Uri Scheft's focaccia
Uri Scheft's focaccia. Photo by Eyal Toueg
Text size

The baking of traditional French bread symbolizes a return to good taste, after a long period of decline in the quality of bread, Kaplan explains. The backward slide began at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The Industrial Revolution and the First World War gave rise to new means of mass production that shortened baking processes and cheapened the cost of bread, but also introduced preservatives and other threats to product quality. After World War II, the trend intensified, and many tasteless, unnatural breads came on the market. The rebirth of traditional French bread began in the 1980s and 1990s, owing to economic legislation, including the cancellation of price controls on bread, which allowed French bakers to return to the splendid culinary traditions of the past. Now the return to good bread is a worldwide trend.

The dictionary also features recipes by well-known bakers from France and other countries, including a recipe for focaccia by Israeli baker Uri Scheft. Here are some of his recipes that were inspired by French master chefs who also appear in the dictionary.

The global back-to-good-bread trend includes the patience needed for dough to rise. "Dough is a living creature," says Prof. Kaplan, "and if you don't control the art of its fermentation, you can't bake good bread." The recipes below are a bit longer than those that usually appear in this column, but once you master the simple secrets of dough preparation, you will enjoy an extraordinary taste.

A few things to remember:

• The recipes call for blocks of fresh yeast; if dry yeast is used, it should be mixed with wheat flour, not dissolved in water.

• The preliminary dough can be prepared several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

• The recipes refer to kneading in a mixer, but it can, of course, be done by hand.

A real French baguette

Makes 5 loaves

Preliminary dough:

230 grams sifted flour

120 grams (1/2 cup ) water

3 grams fresh yeast

For dough:

1/2 liter (2 cups ) water

750 grams sifted flour

15 grams (1 level tbs. ) salt

15 grams (1 tbs. ) fresh yeast

The preliminary dough (350 grams )

To prepare the preliminary dough, dissolve fresh yeast in water; add flour and knead quickly for five minutes, until the dough is somewhat stiff. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put in a cold place for 12 hours.

For the dough, add to the kneading bowl, in the following order: water, yeast, preliminary dough, flour, salt. Knead quickly for 5 minutes; then wait 5 minutes and continue fast kneading for 7 minutes.

Place the dough on a flat work surface and roll it into a ball. Place the ball in the flour bowl, cover and let it rise for 30 minutes.

Shaping the baguettes: Divide the dough into five units of 300 grams each. Roll each one gently into a roll 15 centimeters long, place on work surface, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fold the top third of the roll toward the center, press with the heel of the hand and continue to fold and press until the roll is 35 centimeters long.

Line a tray with baking paper, sprinkle generously with flour, and place the baguettes on the tray, separating them so that they do not stick together. Cover with baking paper and leave them to rise at room temperature for two or three hours.

Baking: Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut a groove along the top of each baguette, or make seven diagonal cuts. Bake for 18 minutes.

Herb rolls

For the preliminary dough:

200 grams sifted flour

100 milliliters water

3 grams fresh yeast

For dough:

1 kilo sifted flour

55 grams whole wheat flour

15 grams (1 tbs. ) natural yeast

20 grams (1 tbs. ) sugar

55 grams butter

30 grams (2 tbs. ) 3 percent milk

20 grams (2 tbs. ) salt

30 grams chopped chives

300 milliliters water

the preliminary dough (300 grams )

To prepare preliminary dough, dissolve yeast in water, add flour and knead quickly for 10 minutes, until dough is moderately stiff. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and let rest in cold place for 12 hours.

To prepare the dough, add to bowl in the following order: water, milk, yeast, preliminary dough, flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and butter. Knead quickly for 10 minutes; raise kneading speed for 2 minutes, and then return to original speed for 5-6 minutes. Add chopped chives and knead until they are mixed into the dough. Place dough on a work surface that has been dusted with flour. Roll dough into a ball.

First leavening: add some flour to the ball of dough, cover bowl with towel and allow to rise for one hour.

Second leavening: Take dough out of bowl and roll it into a thick square. Turn the dough into an envelope shape by folding the four corners toward the center, and then return it to the bowl with the folds pressed down. Cover the bowl and allow to rise for 30 minutes more.

Shaping and final leavening: Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 20 units of 100 grams each. Shape into rolls or small loaves and place them on a baking tray lined with paper. Cover rolls with paper and allow to rise one last time, for one hour.

Bake in a pre-heated (200 degrees ) oven for 15-18 minutes. Before baking, you may make 3-5 diagonal cuts on the top of each roll and brush with beaten egg.

Turmeric and nut bread

For preliminary dough:

50 grams white flour

50 milliliters (1/4 cup ) water

3 grams yeast

For dough:

500 grams sifted bread flour

7 grams (1/2 tbs. ) fresh yeast

9 grams (1 tsp. ) salt

260 milliliters (1 cup plus 2 tbs. ) water

75 grams butter

25 grams (2 tbs. ) powdered milk

35 grams (3 tbs. ) sugar

the preliminary dough (100 grams )

Additions to the dough:

100 grams chopped hazelnuts

100 grams chopped walnuts

5 grams turmeric (1/2 tsp. )

15 grams (1 tbs. ) olive oil

Preparation of preliminary dough: In a bowl, mix all ingredients of preliminary dough; cover and allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Then put in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

In a kneading bowl, place the preliminary dough and all ingredients of the dough (without the additions ); knead for 4 minutes. Increase the speed and knead for 8 minutes. Remove dough and put on flour-covered work surface. Roll dough into a ball.

First leavening: Sprinkle some flour on the ball of dough, cover the bowl and let rise for 30 minutes. Then add nuts, turmeric and olive oil, and knead for 2-3 minutes, until these ingredients are mixed into the dough.

Second leavening: Cover bowl and let rise for 30 minutes.

Shaping bread and final leavening: Divide dough into two equal parts; shape long loaves. Put loaves on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and allow to rise in a cool place for six hours.

Place the loaves in an oven that has been pre-heated to 230 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.

Meet the chef

Uri Scheft was born in 1962. After completing a bachelor's degree in biology and working as a cook on fishing boats in Alaska, he studied baking for three years in Denmark and later undertook further specialized studies in Switzerland and France. After returning to Israel, he worked at Ran Shmueli Catering and developed the bakery and pastry department for the Arcaffe chain. In 2002 he opened his Lehamim Bakery in downtown Tel Aviv.

Meet the chef

Uri Scheft was born in 1962. After completing a bachelor's degree in biology and working as a cook on fishing boats in Alaska, he studied baking for three years in Denmark and later undertook further specialized studies in Switzerland and France. After returning to Israel, he worked at Ran Shmueli Catering and developed the bakery and pastry department for the Arcaffe chain. In 2002 he opened his Lehamim Bakery in downtown Tel Aviv.