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Spring Water, Blind Taste Tests, and Open Minds

Aug 29, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Baking Science

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SPRING WATER BY NANCY WEBER


The only true and scientific way you can be sure of your personal taste preferences is to taste them "blind." Otherwise it is near impossible to avoid bringing your preconceived opinions and perceptions to the table.

About two miles from where we live, there is a water source that flows through the mountains so that it is pure and uncontaminated by wildlife. It runs freely, and seemingly endlessly, through a metal pipe. Old habits die hard and sometimes I catch myself short thinking I forgot to turn off the tap! Residents of our area can fill their water bottles at will with fresh and delicious spring water.

I decided to do a blind taste test using the spring water versus our softened well water, both at the same temperature. Woody and I each tasted the water without knowing which was which and each of us chose our well water as our first choice.

I once performed this blind taste test for my nephew Alexander when he was about 8 years old. He and a few friends he had met on his annual visit to us in NY tasted three different water samples. He was sure he would prefer Glaceau, the bottled boutique water his mother purchased back home in San Francisco. But all three boys and I all preferred the NY tap water (after I allowed it to sit overnight so that the chlorine would dissipate).

What better lesson for a child or adult to find out, without prejudice, what we really and truly prefer.

A Vicarious Visit to Ottolenghi's

Aug 22, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Special Stories 2015

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When I heard that my brother Michael, wife Mia, and daughter Mariella, were planning a trip to London this summer my first thought was that they had to go to Ottolenghi's.

I am such a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks that during my recent move to New Jersey I bought a second one of the same book because I couldn't wait to unpack the numerous boxes of books in my collection.

My artistic niece took several terrific photos of the dinner. The one above of the stuffed eggplant was the dish I most envied. I"m so glad my family had the experience of eating at Ottolenghi's and next time in London.....

Serendipity on the Road to Toronto

Aug 15, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Restaurant Reviews

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photo credit Owen Daw (our tall and wonderful grandson)

Our granddaughter, Haley, is a Paralympics swimmer training for the World Paralympics in 2016. The Toronto Parapan North American Summer Games gave Elliott and me the opportunity to cheer our Haley on her road to Rio.

We decided to break up the drive by overnighting in upstate New York, about 4 hours from Toronto. When we arrived at the motel in Victor, NY my heart fell when I saw that it was nestled between Wendy's and Taco Bell and despaired over what Elliott and I could possibly find to eat for dinner. But it was late afternoon and coffee was my first thought so I asked Suri (my iphone voice of wisdom) where the nearest Starbucks was located (the lesser of all coffee possibility evils). To my delight it turned out to be only 1-1/2 miles away in one of the largest malls I've ever encountered.

We entered the part of the mall that housed a vast food court with all the usual fast food type of eating possibilities. Starbucks turned out to be located a few steps away from Williams Sonoma, and in a moment of inspiration I went in and asked the manager for a restaurant recommendation, figuring that someone working in this food centric store would be our best bet for good advice.

Between assisting paying customers, he graciously made two recommendations, so within short order we found ourselves at Compané Bistrot in nearby Fairport and experienced, to our total amazement, one of the most perfect restaurant dinners we've had in many months!

We entered through a very lively and noisy bar but to my vast relief were seated in one of the quiet side rooms were we were offered a small paper bag containing a few slices of ordinary looking and tasting bread. But when we dipped the bread in the accompanying plate of olive oil, graced by a little spot of balsamic vinegar and a dusting of Parmesan, it metamorphosed into ambrosia. I don't remember ever tasting a better olive oil and I have tasted many! I would have been content to have made that our entire dinner, especially accompanied by one of the best sauvignon blancs I've ever tasted: Matua Valley, from Marlborough New Zealand described as fresh fruit aromas of stone fruit lemon zest, and a hint of gooseberry. It was the gooseberry that grabbed my interest and though I'm not sure I detected any of the suggested flavors, it did offer the classic fresh and slightly grassy flavor of the varietal that I adore.

