Although it's been just two years since New York City-based baker Jessamyn Rodriguez signed a deal to write The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World, "I've been writing it in my head as long as I have been running Hot Bread Kitchen," she says. Since 2008, Rodriguez has churned out an international variety of baked goods in what is certainly one of America's most socially conscious bakeries. And that's because Hot Bread Kitchen isn't just a bread bakery: The operation's chief goal is to hire and train women and men from all parts of the world in the culinary arts and in the business behind running a bakery. Though her goals were lofty and her business model novel, Rodriguez writes in the book's introduction that she's running a successful business in which she's giving life to Old World recipes, training hundreds of bakers, and turning a profit on a wholesale and retail business.
"This cookbook is about how grain and water interact, whether that alchemy happens in Morocco, Italy, Nepal, or East Harlem."
Hot Bread Kitchen started with a collection of homespun recipes that had to be translated and scaled for commercial bakery production. "We had a bit of a backwards job," Rodriguez explains. "We had to take those recipes intended for commercial production and scale them back to the place where they originated — the home baker. But it wasn't just about reducing quantities... We realized that the way that people were making them at home required a sort of 'native feel' to get it right." That also means the recipes in the book are full of secrets only a professional baker would know, like how to use parchment paper to shape Moroccan m'smen. "No self-respecting Moroccan grandmother would shape her m'smen on a piece of paper," Rodriguez says, "but it's an ingenious way to make the home baker's life a little easier and ensure a more beautiful finished product."
The Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook contains a diverse array of recipes, and that mirrors the diversity found in the bakery: During any given shift, five or six different languages are spoken. So how do the bakers communicate? Rodriguez says they speak the language of "bread." She goes on, "this cookbook is about how grain and water interact, whether that alchemy happens in Morocco, Italy, Nepal, or East Harlem. In most parts of the world, women bake bread. Somehow, in North America, that doesn't translate to well-paid work for women. This book, more than anything, is an ode to the work women do to keep our bellies full of delicious bread."
The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisanal Baking from Around the World, co-written by Julia Turshen and published by Clarkson Potter, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The book hits shelves October 13.