular DVD player.
The recipes are clear and easy to read. So far I’ve only found one editing snafu (two slightly different sets of instructions to divide up a dough in one paragraph, such that it took a moment to realize I wasn’t supposed to try to divide up the dough multiple times) and it was easily recognized and dealt with. All in all, I expect this will become one of our more treasured bread books—and yes, we have quite a few at this point! I just love being able to try out the vast wealth of recipes from around the world.