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Another very special review and recipe from the book, written by another long time friend, Miriam Rubin, and forwarded to me by a newer dear friend and blogger Matthew Boyer! It's so amazingly interesting to me to see how much of people's personalities are reflected in what they write in a review. And, I must say, I feel very appreciated and am wondering when it will be time to descend from cloud 9!
I haven't heard from my old friend Cornelius O'Donnell for many years now but what a way to hear from him now! This was send by another dear old friend, Blake Swihart (whom I always think of as 'sweetheart'.
Neal's Meals, early May 2010 The Diva of Desserts does it Again
The Diva of Desserts does it Again
I often listen to a couple of classical music programs on FM radio. And both have hosts that are - to put name on it - gushy. And the delivery of one weekday announced is downright breathless. These guys feel that way about Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach. I feel that way about great food and food writing. So humor me and let me gush it up in describing a new cook book.
The "Diva" in question is Rose Levy Beranbaum, and anyone who likes to bake, or would like to learn to bake, should run to the bookstore and order most all of Rose's nine books. You may know her first book - The Cake Bible - published in 1988 and named the Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Food Professionals, a group I once was part of. Then came Christmas Cookies (a James Beard Foundation Award Winner in '98). The indefatigable Rose also produced The Pie and Pastry Bible in 1998.
More recently, praise was heaped on her 2003 Bread Bible. (I'm pretty sure she was the instigator of all the "Bible" cookbooks that others have published, for better and worse, in the last several years.)
Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Not content to rest on her laurels, Heavenly Cakes was published last year just in time to qualify for the 2009 book awards. You guessed it; the new book again won the IACP "Book of the Year." And when you pick up a copy it's easy to see why. There is no question that "Heavenly" will join the "Bible" in that pantheon of books that become instant classics. Gush. Gush.
I was impressed with the almost four pages of "Acknowledgements," including a photo of her associate Woody Wolston who painstakingly tested and retested the recipes. You really get the sense of confidence in using the recipes. Baking is so rewarding when your creation comes out perfectly. But it's one aspect of cooking that requires precise measurements. A half teaspoon too much or too little and you might have a dud instead of a delight.
I like the way the recipes are written and the feeling that Rose is beside you guiding you to perfection. Incidentally for you scientifically minded cooks, ingredients are listed by volume AND weight - in both grams AND ounces.
Add the valuable sections on the nuts and bolts of baking: special effects and techniques, ingredients and sources, equipment etc. Gush. But I caution that you'd best have ample counter space or one of those cookbook holders. This is a large format book, heavy enough to be a doorstop, and almost 500 pages long.
Restraint and Elegance
Have you seen those cake-making competitions on the tube? Zany, improbable, and wobbly-fragile creations are (maybe) fascinating to watch, but get real. What home cooks want - unless I'm nuts - is to produce desserts that are simple, attractive, and most of all tasty. And this is the time of year when cakes can celebrate graduations, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, and weddings. The book has some stunning and doable wedding cake ideas. None of the Styrofoam layers and plastic pillars for our Rose, eh Hyacinth?
Turn the pages of the book and start by reading "Rose's Rules of Cake Baking;" no long treatise, just succinct and practical advice. Then come the recipes divided into sections: Butter and Oil Cakes; Sponge Cakes; Mostly Flourless and Cheesecakes; adorable Baby Cakes; and those wedding cakes.
While I was sorely tempted to give you a sample of such delights as the Red Fruit Shortcake in anticipation of our fresh fruit season to come, it is too long for this space. Likewise the No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake, Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake (a precursor of the wedding cakes, perhaps?), Lemon Meringue Cake, Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake, and even the two trifles so beautifully photographed. And while I've made and loved Rose's signature Lemon Poppy Seed Sour-Cream Cake, let's try the Whipped Cream Cake. It's simple, suitable for many occasions, and a perfect foil for a few fresh berries to garnish the plate.
Those of you who subscribe will get the magazine any day now but it should be on the news stands imminently. Starting on page 66 is an article featuring my recipe for Lemon Icebox Cake I think you will enjoy. I love it so much I"ll be including it in my next book. A perfect summer-time (or anytime) dessert. (Lemon just might be my favorite flavor.)
