A Peek into the World of Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s newest book, The Baking Bible, has been in production for quite some time (publication date is October 28, 2014). In fact, I started interviewing Rose in relation to the book – and in general – way back in September 2013 to see what was new in her world. This is the first part of our interview; our entire “conversation” just concluded this August. Consider these two interviews to be a peek at Rose the person and Rose, The Baking Bible author. The second installment will post on Bakepedia on October 15th and recipes and a book review will be coming on October 27th and November 10th. You can also read about how we met, originally posted on September 3rd.
(Ed Note: this part of our interview took place Fall 2013. Rose is now moved into her new kitchen where The Baking Bible was shot with the help of her co-conspirator Woody and the book is about to hit the shelves).
Dédé Wilson: Rose, this is so funny interviewing you in a formal way. Usually we are just chit chatting and talking shop.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I know Dédé! But this will be fun. I always like speaking with you.
Well, this is a question I love to ask and I cannot wait to hear how you answer it: When people ask, “What do you do”, what is your answer?
(She laughs) Oh, I have a really good answer…Well, one is typically asked that question for a driver’s license or applying for a passport, but recently I was at a new doctors office and they asked me just that question – I said I am in the pleasure giving business (she laughs hysterically)…the man’s eyes popped open really wide! I said it is like a wine collector, so maybe he would relate…especially bakers…this is what it’s about – nurturing, giving pleasures. It’s an all-encompassing thing! I am a baker but saying it that way is too general; it’s like saying I am a woman, but I am Jewish and American and so many other things. I write about baking even though a baker just bakes…what I do is very dimensional. I bake, I write, I share and educate through the blog. I do fewer magazine articles these days and now that The Baking Bible is in production…it is the largest thing I have produced. It’s an organizational nightmare to be doing the book in the midst of moving.
From your NYC apartment to your home in PA…
Yes! Huge adjustments, not knowing where everything is.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
(Silence)…It’s a tie between connecting to other people…making a difference in peoples lives and, oh it’s three parts actually! I love to sit and write about…not so much technique, but to write stories…I was a born writer…on a equal level is making bread…can’t even put one ahead of the other.
How are you inspired to create recipes?
Partly intellectual, partly from experience and travel and partly taste imagination…not everyone is taste driven…I have a Rose nose…I am led by my nose…my oldest memories are smell based. I create from my senses.
Do you have a moment, event or recipe from your career of which you are most proud?
YES (she is most enthusiastic about this)! I just thought about it the other day. It has to be the cream of tartar moment (laughs)!
Rose, we need more details…
It changed my whole approach to cream of tartar. I like to push things to the breaking point, then work backwards. I wanted to figure out how much cream of tartar was the perfect amount for stabilizing egg whites. When you push the amount you can see what is too much, which is counter productive. If it is the right amount you literally cannot over-beat the whites. You can beat them until the cows come home.
Was there a reason why it took you some time to figure this out?
Great question! It is because egg whites have changed in relation to yolks. This is why amounts called for years ago might not work for today’s eggs. Laying hens are younger and there is more white per egg than there used to be, so needs have changed. Most recipes recommend too little cream of tartar…I remember a meeting of chefs in RI where they were all madly scribbling this down…you would think I had changed the world (laughs)! So, for every 1-ounce (or 2 tablespoons) of egg white, use 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar.
What are the three most important things that you think the home baker should know?
1. Humility (laughs). No, it’s obedience! Follow the recipe!!!
2. The type of flour – bleached or unbleached – is hugely significant. And it can be deceptive. You read a recipe and it says all-purpose. But what kind? You have to know what was used for that recipe.
3. Using a scale. And I have more! Using the right temperature butter and the one common denominator we all have is that we use an oven but all of our ovens are different. In fact I was calibrating my oven today!
That’s so true. People just trust that their oven is 350°F because it is set to 350°F, but they must be checked! Tell us about what you are doing currently…
Building my dream kitchen. It will be semi-commercial…
What did you do for ovens?
Wolf converted to propane…I got a flexible spray hose…I have a bread area and wrapping station and the other part is general baking…it has been a lifetime in the making. 38 years of accumulated things! The movers broke a 7-foot by 3-foot marble! Building a kitchen is a big project and you have to be prepared for the unexpected…there will be oak cabinets and two sinks – stainless. Metro shelves so everything is accessible, like my big Stretch Tite!
(We both laugh) Yes, that is a must. It is such a great plastic wrap, no others compare! I also keep a giant one out on the counter…you can often find them at big box stores. They last for months!
…speed racks…there is a lot going on here! By the way, Woody wants to meet you! He is moving from Minnesota!
I am looking forward to that too…and can’t wait for the book!
Check back on October 15th for the second installment where we talk about her production of The Baking Bible, why wedding cakes will be very important to her in the near future, the nuances of using non-GMO products and I get to interview Woody who tells us some things about Rose that no one else knows.