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Baking Basics Production Phase 5

Feb 22, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Book Production

Phase 5: Selecting the Step-by-Step Photos

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It has been a long time dream to do a step-by-step baking book. Videos are great to see the action and the actual motion before embarking on a recipe but, while making the recipe, it is much more useful to have a page of photos in front of you for quick reference. Of course doing the steps presents a huge challenge of coordination both for the prep people (us), the person who does the steps having to stay motionless for hours at a time and yet have the final baked good come out perfectly (me), and for the photographer (Matthew) who humbly claimed he was only pushing the button, but this was far from the truth. Controlling the angle. the lighting, the depth of field, and many other aspects, requires a master.

For my previous books, some of the recipes, which were photographed, could be made ahead and others, at the studio, but scheduling the photograph of the finished cake, pie, cookies, or bread was straightforward.

During the step-by-step photography days, Matthew took thousands of photos. At the end of each day, he copied them onto a hard drive and later put folders of his best selections onto Dropbox as jpegs (smaller files). Each recipe had a select folder from which we were to choose what we felt reflected the process the best.

When reviewing the photos I was thrilled that Matthew's work portrayed exactly what I wanted to express, proving the concept that a photo can be worth a thousand words. On the last day of our photo sessions, Matthew handed me the hard drive with all the folders. This way we could search for any steps that we felt needed to be added that were not in his final selections.

Continue reading "Baking Basics Production Phase 5" »

The Zen of Japanese Cottony Milk Bread Final Frontier

Feb 19, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Bread

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Fellow blogger Hsiaohui posted that he makes this bread with a special Japanese flour called Casarine. He wrote that in Asia it also was called the " tearful flours" as anyone who eats the bread made with this flour would be tearful for tasting such delicious bread. It has a 11.7% protein (Note from Rose: which is 0.3% lower than my combination of bread flour and cake flour) and is made by extracting the very heart of a wheat. I lost no time in ordering it from bakingwarehouse in Hong Kong and it arrived two weeks later.

The very next day I whipped up (or should I say kneaded up) a batch of dough, shaping it into a single loaf because we have been so enjoying it for ham sandwiches and as toast rather than buns.

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The resulting bread was a more beautiful white color than the combination of bread and cake flour. The loaf was the exact same height and shape and the crumb equally soft and chewy. And the flavor was not noticeably different enough to justify shipping flour across the Pacific and the US. But if I were living in Hong Kong this is the flour I would use for this bread.

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A Buswoman's Holiday: Montclair Expedition to Bake a Cake and Taste a Doughnut

Feb 18, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories 2017

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My dear friend, Marissa Rothkopf Bates, who is a gifted journalist, baker, and equipment reviewer, invited us to her house to test a new 'smart' countertop oven that she is reviewing. Together, we made one of my favorite 'butter' cakes, the "Whipped Cream Cake," which is in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This exquisitely soft cake replaces the butter with whipped cream providing both the butterfat and the liquid. It actually contains more butterfat than is present in a basic butter cake.

I have been yearning for an oven that is perfectly even top to bottom and front to back and have yet to find one, including the one we were using as an excuse to visit Marissa who lives an hour's drive away. The cake's texture was perfect but it did not brown entirely evenly nor was the top perfectly even.

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While the cake was cooling, Marissa took us for lunch to one of her favorite restaurants, Villalobos. Chef/owner, Adam Rose, gives an eclectic twist to his Latino tacos. They were served "open-face', using homemade soft tortillas. We enjoyed them topped with an enticing combination of carnitas made with Berkshire pork belly, roasted corn, chipotle morita, and another variety topped with chipotle braised chicken, pork chorizo, potato chips, and onion.

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Homemade taco chips accompanied chunky guacamole with the most unusual topping I have ever experienced-- fried little cubes of Nuske's slab bacon, jalapeno, and blackened crispy brussel sprouts. For dessert, Marissa insisted that we try the churros served with chocolate dipping sauce, especially when she heard that I had never tasted a churro. Of course I liked it as churros are made cream puff pastry that is with deep fried. We shall return!

