The Wait is Over: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Baking Bible is Here
Who else but my buddy Rose Levy Beranbaum would write a book called The Baking Bible. (There are actually other books with that title, but we think Rose has laid claim). Many a baker has been looking forward to its publication but the wait is over and from the first glance of the cover, we know we are in for a special treat – a dark black background with a buttery, flaky pastry staring right at us in all its many layered glory. Initially it might seem an unusual choice for the cover, but since Rose is known for cakes, cookies, pies and breads, the image of a pastry hints at new things to come within – and does not disappoint. It is a Kouign Amann and the picture is so mouthwatering it will have many turning to that page directly, but this is a book to be savored and poured over again an again. As with all of Rose’s books, it will become a recipe book as well as a general resource.
Let’s start at the beginning. The book is a hefty 500+ pages, so like with any Rose book, you get a thorough treatise on whatever is being presented. It is her largest book in scope to date. Originally thinking this next book would be “Rose’s Heavenly Baking”, when it was re-dubbed “The Baking Bible” Rose realized that some basics should be included and also since it would be wide ranging, that she would be able to cover certain recipes that she has wanted to share for years, but never had a proper platform for. By and large these are new recipes that she developed for this book, but she has revisited some favorites and supplies us with her new, improved versions. She and I had a chat about re-working recipes, which you can read about, which explains how – and why – her recipes evolve.
Before you get to the recipes Rose explains about the Golden Rules, which you will find at the beginning of every chapter. According to Rose these are the “mantras to internalize” – baking habits that will ensure consistent success. Some of the rules are re-stated again and again in subsequent chapters, (such as measuring carefully, using ingredients specified) but is only because Rose wants to impress upon us her precise approach and encourage us to do the same. Then there are rules that are particular to that chapter. For instance the cake chapter will discuss using stand mixers for cake batters and how to best utilize the various speeds, while the pie chapter will have a rule about making foil rings to protect overbrowning crusts. You might be tempted to jump to the recipes, but do not overlook these Golden Rules as there are many tools of Rose’s trade here that will help you be a better baker.
The chapters are as follows (some recipe examples in parentheses):
Cakes – with subcategories of:
Butter and Oil Cakes (Blueberry Buckle, The Red Velvet Rose)
Cupcakes (White Chocolate Whisper Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline)
Sponge Cakes (Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake, Banana Split Chiffon Cake)
Cheesecakes (Lemon Almond Cheesecake, Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes)
Pies, Tarts and Other Pastries – with subcategories of:
Scones (Irish Cream, Flaky Cream Cheese Scones)
Flaky Pastry Basic Recipe
Fruit Pies and Tarts (Frozen Lime Meringue Pie, Pomegranate Winter Chiffon Pie)
Nuts and Chocolate Pies and Tarts (Frozen Pecan Tart, Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart)
Savory Pastries (Perfect Savory Cream Puffs, Pizza Rustica)
Cookies and Candy – with subcategories of:
Cookies Dropped or Shaped by Hand (Spritz Butter Cookies, Pepparakor)
Rolled and Pastry-Type Cookies (The Dutch Pecan Sandies, Hamantaschen)
Cake-Type Cookies (Mini Gâteaux Breton, Woody’s Black and White Brownies)
Candy, Meringue, and Ice Cream Cookies (Luxury Chocolate Buttercrunch Toffee, Praline Pecan Meringue Ice Cream Sandwiches)
Breads and Yeast Pastries – with subcategories of:
Sweet Yeast Pastries and Breads (Rum Raisin French Toast Royale, Classic Brioche)
For The Cheese Course (Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread)
Favorite Homemade Preserves (True Orange Marmalade, Concord Grape Jelly)
These chapters are followed by thorough sections on Ingredients, Ingredient Sources, Equipment and Equipment Sources. There are also indexes for Quick and Easy Recipes, Flourless or Mostly Flourless Recipes, Lactose Free Recipes, Recipes Using Only Egg Yolks and Recipes Using Only Egg Whites.
I have been baking out of the book and you can read about my experiences with The Renée Fleming Golden Chiffon (recipe coming 11/10) and The Polish Princess, (which you can see now) in more depth.
In short, if you are a Rose fan you will want The Baking Bible. If you are new to her writing, it is a great place to start as it gives you a selection – as opposed to her many single subject titles. As with all of Rose’s books you will get a graph presentation of the ingredients and have the choice of volume measuring, grams or ounces. The techniques are very thoroughly explained. Rose appeals to those with analytical minds. She approaches baking with a scientist’s sense of inquiry. If you want to know how and why to do something, you will find it here. It is not casual baking, however, if you are a beginner who needs to know all the ins and outs of a recipe, it will work for you as well.
I know Rose cut many recipes for the book and frankly, for me it could have been longer! For instance, some of her groupings are so interesting, that when I came across the Cake-Type Cookies section and found only 3 recipes, and a scant 2 recipes in the Savory Pastries, I was left wanting more. That said, the fact that she even addresses breads specifically to go with The Cheese Course and offers up some of her favorite Preserves felt like a bonus. And the Golden Chiffon cake will be a standard for me now for years to come. Kudos to Rose on another job well done. I’m making the Chocolate Cuddle Cake and the Sugar Rose Brioche next.