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Irina Georgescu's 'Tava'
An excerpt and a recipe
This month’s Wordloaf book recommendation is Irina Georgescu’s Tava: Eastern European Baking and Desserts from Romania and Beyond, one of my favorite books of the year. Not only does it reveal the fascinating and diverse world of Romanian baking, but it is gorgeously designed and filled with beautiful photographs of both the food, the country, and its inhabitants.
I’ve got an excerpt and a recipe to share below, but first I wanted to share some of the wonderful imagery you’ll find in it.
The recipe excerpt I have for you is Irina’s Orange-Cranberry Gugelhupf, a classic Romanian holiday bread with German roots.
Below you’ll find Irina’s introduction, which will give you an even better sense of its contents. I hope you’ll seek out a copy of Tava for your own collection, you’ll not be disappointed.
Finally, Irina provided me with an extra copy of Tava to give away to one lucky Wordloaf subscriber, chosen at random a week from today, 12/21/22. If you want one, just leave a comment below about what you are planning to bake this holiday season. And if you are not yet a paid subscriber to Wordloaf, you know what to do if you want in on the giveaway:
Introduction: A Constellation of Cultures
How we bake in Eastern Europe, and especially in Romania, is largely unknown. My aim in writing this book is to share the stories of those who prepare the dishes that have come to form our national cuisine. These pages contain recipes that speak of the identity of these communities and specific regions across the country. No small task, given that Romania is a constellation of cultures – a ‘little Europe’, where the Middle East meets Austrian and German influences, layered on top of the inheritance left by the ancient Romans and Greeks. This book is about centuries of diversity and overlapping cultures, from which Romanian cuisine has emerged in all its rich flavours and textures.
I have chosen to focus on just six cultural communities (although there are many more that live in the region) and share their traditions and history through their iconic baking recipes. I couldn’t have written a cookery book without this broader context, while still allowing the recipes to take centre stage.
You will find Armenian pakhlava, Saxon plum pies, Swabian poppy-seed crescents, Jewish fritters and Hungarian langoși alongside plăcinte pies, alivenci corn cake, strudel and fruit dumplings. Rice or pearl barley puddings, doughnuts and gingerbread biscuits come with their own stories, while chocolate mousses, meringues in custard sauce and coffee ice cream introduce you to the glamour of famous Eastern European pastry shops.
I hope that these recipes will pique your interest and tempt you to embrace the unfamiliar as much as the familiar. Certainly, you will love the comforting and homely feel of all the dishes.