The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook
Artisinal Baking From Around the World
This is a good news story. Mostly.
Good news item #1. There are people like Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem, New York. Rodriguez, an ex-pat Torontonian, created the bakery in 2007 as a social enterprise to provide training for low-income minority women. The women learn the skills they need to move into management track positions in the food industry or start their own business. To complete the circle, the baking at Hot Bread Kitchen is inspired by the diverse cultures and family recipes of the women who work there.
Good news item #2. This was an interesting book. Where, other than New York or Toronto, would you find this trip-around-the-world, treasure trove of recipes? Recipes include breads of different types plus food to eat with them, for example, Ethiopian Injera and Doro Wat (braised chicken with berbere spice) and Tacos filled with Spaghetti Squash or Low-and-Slow Carnitas. Flatbreads include Naan and Nan-E Quandi, an Iranian flatbread with butter, milk and honey. There are filled doughs such as Empanadas, Kreplach and Albanian Cheese Triangles. Leftover bread can be used for Tres Leches Bread Pudding with Mexican Chocolate Sauce.
Good news item #3. Taking a glass half full perspective, baking from this book provided an opportunity to let go of my expectation that a recipe will work as planned. While the book contains detailed step-by-step directions, nothing happened as it was supposed to. Where the book said it would rise in 2-3 hours, my dough took 4 hours or more. When the dough was supposed to be gooey, mine was dry, and vice-versa. I googled other reviews to see if this was just me but others were thrilled with it. I did note that some people had to try a few times before they achieved the results they were looking for. So maybe I am too impatient (perfection takes time), or maybe it was something else like the specific ingredients or the humidity.
Despite all that, I made some interesting stuff. M-Smen were delicious, flaky Moroccan flatbread drizzled with honey and I made a savoury version with caramelized onions and spinach. Olive Oil Focaccia was slightly heavy but had great flavour. Chocolate Cherry Rolls tasted strongly of cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, not at all too sweet and perfect for breakfast, although also a bit heavy. Nothing was wasted (except my goodwill).
This was a good read and the Hot Bread Kitchen is doing important work but I am left a bit wary. Who wants to devote time and energy, not to mention ingredients, to recipes that don’t work? If you try it, know that it’s not you and please tell me what happens.