We went on to share an appetizer of fried calamari with small pickled cubes of Kalamata olives and cherry peppers, accompanied by both aoli and tomato dipping sauces, The calamari was perfectly cooked and minimally breaded and the garnishes provided just the right amount of added zing.

We also shared a main course of lemon shrimp with linguini in a cream sauce--just enough to cloak the pasta, and also containing little cubes of fresh tomatoes. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the flavor of the entire dish was absolutely fabulous.

Elliott and I were both stunned to discover that our fortune had taken the leap from fast food restaurants to this spectacular meal.

I used Waze to navigate back to the hotel and it took us through beautiful country roads which was a world away from the highway we had taken to get to the restaurant. What an unexpectedly great start to our vacation.

Update: Haley won 1 bronze, 2 silver, and a gold medal!

A Dinner Made by a Legend ~~ Tempura Matsui

Aug 08, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Restaurant Reviews


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It has been fourteen years since my last visit to Japan when I was researching Wasanban sugar for an article for Food Arts Magazine. It was my last memorable tempura experience. In Japan, the tempura coating was an impossibly thin crisp veil through which one could see the fish or vegetable and I longed to experience it again. When I read in the New York Times that Masao Matsui, a renowned tempura chef from Tokyo, had been tempted out of retirement to open in New York I was eager to experience his rendition of this fine art.

Chef Matsui started in the restaurant business in Japan when he was 18 . Reviews highlight how over the years he has perfected his zen-like tempura mastery to achieve a batter that is as thin as possible--just thick enough to coat the ingredient. Each ingredient glistens through its light and crisp coating, which he refers to as "My Tempura." Over the years he has owned several tempura restaurants in Tokyo.

In July, we were in New York City to attend a memorial get together for my dear friend, colleague, and editor Gary Tucker for Food Arts magazine. Everyone who attended was invited to bring an appetizer. Our contribution was Pepperkakors, a spicy cookie from The Baking Bible which makes an appealing appetizer, especially when coated with a soft goat cheese. Some of us also contributed special memories about Gary.

After the memorial was over Woody and I went on to dinner at Tempura Matsui.

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We were given an exceptionally warm welcome from the hostess and then were ushered to our seats at the tempura counter where we could enjoy seeing the master and his sous chefs work their magic. Chef Matsui serves his guests with a prix fix, Omakase experience with several stages for tonight's dinner. Omakase transalates as "I will leave it up to you." Before our eyes, we watched the preparation of the oil, the precise mixing and testing of the batter, and the wooden boxes bearing Chef's choices for us to relish.

Every course was served in an exquistely unique vessel. This first course was sea urchin with Japanese yam and wasabi.

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Over the next two hours was a fascinating dining experience of 9 small courses, with Chef personally placing his "My Tempura" delicacies on our serving platters. Some of our favorites were the scallops wrapped in nori, the maitaki mushrooms, and the seasonal fish kisu.

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Continue reading "A Dinner Made by a Legend ~~ Tempura Matsui" »

Food 52 Launches My New Pie Kit!

Aug 04, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

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Click here to see it.

Aug 01, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements


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Once again my cookie class on Craftsy is being offered at half price. Click on this link.

I'm also delighted to tell you that I'll be doing a second class this year!

Refinements to Concord Grape Pie

Aug 01, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Epicurious

The season for Concord grapes is short but as the skin on the grapes is very thick they freeze perfectly for well over a year, especially if placed in ball jars.

I now prefer to thicken the filling before baking. Allow it to cool to room temperature before scraping it into the pie shell.

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Toronto Here We Come!

Jul 28, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

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In August, the whole Beranbaum family is off to Toronto to attend the Parapan American Games. It will be the largest in history, with more than 1,600 athletes from 28 countries to compete in 15 sports. And our granddaughter Haley will be swimming!