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We next stopped at the Montclair Bread Company. Owner Rachel Crampsey, was a total delight. It turned out that one of the many places where she and apprenticed or worked was Amy's Bread and we both attended a book party there for Amy's book, though at the time we never met. Loving baking bread above all other baked goods, we became instant friends. And Rachel invited me to me to return and fry doughnuts with her.

I adore brioche doughnuts and they are very rare to find. Rachel told us the story of how she and her friend were just experimenting with making brioche doughnuts in the early hours one morning and they turned out to be so addictive they ate the entire batch. She put them on the 'menu' and they were an wild success. She says that: The doughnuts encapsulate everything I love in one bite.

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Rachel has expanded her business to include opening a fish and chips shop next door to her bakery with a clever name, Oh My Cod.

Back to Marissa's to enjoy slices of the Whipped Cream Cake with a dollop of non-ultra pasteurized high fat whipped cream (although her son, Oliver, who is the family's most verbal and enthusiastic appreciator of baked goods, seemed convinced that three dollops of whipped cream were the perfect accompaniment. Do I spy a future food writer in the making?).


Desiderata

Feb 17, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose

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I am usually inclined to write about food and wine, baking, roasting, grilling....but with all that is taking place in the world today, I am moved to share with you the Desiderata (things that are desired) which is hanging on my bedroom wall. I have forgotten to look at it but suddenly some of the words highlighted below came to me. I'll type all of it here as it's hard to see in the photo:

Go placidly amid the noise & haste, & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly & clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery.
But less this not blind you to what virtue there is: many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all axidity & disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe if unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, & whatever your labors & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Baking Basics Production Phase 4

Feb 15, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Book Production

Production Phase 4: Read-Thrus Finished

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For our previous book, The Baking Bible, we waited until our corps of Marie Wolf's Beta Bakers had tested several recipes and had given us their feedback. We then did read-thrus of each recipe. This meant that I would read the recipe out-loud to Woody, while he read the manuscript and stopped me if we needed to change the text. Amazingly, this was done on computer, over the phone, because he was still living in Minnesota. We then checked to make sure common techniques (our macros) were stated the same way in each recipe that used them for the sake of consistency. My belief, since working on The Cake Bible, is that when there is consistency is writing throughout the recipes, it becomes 'transparent' so that the reader has an easier time absorbing the information.

Because this book is so entirely different in approach from the way in which the recipes were presented in the past, our read-thru phase was done in several sessions over the period of nearly a year. An improvement with the editing of this book happened early on when Woody moved here and his computer was within several feet of me and mine.

The revision process continued throughout our step-by-step photo sessions, which inevitably led to improving several recipes. This turned out to be much more thorough and effective than trying to keep up with possible changes as a team of stylists made the recipes. So we integrated all this useful information into the manuscript. Further tweaks were still to come during our selection of the final photos. This unique refining process proved to be invaluable to the clear and informative writing of the recipes.

We were so pleased with the way the book was turning out at this point that we began to panic that if anything should happen to both of us, the editor and publisher would not have the results. We copied all the chapters up to that point onto a hard drive and labeled it so that my husband would be able to find it and know what it was. Luckily we have survived because there was a lot more tweaking and now editing and book production still to come.

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Babka Rescue!

Feb 14, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Recipes

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Have you ever heard me say YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS?! Well I do say this often to Woody as it seems to happen on a regular basis. Even when we've perfected a recipe, there is often a surprise thought or occurrence that turns out to be a silver lining of improvement. But this is the first time I've said this on a posting. Here's what happened to prompt it and here's a case for weighing ingredients:

I was distracted because I was making two recipes at the same time, each using different amounts of lightly beaten egg. When adding the egg to the babka dough, by mistake I added 25 grams instead of 75 grams. After the dough was kneaded for 7 minutes it just about cleaned the sides of the bowl instead of what I had written which was that it wouldn't and that it would be very sticky.

I said to Woody that I would have to make the change on the recipe and he responded with: "Maybe you mis-measured something." Since I always weigh the finished dough there was the answer: 50 grams short. How to add that egg into an already smoothly developed dough?

