(photo credit: Courtesy)
David Katz, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, has been an educator for more than 25 years in the US and Israel. This year he embarked on a new journey into the world of artisan baking with a unique educational twist. He has created a new bakery concept called Pat Ba’Melach, where not only can you find artisanal sourdough breads, but you are also encouraged to participate in workshops baking sourdough, focaccia or hot pretzels. The workshops give visitors the ability to learn about the connection between bread and the Land of Israel and Jewish history.
I sat down with Katz and his wife, Devorah, of Challahcrumbs.com fame, and spoke to them about their new bakery and their vision for experiential education and tourism.
David recounted stories of the past 10 years traveling to Jewish communities across the United States to lead matza-baking workshops.
“As you can imagine, the matza-baking season is short; therefore, I added olive oil and honey workshops to my repertoire. The success I had with the handson approach encouraged me to take advantage of the teaching moments during the rest of the year using bread,” he said.
What type of bakery is Pat Ba’Melach?
Pat Ba’Melach is an artisan sourdough bakery in the heart of Gush Etzion. The bakery’s open floor plan lets visitors get a real sense of a working bakery. Twothirds of the space is dedicated to running workshops, including visitors in the process of baking authentic sourdough bread.
Why was it important to you to create interactive workshops at the bakery and make it into a tourist attraction?
Bread has played an important role in Jewish history and in the books on our “Jewish bookshelf.”
You will find references to bread in Tanach [Bible], Mishna and Jewish law. By creating a hands-on educational experience with bread, visitors are able to gain a deeper connection and understanding of how bread relates to Tanach and the Land of Israel. I firmly believe that mixing formal and informal education is the recipe for success, especially for children and teenagers.
How did you learn the skills of bread baking?
I met Anomarel Ogen, a well-known artisan baker in Israel, and he taught me the art of sourdough bread baking, as well as the nutritional, chemical and biological benefits of sourdough bread.
What are the benefits of sourdough?
Many people are surprised to learn that sourdough bread is made up of only flour, water and salt. The sourdough unlocks close to 80 percent of the nutrition in the grain, more than double compared to a standard bread. For the health-conscious tourist, we also offer workshops about the nutritional value of sourdough and how it affects the flavor and digestive qualities of the bread.
What are your favorite topics to speak about in a workshop?
The workshops give me the opportunity to connect Israel and the Jewish calendar to the ancient art of artisan bread and the grains of Israel. The topics can be about Jewish holidays and how bread plays a role in their customs and traditions. The topics I choose are based on the background and interest of the group I am meeting.
Why did you choose to build your bakery in Rosh Tzurim?
Rosh Tzurim has an incredible vibe and energy.
Nestled in Gush Etzion with spectacular views, the place really inspired me. I’ve come to love the community, and their excitement about this project has really made me feel at home. It helps that I live in Alon Shvut and I have the best morning commute. For tourists, it’s a short drive from Jerusalem.THE FOLLOWING
are the types of workshops a family can choose from. Katz can also create custom workshops suitable for all types of groups, such as children, teens or grandparents, experienced bakers or newbies.
Focaccia: Rolling, Shaping, Seasoning and Baking The 1.5-hour focaccia-baking workshop uses an authentic, wood-fired brick oven as participants divide, shape, season and bake their own focaccias. Brush with olive oil and add toppings and herbs of your choice.
While the focaccias are proofing (rising), learn the delicious history behind them and other flatbreads.
Fresh Rolls: Make and Bake The 1.5-hour workshop has participants exploring how to roll, shape and proof dough while they make their own breads and rolls. Add your own personal touch to your breads with herbs and seeds. While the bread is baking, learn the secrets behind making the perfect loaf.
Breads and Spreads Come hungry! A one-hour workshop offers a sourdough bread tasting where participants learn the difference between various types of breads made from countless types of wheats and grains. Breads are dipped in olive oils and other delicious spreads from around the Israeli countryside.
Pretzels In this 1.5-hour workshop, participants shape, boil, salt and bake delicious sourdough pretzels. This is a wonderfully family-friendly activity.
I had a chance to speak to a family that enjoyed a workshop, and they said that “Pat Ba’Melach did not disappoint! This interactive bread-baking class provided lessons on Jewish Law, digging deep into the dough and snacking on the finished product. Our group ranged from eight to almost 70 years old, and everyone had an enjoyable and delectable experience. Two thumbs up!” Pat Ba’Melach
Rosh Tzurim, Gush Etzion
(15 minutes from Jerusalem)
Joanna Shebson is the Founder and FUN Expert at Fun In Jerusalem (www.funinjerusalem.com). She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three kids and loves to inspire family fun. You can reach her at joanna@ funinjerusalem.com
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>