Celebration Breads

Celebration Breads by Betsy Oppenneer is available in book form on Amazon.com.

celebration-breadsEvery culture celebrates with food. And no food has a greater influence on culture, history, or religion than bread. From the unleavened matzo of Passover to the German stollen of Christmas, from the British hot cross buns baked on Good Friday to the Russian kolach baked for any special occasion, bread in its many forms brings people together, linking traditions and generations.

Bread is Betsy Oppenneer’s passion. A renowned cooking teacher, she has spent most of her life baking, and much of it traveling. Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions is a collection of more than 75 sweet and savory breads from around the world — from the Americas and Western Europe to Africa and Russia. From her anecdotes about the history and traditions associated with the breads, you’ll discover the tradition behind each recipe. Christmas breads from Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and Egypt; traditional New Year’s Challah from Eastern Europe; and Easter bread from Poland are just a few of the recipes for breads made to celebrate well-known holidays, but Betsy has unearthed many more. Bread lovers will be eager to prepare such recipes as Bread of the Dead, a bread from Mexico made in honor of the Day of the Dead; and Scalded Bread, traditionally baked in Lithuania in preparation for marriage. No matter what the occasion, Celebration Breads has the perfect recipe for you.

Teacher that she is, Betsy wants all bread bakers to succeed, whether they’re baking their first loaf or their hundredth. Each recipe is laid out in painstaking detail, with instructions for making the bread by hand, with a heavy-duty mixer, using a food processor, and by using a bread machine (if possible). Betsy provides comprehensive chapters on: Bread-Baking Ingredients and Equipment; How to Make Bread (including the 4 Basic Rules of Bread Making); Essential Tips and Techniques for novices and experts alike; a Sources list; and an extensive Bibliography. Betsy even includes a section on Homemade Candied Fruits, in which she provides instructions on how to candy your own fruit and citrus peel to obtain a truly authentic product.

With more than 70 black-and-white line drawings by John Burgoyne (known for his work for Cooks Illustrated magazine), Celebration Breads is an invaluable addition to the bread-baking bookshelf.

Amazon.com Review: Japan is about the only nation not represented in Betsy Oppenneer’s Celebration Breads. And guess what? In Japan they don’t celebrate holidays or special events with bread. Everywhere else, well, it’s another story. And who better to tell that story than Betsy Oppenneer, longtime cooking teacher, author of Breads from Betsy’s Kitchen, The Bread Book, and Betsy’s Bread. There was a time in Europe when eggs and sugar were so costly none but the wealthy could use them for anything but special events, usually holidays like Easter or Christmas. Or there are special breads linked to events like the Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Oppenneer has scoured the world for breads closely linked to this spirit of celebration, of special event. And what she found, in many cases, was a disappearing world where new generations were failing to carry on traditions and old recipes were fading out of mind and history. Celebration Breads acts as something of a bridge between what has been and what can be.

Always the careful, thorough teacher, Oppenneer begins her book with chapters on ingredients, special equipment, the how-tos of doing it by hand, by heavy-duty mixer, by food processor, or bread machine, and tips and techniques. She divides her recipe chapters by region: Africa, the Americas, the British Isles, Eastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, Russia and Asia, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. You’ll find flat breads like Egyptian Zalabya and yeast breads like Chelsea Buns. There are sweet breads and savory breads. Big breads and little breads. And in each of the more than 75 recipes Oppenneer is right there at your shoulder, enjoying new discoveries and old friends right along with you. –Schuyler Ingle (This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title)

From Publishers Weekly: With recipes for more than 75 savory and sweet breads, Oppenneer’s book offers home bakers accessible, homey recipes with wonderful histories about the celebrations associated with each entry. The author, a culinary teacher and consultant, lists the basics, such as ingredients, equipment and the steps to making bread (whether by hand, heavy-duty mixer, food processor or bread machine). From there, she organizes her book according to geographic region (Africa, The Americas, British Isles, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, etc.). Her choices sometimes surprise: under Morocco, she places the Yom Kippur celebratory dish, Sephardi Bread, which is filled with a mixture of coriander seeds and almonds; the holiday is celebrated in Canada with Montreal Bagels. For a wedding celebration, Oppenneer recommends Irish Soda Bread (“bread was broken over the bride as she entered her new home and became the woman of the house”). From Norway for Christmas comes Julekake, made with cherries and almonds and served with brown goat cheese. This solid book’s stories are as warm and pleasing as fresh-baked bread.