In my introduction to The Cake Bible, I wrote about how my master’s thesis research paper, written 34 years ago, on the hypothetical premise: “Sifting Flour Affects the Quality of a Yellow Cake” led me to my future husband (now of 33 years!) and the writing of The Cake Bible.Fellow blogger Hector Wong expressed a strong desire to see this thesis so I dug into my huge supply closet and found the original, copied it, sent it to Hawaii, and Hector kindly digitalized it to share it with all of you who might be interested. If the scientific aspect holds no appeal, do jump to the final two paragraphs of the addendum on bottom of page 35 to see how this paper impacted my life. And I might add that my best advice to fellow writers is to begin a project by looking up the key word in the dictionary. It may well take you in an entirely different direction from what you might have thought. You can download a copy of my master's thesis here as a PDF. The file is fairly large (5.96 MB) and may take awhile to dowload if your connect is slow.
There's no time I enjoy living in New York more than December. (By the way, when a New Yorker says New York it means New York City.) Though the city is dramatic and often beautiful in all seasons, it is at its most spectacular when dressed for the holidays.This week I walked uptown to a fascinating Austrian wine and food pairing from the Burgenland. As it was only two blocks away from Rockefeller Center I paused to enjoy the newly lit tree for 10 full minutes, with the same wide-eyed wonder as all the tourists surrounding me. I think the tree was all of 80 feet high but rose to 84 feet with the placement of the magnificent Swarovski crystal star on top. The Austrian wine and food pairing was most successful because it demonstrated dramatically how the wine changes with the food that accompanies it. I loved the Heinrich St. Laurent 2005 by itself and with the Viennese fried chicken and especially with the accompanying sauce of lingonberries, but not when I sipped it with the Kobe beef roast where the Weninger Blaufränkisch Reserve 2003 which initially I had found quite closed suddenly blossomed. But the two biggest surprises were the sparkling grüner veltliner that went with all the hors d'oeuvres but was also extremely enjoyable by itself as was the Kracher 2003 TBA (short for trockenbeerenauslese for those who fear pronouncing it or want to boast extreme familiarity). Many people refer to this dessert wine as liquid gold and this particular one deserved the name in full. In fact it was so perfectly balanced between refreshing acidity and honeyed apricot sweetness it needed nothing at all to accompany it other than a willingness to fall to one's knees in gratitude (difficult to do when seated).
This morning, when I turned on the computer, I made the marvelous discovery that the article I wrote for Hemispheres, United Airline's In-flight magazine-- "Three Perfect Days in New York," was now on their site along with photos! check out www.hemispheresmagazine.com (You don't even need to get on a plane to read it!) I was very proud to have the opportunity to showcase and share my favorite things about the city in which I grew up. In fact, both of my parents were born here. My mother had her dental office on the corner of 95th street and Central Park West. My father had a wood-working shop on the Bowery next to Sammy's Bowery Follies, and the monopoly for producing bagel peels in all five boroughs, thus becoming familiar with every joke, myth, and street in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. His grandmother was a landlord (or is it landlady?) on the lower east side, and her sons, his uncles, formed the tough defense gang called "The Levy Boys." (Wonder if they'll ever make a movie of that!) I learned to ice skate at Rockefeller Center, enjoyed field trips to the U.N., studied ballet under George Balanchine (getting to perform in his Nutcracker Suite at City Center), studied piano at Julliard, attended Music and Art High School (graduating at Carnegie Hall), watched double feature foreign films at the Thalia and walked ever street and avenue in Manhattan. It was an enormous challenge to concentrate all that I love most about this city into three days. I hope you enjoy reading it and that you'll have the chance to experience it first hand as well.
if you go on line www.washingtonpost.com you will find a great article on hamburgers with my recipe for the buns.most of you know this, but i just want to emphasize the importance of using unbleached flour when making bread. bleaching destroys protein which means less gluten development. the bread made with bleached flour will spread sideways and have less height and inferior crumb structure. this info is in the link called "tips to bake like an expert." also be sure to click on the link "best buns aren't in a bag" hope you all try these for your memorial day barbecue!
first published in the April 2005 issue of Food Arts Magazine
It is a common misconception, which I have shared until very recently, that 100% whole wheat bread is by its very nature dense and bitter. On a trip to the Bay Area, while researching the story in this issue on the Bay Area bakeries, I was invited to an unusual bakery in Oakland: Vital Vittles, which specializes in kosher, organic, 100% whole wheat bread. They didn’t tell me why they had invited me until I tasted the bread and then Kass, the owner, admitted that it was to disprove what she had heard me say about whole wheat on the radio a year before when on tour for “The Bread Bible.”