First I tried continuing with the dough hook and the dough just sloshed around with the egg as if to say you are not welcome in here. I tried squishing it in with my fingers to no avail. So in an act of determined desperation, I dumped it all into a food processor and processed it for about 15 seconds, after which the egg had integrated perfectly into the dough and was even easier than usual to scrape into the rising container.

The finished babka was perfect. We joked about how this could become a new technique. But the thinking behind the desperate act was that many bread doughs mix very well in a food processor, however, I've never had to try adding egg after the dough was already developed. I wanted to share this with all of you should this ever happen!

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The Baking Bible: $4 on Amazon Kindle!

Feb 10, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

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The Baking Bible

And for those of you who didn't see the posting, The Cake Bible is also available on Kindle:

Rose's Baking Basics Production Phase 3

Feb 08, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Radio

Production Phase 3: Step-by-Step Photos

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The cakes for my first hardcover book, The Cake Bible, were all baked and styled by me and photographed by Vincent Lee. I baked the cakes and decorated them and then brought them across Houston Street from my New York 7th floor apartment to his apartment/studio in SoHo. I brought my best props, borrowed from friends, and sometimes would run over to the lower east side to search out fabric for backgrounds or counter surfaces. I even found a realistic large plastic honey comb surface at Canal Plastics which Vincent used creatively for the Honey Bee Cake by shining light through it from the bottom.

The photos for my next nine books all had a cast of professional food stylists, their assistants, a prop stylist, and photographer, all hired by the book publisher. They took place at a studio or off-site location.

For my most recent book, The Baking Bible, my dear friend, artist and baker, Caitlin Williams Freeman, offered to come from San Francisco and be the head stylist. I loved her artistry at Miette Bakery and her styling in her book--Modern Art Desserts. Woody and I also participated by baking and styling many of the recipes. In my previous books, only a few recipes, mainly for techniques, had step-by-step photography.

Since this upcoming book will be filled with step-by step photos, which is radically different from my prior books, I wanted to choose a photographer who could make the photos instructive, bring the recipes to life, be willing to make the long round trip drives from Brooklyn, and who would be as enthusiastic about the project as we are. Matthew Septimus, who did my portrait for the FIT newsletter magazine several years ago, said at the time that he hoped some day he would work with me. The day has arrived.

To have complete control of this 'keystone' phase for our book, I also decided that the photography would be done in my home's baking kitchen. This way, Woody and I would have access to all of the ideal equipment, ingredients, and four reliable ovens. We also would be able to schedule the prep for all of the recipes ahead of time, even completing some of the steps to save on time. This also served to eliminate the need to reserve a studio for the 21 planned days of photography, which spanned a period of 6 months.

I asked that we start earlier than initially scheduled, to be able to make several of the fruit based recipes with seasonally fresh local fruits. To get our feet wet and Matthew familiar with the location, we scheduled a 2-day shoot of 7 recipes, this past June. Our editor Stephanie Fletcher and Matthew's assistant Justin were both on-set for these days. Stephanie set the tone with many valuable suggestions including a request for overhead shots which work so well for the step photos.

Woody and I had previously gone through about 100 of the recipes to yellow highlight steps we wanted photographed and then discussed them with Stephanie for her advice. The baking kitchen soon looked like a photography studio with lights on tripods, a roll-down white backdrop, camera tripods, a step ladder, a computer station for Matthew and Justin to assist them with taking the shots, and for all of us to make photo selections. Matthew surprised us by giving us a 4 foot long unpolished white marble slab for the countertop. Woody and I have been struggling at times with taking photographs on my highly reflective marble countertop.

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Digital photography has the potential to offer the highest level of quality and precision. His CaptureOne computer program, allowed him to shoot and adjust his camera remotely, a great benefit considering that most of the shots were taken directly overhead, so that for most of the shots Matthew, who is over 6'4", did not have to be perched up on the 6 foot ladder, needing to lean a few feet over the countertop. This also gave him the advantage to ensure that lighting and composition were similar from one step to another for each recipe, because many times we needed to shoot another recipe in between steps, or the recipe had to be shot over two days.

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To enable me to see what he was photographing up close, as I was making various steps, Matthew linked up his IPad, which he positioned on one corner of the countertop.

