An Israeli Baker Finds His Danish Roots
Shared by Uri Scheft
Recipe Roots: Copenhagen > Tel Aviv > New York City
When Uri Scheft’s parents moved from Copenhagen to Israel as young Zionists, they brought with them a Scandinavian sensibility and a desire to hold on to a Danish way of life. In Uri’s childhood home, outside of Tel Aviv, surrounded by citrus groves, there was a correct, or rather, Danish way to do everything, from introducing his friends to his parents to cleaning the bathroom. Anything less than what his parents modeled (or a suggestion of how it was done at a friend’s home) was met with det er ikke de mode we got det, Danish for that’s not how we do it, Uri says.
When it was someone’s birthday, the family would wake to the scent of freshly baked buns, placed on the table with tiny toothpick flags of Denmark standing at attention. His mother Margit was an avid baker, rolling out logs of challah dough before Shabbat with the children who attended the kindergarten she ran from their home. “I fell in love with the feeling of excitement that each Friday brought, knowing that when I opened the door after coming home from school, this intoxicating, home, beautiful smell would greet me,” Uri writes in his book “Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking.”
Still, when he wanted to become a baker, the Danish phrase det er ikke de mode we got det — that’s not how we do it — returned. He studied biology instead, but knew it wasn’t his passion. Despite voices echoing that phrase in his head, he moved to Denmark after his degree and enrolled in baking school. The very first time that he mixed the flour, water, yeast, and salt and smelled the scent of fresh bread coming out of the oven, pure happiness took over. He knew he was in the right place and the voices silenced.
More than 25 years later, he is still baking and grateful that his Danish upbringing has stayed with him, he says. Exceptional baking requires intense precision, for measurements of ingredients and time, something ingrained in Uri. When a baker on his team comes to him to propose a different method or recipe, he remembers his parents, saying that it sounds interesting but...det er ikke de mode we got det.
Uri shared a version of this story at Schmaltzy: Tel Aviv, our first live storytelling event in Israel on March 13. Listen here: