Alan Mathason is new to the formal food business, but his family history in Jewish baking goes back four generations.
With inspiration from his elders, he started Motzi Bakery two months ago, and will be sharing some of his techniques in an upcoming Jewish cooking class.
But don’t despair baked-goods bypassers — it’s gluten-free.
The $35 class will take place Sept. 9 from 12 to 2 p.m. at Greensgrow Community Kitchen at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, located on East Cumberland Street.
The class will feature gluten-free demonstrations of holiday classics like apple cake and macaroons.
“The more meaningful things I’m trying to bring to that classroom setting is really around some of the more professional techniques versus what people might be used to seeing in recipes that they follow in their home kitchen,” Mathason added.
He developed his recipes with his own home-milled flour, for instance, with a blend of gluten-free grains.
This blend adds to the flavor of the apple cake — a Rosh Hashanah staple he also adapted to be vegan — and the overall quality of the baking experience, he said.
That’s something at the core of Motzi Bakery’s mantra: “No chemicals. Nothing heavily processed. Never sickly sweet.”
When bakeries expand their businesses, the larger volume of goods makes for cheaper flours over better quality ones, Motzi’s website explains.
Butter is substituted for oil; chemicals replace ingredients; precision preparation gets tossed over from man to machine.
“The perspective of the types of things I’m making is coming from being disappointed from a lot of what I see out in bulk-commodity baked goods,” he admitted. “There are some bakeries that are baking quality and doing really good things, but so much of what you find out there in the chains and grocery stores, they’ve just become such commodities and the price points get pushed so low that there’s really no room for quality.”
A lot of Mathason’s inspiration stems from his uncle who baked his whole life. As a merchant mariner, he often told Mathason the story of how he had “the only Jewish rye on these ships,” he recalled with a laugh.
He learned sweet breads, challahs and traditional pound cakes from his uncle, who also taught him the importance of using quality flours.
“Some of that exposure really got me thinking more about scrutinizing what you’re baking, what you’re putting into things and what you’re using along the way,” he added.
Mathason started his bakery business out of the Greensgrow Kitchen as his commercial kitchen partner — which is not kosher — and to get his business exposure, they suggested he lead a cooking class.
“As I expand and get my own [place], that’s something that I’ll definitely consider,” he noted of keeping a kosher kitchen down the road.
Although Mathason does not eat gluten-free, he said this class offers those who do an opportunity to practice some desserts ahead of the High Holidays.
His signature babka, however, is off-limits.
“That’s my primary product, so I wasn’t planning on teaching that,” he laughed. While a typical babka is “sickly sweet,” Mathason’s are more balanced; he complements the chocolate with citrus zest.
He also bakes them with whole wheat flour and whole fresh-milled flour.
“It also gives it more of a heartiness,” he said. “It’s more substantial” than the dessert that often provides a quick sugar high and a faster crash.
The class caps at 18 people — an unintentional chai — and spots are still available, Mathason said.
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