Bread Machine: Marketing Professor Shares Passion for Baking
By Eric Breier
Glen Brodowsky is a popular guest at dinner parties.
While some might pick up a bottle of wine on the way to someone’s home, Brodowsky arrives with a basket of homemade breads.
“They say man cannot live by bread alone,” Brodowsky said. “Watch me.”
Brodowsky has been a professor of marketing in Cal State San Marcos’ College of Business Administration for more than 20 years. He teaches every summer at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark and has been a longtime visiting lecturer at National Cheng-chi University in Taiwan. Among his myriad research interests are global marketing strategy, cross-cultural time concepts and their effects on consumer behavior and country-of-origin effects on product choice.
Though you won’t find “skilled baker” listed on his curriculum vitae, it has been among his many talents for nearly a decade.
Brodowsky has long enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t until about nine years ago that his mother challenged him to try baking. Brodowsky’s first reaction? He wasn’t nearly exact enough to bake. But his mother persisted.
Not only did Brodowsky give it a try, it has become a passion for him.
Brodowsky started by baking challah, a bread typically eaten on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.
“It was really quite good,” he said. “I was shocked, and I realized it’s not really such a mystery after all.”
Brodowsky’s baking repertoire has expanded to include everything from pumpernickel and rye bread to scones and Mandel bread, which is a cookie similar to biscotti.
While Brodowsky eventually wants to add bagels to his baking résumé – “I haven’t gotten up my nerve to do bagels yet,” he says – he has made knishes, a time- and labor-intensive snack that has a dough exterior that covers a filling such as potatoes. Brodowsky describes them as “carbs wrapped around carbs.”
Brodowsky grew up in Brooklyn and fondly recalls Mrs. Stahl’s Knishes, which churned out legendary knishes for 70 years from a small store located under an elevated train in Brighton Beach.
“Anybody of a certain generation who grew up in Brooklyn knew Mrs. Stahl’s,” he said. “It’s no longer there, but she made the best knishes. I found the secret recipe online for her knishes. They’re amazing.”
Brodowsky has become known for his baking prowess. He has hosted the College of Business Administration holiday party and a CSUSM Jewish Faculty Staff Association dinner at his home and he has conducted baking seminars at local synagogues.
He has even baked as incentive for his students to attend class the day before Thanksgiving. One year he made knishes for the students who showed up, another time it was mini white macadamia nut and white-chocolate raspberry scones.
“We’re talking about 30 or 40 students,” he said. “That’s quite a bit of baking. I remember walking into class that morning and saying, ‘And who says I don’t have the scones?’ ”
Even when he’s in Denmark every summer, a country known for excellent breads and baked goods, Brodowsky will bake.
“It’s a social thing I do,” he said. “Breaking bread together, this is what people have done for ages. There’s just something humble about a plain hunk of bread and some butter – or some cream cheese if you come from where I come from – and it’s a nice thing to share with people.”
Brodowsky has learned many lessons to produce the best possible bread and baked goods, and he says beginners shouldn’t be intimidated. He suggests starting by finding a good recipe online. When kneading the dough – Brodowsky uses a stand mixer – the most important thing is to have the dough “clean” the side of the bowl. He says not to be afraid to add small amounts of flour or water, depending on whether it’s too wet or too dry, to help the dough come together.
Brodowsky also has learned not to let the dough rise too long or it will flatten out. The bread will still taste great, it just may not have the desired presentation.
But the biggest challenge in baking, Brodowsky finds, is figuring out what to do with all the bread. He said most recipes make two loaves, so he typically keeps one and gives the other away. He likes to slice the bread before freezing it – “The best thing since sliced bread is sliced bread,” he says – so he can just pull out what he needs rather than an entire loaf.
“This is just something I’ve done and become known for among my friends,” he said. “They know if there’s a party, nobody has to ask what I’m bringing. I’m the bread man.”
This is the recipe adapted from Jessamyn's Sephardic Challah by Jessamyn Waldman that Glen Brodowsky likes to bake. Brodowsky adds poppy seeds and has a few minor changes in his baking steps that are reflected in the directions below.
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
5 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
Toast seeds over moderate heat about 4 minutes; transfer to freezer for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the water and let stand until thoroughly moistened, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour with the olive oil, the honey and the remaining water and mix at low speed until a very soft dough forms. Add the salt, yeast mixture and all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds and mix at medium-low speed until the dough “cleans” the side of the bowl. Brodowsky adds more flour a little at a time if needed to help it get to the point that it cleans the side. Add some cooking spray. Then knead dough before transferring to a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free spot until the dough is risen, 1-1 1/2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pound to deflate. Cut the dough in half and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into an 18-inch-long rope and let rest for 5 minutes longer, then roll each into ropes about 3-feet long. Roll each rope into spiral shape.
Transfer each coil to a baking sheet or plate covered with parchment paper. Cover each loaf with a large, inverted bowl and let rise another 1-1 ½ hours. Brodowsky notes that you shouldn’t let it rise too long or the loaves may flatten.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and sprinkle remaining seeds on top. Bake the loaves side-by-side in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until they're golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer the loaves to racks and let cool.