In addition to our yellow highlighted proposed shots, Matthew was clicking off shots for virtually every step, sometimes, over a 100 shots per recipe from overhead, a three-quarter view, and even from shooting upwards. (He ended up with over 15000 shots!) Although our book will have many 'beauty' style-shot photographs, we also had each finished recipe 'plated' for a style-shot.

Continue reading "Rose's Baking Basics Production Phase 3 " »

A New York Squabble

Feb 04, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special for the LA Times Syndicate


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I was reminded of this story when driving on route 80 last week and held up for about 40 minutes due to construction. It was so great to be able to text my friend whom I was meeting to tell him we would be late. There was a time I dreamed of such a possibility but it was long before cell phones.

I am including at the very end, my letter to the editor responding to his queries.


Wen I was growing up in New York City, a cab ride was considered an indulgence and a luxury reserved for special occasions. Since those early years, my attitude has shifted gradually from awe to concern as to whether a taxi would be available when I need it and ultimately to concern as to whether I would survive the ride. Although I feel I've come close to collision on numerous occasions, it's actually happened only once. Of course the driver immediately assured me that it was the other cabby's fault for stopping short and of course, though I am well-acquainted with the rules of the road which unequivocally state that the driver whose car hits the other is at fault, I murmured something sympathetic and wisely said nothing.

When I'm at the wheel of our car and get anywhere near a cab, I am tensed to expect any variety of erratic moves. But what happened a few weeks ago on a cab ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal was beyond my wildest expectations. When I described it to my brother Michael (who escaped to California over 20 years ago) expecting concern and sympathy, he laughed instead and said "that is so New York!" I hadn't even thought to look at it that way.

I had been on my way to catch a bus to New Jersey where my parents were waiting at the bus stop in the town, to pick me up and drive 20 minutes to our house where I was planning to prepare a sumptuous dinner of boned, stuffed squab. I was traveling light. The three squab were tucked into my portable freezer bag and the only other things being transported were my purse and the manuscript of my current cookbook. I had been planning to walk to the Port Authority but was running a little late so decided to grab a cab. From the very moment I closed the door and the driver lurched into gear I sensed trouble. The driver had an "attitude." His anger, aggression and desire to engage in conflict was palpable, both from his driving, the set of his head and even his sporadic breathing. Only a few blocks later he proceeded to cut off another cabby who seized the bait by cutting us off at the very next opportunity. One block later my cabby stopped at a light, pulling up too close for comfort to the other cab. My eyes opened wide with astonishment as he opened the right window, leaned over, shook the bottle of soda he had been drinking, removed his large thumb from the opening and pointing it like a weapon at the other cabby's open window, sprayed him in the face. The light turned green, and now the other cabby made his move. He took some hard object, crashed it against our rear view mirror, breaking it to smithereens and then, taking advantage of the momentary shock of my cabby, accelerated rapidly, cutting in front of us and making a left turn into a side street. Without hesitation, my cabby followed him. "Let me out!" I pleaded desperately. "I'm going to miss my bus." "No!" he said in a reasonable but firm voice, "I have to get him, he broke my mirror." He was deaf to any further pleas as we grew further from the bus terminal I imagined myself missing the bus and my poor parents having no idea what to do.

At the next light he left the cab, ran to the driver's window of the other cab, punched the driver in the face and raced back to our cab. The other driver left his cab and came up to us. He was very handsome and he smiled at me utterly without hostility before smashing in the back window. My driver got out again to pursue the other one and, my adrenaline racing, I grabbed my purse, manuscript and squabs and took off like a shot, in silent gratitude for my stretch jeans and Reeboks. A drunk standing by observing the whole scene cheered me on with "baby, I don't blame you." I opened my mouth to thank him for the moral support and then decided to reserve all my energy for the flight. I never looked back but I'm sure my cabby wasn't interested in pursuing the fare. He was more involved in revenge.

I was glad that neither of the cabbies had a gun. I was glad that I didn't worry my parents by missing the bus. And I was glad that I had something deliciously comforting and life affirming to cook for dinner.

Continue reading "A New York Squabble" »

Chocolate Palmiers

Feb 02, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

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You too will be able to make this amazing pastry come Fall of this year with the launch of Erin McDowell's exciting new book The Fearless Baker!

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