For those of you who live close enough, I would love to see you at Golda's Kitchen on Sunday, August 9 at 4:00

2885 Argentia Road (Winston Churchill and the 401)
Mississauga, ON L5N 8G6
905-816-9995

Owner Fred Pritchard saw the new Rose's Signature Series Pie Kit at the Chicago Housewares Show in March and was one of the very first to order it. It will be available for purchase along with my most recent book The Baking Bible, and, of course, I will be delighted to sign any of my books you may already have.

You will also get to meet my long-time friend and esteemed colleague Norene Gilletz. Many years ago I taught my first class away from home at Norene's cooking school in Montreal.

Golda's carries an extensive selection of my product lines. You can check it out on their website.

Special Offer from Craftsy

Jul 25, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

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As an instructor on the excellent educational online site Craftsy, I am informed of special promotions and am happy to be able to pass them on to you for your possible interest.

In honor of National Culinarian Day, all food and cooking classes are offered for $19.99 for today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday).

Here's the link.

Baking Powder on the Rise

Jul 25, 2015 | From the kitchen of Rose in Baking Science

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Our preferences for baking powders are ones that are made with an all-phosphate product containing calcium acid phosphate and non-GMO cornstarch. Baking powders containing sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), to aid in releasing more carbon dioxide during the baking stage, generally have a bitter after taste, especially noticeable when added to pie dough.

Recently, Rumford released a new baking powder, Rumford Reduced Sodium Baking Powder, which contains 52% less sodium than leading brands and no aluminum. Rumford informed us that this new product activates mostly during the heating/baking phase. We were curious to test this new baking powder since timing of activation has a great impact on baked goods, especially muffins and cupcakes.

Letting the cupcakes rest before baking gives the cupcakes more rounded tops because if more of the baking powder activates in the early stage from the liquid in the batter there is less to disrupt the cell structure, during baking, needed to collapse the crumb to form a flatter top.

My White Velvet Butter Cake recipe served as our test recipe, since it is an egg white based butter cake and has a somewhat neutral flavor, which enables us to perceive differences during tasting more easily.

Since there can be a relatively long time frame to fill over a dozen cupcake liners, during which the baking powder will have begun to activate, we wanted to see if the new baking powder, which reacts more in the baking stage, would give us a wider window of time to fill the cupcakes and result in more uniformly shaped cupcakes.

We made two batches of cupcakes with each baking powder serving as the leavening for each batch. Once we filled the cupcake liners, we also let some of the cupcakes rest 20 minutes, and others 30 minutes before baking them. We baked all of the cupcakes for the same amount of time.

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ORIGINAL RUMFORD ON THE LEFT, LOW SODIUM RUMFORD ON THE RIGHT

The test card shows the height in inches, then the width in inches.

The cupcake on the left, made with the original Rumford baking powder, had the batter stand for 20 minutes after filling the muffin cups and before baking as did the one on the far right, made with the new Low Sodium Rumford baking powder. (It is both flatter and wider.) The middle cupcake, which is very similar to the original Rumford, but made with the low sodium baking powder, stood for 30 minutes before baking.

The results indicate that the new Rumford baking powder is more effective in preventing doming for up to 20 minutes of standing time but not longer. However, when we gave them a taste test we found major differences. The original Rumford cupcakes had a more pronounced flavor and texture. The sodium reduced Rumford ones were milder in flavor and fluffier. We preferred the original Rumford for flavor and texture.

People are always asking either how to get more rounded cupcakes or flatter ones to hold more frosting. One of the major problems is that if making 12 or more cupcakes, by the time the last few cupcake liners are ready to be filled, the batter has been sitting in the bowl for at least 10 if not more minutes, resulting in more doming in the baked cupcakes. The longer the batter stands in the bowl before dispensing, the more the loss of leavening action during filling the liners. Once the batter is dispensed into the muffin liners this action slows down but is still taking place. So when the muffins are set in the oven, there is less leavening available to burst through the air bubbles in the batter to flatten the crumb during this heating phase.

Did you know that different brands of baking powder have different compositions, reactions, and results in the finished product? If you'd like to know why, continue reading!

Continue reading "Baking Powder on the Rise" »

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