To my amazement, the bread made with 100% whole wheat had the aroma of a new-mown lawn combined with freshly cut hay. Kass explained that the bitterness I had experienced was due to rancidity. It was absent in her bread because she used wheat berries ground the same day as baking the bread. A wheat berry can be decades old and if stored properly, will still be viable, the fats in the germ protected from oxidation by the bran, its outer coating. The moment the wheat berry is broken or ground, oxidation starts to take place. Most millers agree that once ground, the flour should be used within 3 days or held for 3 weeks due to certain enzymes that would render it undesirable for bread baking. Three months is the limit for shelf life of the whole wheat flour unless frozen. But for the best flavor, it is ideal to use it the day it is ground.
I immediately asked Kass for a few pounds of wheat berries and the day I returned home I started grinding and developing a recipe for 100% whole wheat bread. I discovered that the secret to lightness of the crumb was not only the freshness of the flour but also not allowing the dough to double during rising which tears the more fragile gluten. The result: This soft, moist, slightly chewy, crunchy with walnuts loaf that captures the true nutty-sweet multi-dimensional wheaty flavor of the grain.
Note: The average bread made with refined flour has about 66 percent hydration. This bread has almost 88 percent hydration due to the very absorbant bran. It is preferable to weigh the flour as no two flour mills grind the same, which would impact the volume significantly.
100% Whole Wheat Bread Walnut Loaf
Oven Temperature: 450°F., then 400°F
Dough Starter (Sponge): 1-4 hours or overnight
Minimum Rising Time: About 2 1/2 hours
Baking Time: 45 to 50 minutes
Makes: An 8 inch by 4 1/2 inch by 4 1/4 inch high free form loaf
2 lbs, 1.7 ounces/956 grams without nuts; 2lbs., 6 ounces/ 1078 grams
Equipment: An 8 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.
1) Make the Sponge
In a mixer bowl, place the water, honey, about 2 cups (10 ounces / 286 grams) flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of the yeast. Whisk about 3 minutes until very smooth.
In a second bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, vital gluten, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of yeast. Sprinkle it over the mixture in the first bowl, forming a blanket of flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit for at least 1 up to 4 hours. The sponge will break through the flour blanket in places after about 1 1/2 hours.
2) Mix the dough
With the dough hook mix on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead the dough on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes, adding the salt after the oil is mixed in. If adding the walnuts, continue kneading 3 minutes.
The dough will not be elastic at this point and will not form a ball. It should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and knead it.
3) Let the dough rise
Place the dough into a 2 quart dough rising container or bowl (3 quarts if adding the walnuts), greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover the container with a lid, plastic wrap or a damp towel. With a piece of tape, mark where 1 1/2 times the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until 1 1/2 times (no more or it will tear the gluten and result in a dense crumb), about 1 hour.
Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a floured counter and flour the top. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. It will now be quite elastic and still very sticky. Give it 1 business letter turn, round the edges and return it to the bowl.Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where 1 1/2 times the height will now be and allow it to rise until it reaches that point, about 45 minutes (Or refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.)
4) Shape the dough and let it rise
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and press down on it gently to flatten it slightly. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary. Shape it into a loaf and place in the prepared loaf pan. It will fill the pan to the top. Place it in the proof box or cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is about 1 1/2 inches (2 inches if walnuts) above the sides of the pan, and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in—about 45 minutes.
5) Preheat the oven
1 hour before baking time preheat the oven to 450F.
6) Bake the bread
Quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and lower the temperature to 400°F. Continue baking 45 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200°F. Half way through baking, rotate the pan half way around for even baking.
7) Cool the bread
Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.
Wonderful as tea sandwiches with cultured butter, yogurt cheese, bleu-veined cheese and apple slices.
The Dough Percentage
o my view, the pastry world is divided between two different personality types: chocolate and vanilla, chocolate reflecting the heavy hitters and vanilla the more subtle and complex. I love both flavors but if I had to chose only one it would be simple: vanilla wins hands down, not only because I love its flavor but because it is one of those rare synergistic ingredients that enhances others. If chocolate is king, then vanilla is queen. And it is indeed the power behind the throne. Where, after all, would chocolate be without vanilla to round out its harsher, coarser characteristics. And in the domain of ice cream, vanilla reigns supreme as our number one flavor.
