Recipes that even ‘non-bakers’ should try

by | Sep 19, 2014 | Book Reviews

The Holiday Kosher Baker
Paula Shoyer
Photos by Michael Bennett Kress
Sterling, 2014
222 pages, $35

Your reviewer is admittedly a non-baker. However, Paula Shoyer, a former attorney, author of the very successful The Kosher Baker (2010) and now The Holiday Kosher Baker, could make non-bakers want to try: The photos by Michael Bennett Kress will make bakers want to cry. If only you could turn out such beautiful cake, pies, cookies and other dessert delights.

You will love the recipes and appreciate the thought Shoyer has put into a Kosher Baking Encyclopedia, defining just what the kosher kitchen will require in appliances and utensils, how one bakes for a bris or a shiva, and even what a pared down Passover kitchen will require in equipment. You will hate the book itself; large, heavy, impossible to place open on a counter without heavy weights to hold its luscious looking pages in place. This book demands and deserves a ring-binder version that can be placed flat.

That said, author Shoyer is very specific about contents and recipes are clearly labeled dairy, parve, no nuts, low sugar, vegan, gluten free, etc. Many recipes have been reworked to substitute healthier ingredients without sacrificing taste, although I’d be personally wary about whole-wheat chocolate babka. One might say dayenu to a book that offers eight hamentaschen recipes all made with the popular chilled or frozen cookie-type dough of which I am personally not a fan—having grown up with the tantalizing yeast-dough hamentaschen baked by my grandmother (“from scratch” as we used to say). There are 45 Passover recipes clearly delineating non-gebrokt where applicable. Passover baking has been a weak spot in our family’s repertoire; however, there is a one-bowl sponge cake recipe that does not require separating the eggs and seems to be worth a try (but a standing mixer is needed).

The time demands placed on households where both partners work outside the home have drastically reduced the amount of home cooking altogether, much less baking. The Holiday Kosher Baker contains many recipes that promise success with a minimum of fuss. Whether the home is kosher or not there are recipes that invoke our holidays and are worth the effort when celebrating.

—Hal Sacks is a retired Jewish communal worker who has reviewed books for Jewish News for more than 30 years.