A Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes from America's Rich Immigrant Heritage

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"In this book, I'm embarking on a different path, focusing on finding recipes that preserve the tastes and memories of a long-departed place." —Greg Patent A Baker's Odyssey is a rich collection of recipes and culinary history, all gleaned from Patent's exhaustive research in the American home kitchens of immigrants from around the world. Through his travels across the country, Patent learned the secrets to traditional baked goods originating from thirty-two different nations. From Scotland and Austria to India and Thailand to Mexico, Norway, and West Africa, the recipes represent the best of each culture's beloved culinary traditions. Chapters are organized by categories of baked goods, and include Fried Pastries and Doughs, Flatbreads and More, Savory Pastries, Sweet Pastries, Savory Yeast Breads and Pies, Sweet Yeast Breads, Cookies and Cookie-Like Pastries, and Dessert Cakes, Tortes, and Pies. Patent provides detailed information on the origin of each recipe and its ingredients, and gives a real sense of the cultural heritage behind each dish. Recipes are easy enough for home cooks of any level to master, and include everything from Jewish Matzoh, Eastern European Rugelach, and Sweet Irish Soda Bread to Russian Meat Piroshki, Italian Pignoli Cookies, and Chinese-Style Almond Sponge Cake. The book is accompanied by an hour-long DVD in which Patent provides hands-on instruction in making Strudel, Pretzels, Cannoli, Kransakake, and much more.


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A Baker's Odyssey: Celebrating Time-Honored Recipes from America's Rich Immigrant Heritage
Kelly Gorham

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Have Oven Will Travel

A Baker's Odyssey is Greg Patent's sixth book, and marks a progression of his interest in the history of cooking. Previous books have focused on the United States as well as other culinary subjects. In A Baker's Odyssey he departs for the lands of our ancestors. 

The fact is that unless you are of Native American blood, you are an immigrant in this land. Your lineage traces back to someplace else in this world. And you're likely to find a recipe from that place, as Greg has made the effort to bring something back from many of the countries that have helped shape baking in America. Along the way, he celebrates the traditions from where they came.

A Baker's Odyssey covers 32 different countries mostly throughout Europe. A smattering of Asia is touched upon, but that is because, as Greg explains, there was not a lot of baking done in Asia in olden days. Or even now for that matter. 

In addition to telling the stories behind the emigration of these recipes, Patent also teaches some baking basics. If you are a novice wanting to get back to your baking roots it can be difficult to simply open a book and start the recipes. Baking, unlike savory cooking, is more scientific. So Greg gives you a primer on the ingredients that you will use as well as the tools that are important to the baking kitchen.

There is a lot to choose from, and there's something for everyone and every taste in this book. The chapters go from fried sweet pastries and doughs, to flatbreads, and savory items. There are recipes in the book for foods that in many places are everyday staples Tortillas in Mexico, Matzoh in the Middle East and Chapatis in India for example. 

Many of the savory items are also dishes that were used in the home for feeding the family. This is where you will delve into the yeast categories for items such as Piroshkis from Russia and Iraqi meat pies. 

The book finishes up with sweet breads, and of course cakes, pies and cookies. Basic recipes that are used in many of the other recipes are covered, and there is a mail order source list for a host of specialty items as well.

The last feature of this book is one of the most unique in cookbooks. Greg actually includes a DVD of himself cooking several of the items in the book. He does it in a very easygoing manner that also makes it look very easy. One of the most difficult items in all of cooking is Strudel Dough. Greg does it for you on the DVD and makes it look simple. I personally have never tried making Strudel dough because the stretching and working of the dough has always sounded difficult. Now I have a coach and an inspiration to try it!

A Baker's Odyssey is a trip around the world with a sampling of some of the best cooking around. It is a dessert book, a staple book and a sweet history lesson all at the same time. I would urge you to try all of the recipes in the book, if not for the taste but for a sampling of the world they come from.

Recipe from the book: Sfinci di Ricotta


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