The term plain vanilla is an absurdity. There is nothing plain about magic. Perhaps the concept came about because vanilla sauces and creams are often used as a base for other more intense flavors; but there is nothing plain about it at all. In fact, when it stands on its own as vanilla ice cream or vanilla pound cake, it is the very essence of purity and haunting floral flavor notes that make one yearn for the impossible while feeling utterly fulfilled in the moment.
History: Vanilla possesses an intriguing and powerful past going back to the Totonac Indians of the East Central Coastal area of Mexico. Taken as a conquering tribute by the Aztecs, where it was used in a drink called “Chocolatl” in the court of Montezuma, it was next acquired by the explorer Cortez (also written as Cortes) who introduced it to the royal court of Spain in around 1528. In the late 1500s they renamed it “Vainilla” meaning “Little Scabbard,” which the pods resemble. Vanilla was used uniquely for the chocolate drink in Spain for 80 years until 1602 when Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, suggested using it as a flavoring for other things such as sweet meats and candied fruits. In 1793 the vanilla vine was smuggled from Mexico to the Island of Reunion, then a French protectorate called Ile de Bourbon, hence the term Bourbon vanilla, referring to vanilla grown in this area.
Processing: There are some who categorize vanilla as a spice, and as such, it comes second only to saffron as the most expensive one in the world. But to my mind, vanilla is in a category of it own—perhaps more a perfume or an essence than a spice.
Vanilla is the fruit of the planifolia (fragrans) orchid or the tahitensis orchid, the only two of 35,000 species of orchid that bears edible fruit (the pompon orchid is used primarily for perfumes and pharmaceuticals). The flower itself is totally devoid of scent, requiring lengthy processing and fermentation to achieve the exquisite aroma of the vanilla bean.
The vanilla orchid’s flowers open briefly only part of one day during a month-long flowering and require hand pollinating to produce fruit. (The only natural pollinator is the Melipona bee, unique to Mexico.)
Six to nine months after fruiting, the green pods are hand harvested and cured. The curing process begins either by brief soaking in hot water and then rolling in blankets to “sweat,” or, as is done in Mexico, by wrapping in blankets and then straw mats and heating the beans in an oven for 24 to 48 hours. In either case, the curing continues over a period of 5 to 6 months, during which the pods are sun dried each day and then returned to the sweating blankets at night. When fully cured, the pods are fermented, shrunk to one-fifth their original weight, to become characteristically dark brown and wrinkled and are referred to as vanilla beans. Incidentally, there is some confusion as to the use of the word vanilla bean because when the seeds (sometimes referred to as grains) contained in the pod are used in a product it is usually referred to as vanilla bean (ice cream or crème bruleée for ex.) even though only the seeds are used and not necessarily any of the pod. A vanilla bean is actually the entire pod containing the seeds. The average vanilla bean contains 60,000 seeds. Madagascar beans graded “Prime Triple A’s,” however are left on the vine an extra week and grow to as long as 8 3/4-inches) containing 90,000 seeds. These represent a little less than 2% of the crop.
Vanilla grows best in areas 10 to 20 degrees north or south of the equator in a hot moist tropical climate with year round temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F. Primary produces of vanilla are Indonesia, Mexico, Tonga, Tahiti and the Bourbon Islands including Madagascar which is said to be the finest from this area which produces about 55% of the world’s annual supply of 1700 tons.
Vanilla beans vary enormously in quality. In generally, the best beans are thought to come from Tahiti, Madagascar and Mexico, though Indonesia also produces some beans of very high quality with slightly smoky notes. Gahara, which means “of royal descent,” is the most highly regarded Indonesian vanilla, coming from Bali in the Batubulan province, imported by Paris Gourmet.
According to the late Chat Nielsen Jr. of Nielsen Massey, the Madagascar “Bourbon” has a full rich creamy flavor, Mexican vanilla slightly spice like clove or nutmeg, Reunion vanilla also possesses a slightly sweet spicy note, and Comores vanilla has a balsamic quality. His son, Craig Nielsen says his personal favorite is Madagascar for its “deep rich complex, classic vanilla taste. Tahitian is floral and fragrant but the flavor profile is one dimensional.” His take on Mexican vanilla is that it is virtually indistinguishable from Bourbon when added to other ingredients.
Chef Aaron Isaacson, of Mr. Recipe Premium Pure Vanilla Products, a graduate of the CIA whose interest and passion for vanilla led him to become a manufacturer, refers to the Madagascar beans as the refined royalty and the Indonesians as the indispensable truck drivers. He uses a blend of Indonesian and Madagascar from 5 different islands (Sulawesi, Java, Bali, Flores, and Madagascar) for his Vanilla Essence, a term which he has trademarked for his extract which cannot be called “pure vanilla extract” as it contains half the alcohol (18%) of what is categorized by the FDA as “pure vanilla extract.”
