From the Mediterranean
A book review by Franz Scheurer
I admit it, I'm a cookbook collector and although not quite as 'bitten by the bug' as Mitch Green (who has the largest cookbook collection I know of) we do have a roomful of cookbooks. Why do I tell you this? Because 'Savory Baking' ranks amongst my Top Ten!
If you are into bread then this is a must have. It deserves a place in your kitchen and once it is well-thumbed and fat-splattered, it will have given you many culinary WOW moments.
The book looks kind of old-fashioned; it's in black & white (except for the dust jacket) and frankly, the photographic reproduction sucks. What counts, however, this book has soul. The recipes not only sound appetising, they work.
The book is divided into: Focaccias and Pizzas, Other Flatbreads, Plain Raised Breads, Flavored Raised Breads, Breadsticks Rings and Rusks, Pies and Tarts and finally Savory Pastries. These chapters are followed by a small bibliography and an index.
Anissa Helou, the author of Savory Baking is this grand, passionate, sweeping-everything-up-in-her-path, culinary persona, who's charm will take you in immediately. Her passion is tangible and infectious. Some of the recipes stand out for me for many different reasons, but the Yemeni Bread on pages 82/93 was like meeting an old friend after many years. I ate this in Yemen and haven't tasted it in decades and here it was, in black & white. Reading it made me salivate and it was the first thing I had to try. There are so many treasure in this book: Moroccan Multilayered Breads, Tunisian Spicy Breads, Lebanese Morning Bread, Sicilian Eggplant Bread Rolls, Greek Saints' Day Bread or for something a little different: Radicchio Pie or Watercress Pie. It just doesn't end...
This is an incredible collection of recipes the way the old people used to bake around the Mediterranean, traditions that are slowly fading, and not only is it history on a page, the recipes are achievable. I appeal to any home-baker to get this book and try some of the treasures, and I appeal to any professional baker to read this very carefully; you might just learn something or get inspired.
The book is published by William Morrow (HarperCollins Publishers.