The second great divide in the pastry world, after that of chocolate versus vanilla, seems to be variety of vanilla: Tahitian versus Madagascar, with passionate devotees on either side. Oddly, some feel that Tahitian is stronger and others feel it is more aromatic but less strong in flavor in the finished product. All agree, however, that it is more floral in aroma. This is believed to be because it is high in the heliotropin component (piperonne). I find that it most successfully tempers and rounds the metallic quality of tropical fruit, particularly passion fruit. But each vanilla has its champions and now Mexican vanilla is also re-entering the arena. Lydia Jording, importer of Mexican vanilla, says “the reason it’s the best in the world is the way they cure the beans: they are oven dried and sun dried as opposed to the hot water method generally used elsewhere.”
Mexican vanilla fell into disfavor for a while because some unscrupulous producers were adding coumarin (an irreversible blood thinner) as a flavor enhancer. According to Zarella Martinez, successful efforts are now being made to produce organic first class vanilla in Papantla, the vanilla native region, by growers like Victor Vallejo and processors such as Heriberto Larios and Cesar Arellano. An organization has been formed (La Asociacion de Vainilleros de Papantla) and they have instituted rigid controls as to when the vanilla can be harvested. In addition only a few orchids are pollinated on each plant so that the beans that do grow are first rate.
Vanilla Extract Production: Vanilla has been available as an extract only in the last 100 years. To produce an extract, the chopped and shredded beans are soaked in a recirculating alcohol and water solution to extract their flavor. Temperatures vary from 60-130°F. but better manufacturers use cool distillation as it results in the best flavor and also a longer time period of up to 5 weeks as opposed to warm temperature and an extraction of only 48 hours. After extraction, some of the alcohol and water solvent is removed if it is being concentrated and the remaining extract is adjusted for flavor strength. (Vanilla can also be extracted using other solvents such as carbon dioxide, commonly used in Europe but not accepted here by the FDA.)
Vanilla extract is available in different concentrations referred to as “folds.”
The term “fold” refers to the strength of the vanilla extract, not the flavor. The FDA defines single strength (one-fold) as being made from 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans (about 100 beans) which contain less than 25% moisture, per gallon of liquid solvent. Specialty producers claim that their single strength is 10% stronger than most supermarket brands. Double strength (2 fold) uses two times the amount of vanilla bean per gallon of liquid solvent, triple strength 3 times, quadruple strength is 4 times after which it becomes supersaturated. Thirty folds is the highest concentration produced. In order to get to 10 fold concentration, 10 gallons of a 1 fold vanilla are put into a still and under pressure and vacuum the water and alcohol is drawn off, and it is reduced to 1 gallon of 10 fold. This concentration process also drives off flavor components so if reconstituted to 10 gallons it would not be the same. It is used in industry for convenience when working with large quantities of product.
La Cuisine, in Alexandria Virginia, offers a highly aromatic 8 fold Madagascar extract for which the beans have been flash frozen before extraction presumably to maintain freshness and quality.
According to the FDA, vanilla labeled “pure vanilla extract” must contain at least 35% alcohol. (This is not to say that vanilla extracted in mediums other than alcohol is less “pure,” and may in fact be superior!) It may also contain vanilla seeds and ground pods. Sugar, dextrose and cornsyrup, coloring and preservatives are permissible but must be listed. According to Patricia Rain, in her “Vanilla Cookbook”, Celestial Arts Berkeley, Ca. 1986, manufacturers may use 5% to as much as 40% sugar to speed up the aging or mellowing process. Sugar is also used to prevent a muddy color but if caramelized sugar is used it will produce a dark, often muddy color.
Pure Vanilla Flavoring and Other Varieties
Liquid vanilla extract is designated as a flavoring by the FDA when it contains less than 35% alcohol. You can have a pure vanilla flavoring that is less but it is not designated as an extract.
Some manufacturers such as Euro Vanille refer to their product as “Pure Vanilla Extract” though they cannot technically have the FDA designation since it contains no alcohol. In this case, the vanilla is extracted either in alcohol or in carbon dioxide and this medium is then replaced by a glycerin medium, a more neutral propylene glycol medium, or an invert sugar. These varieties of vanilla are used in industry or by individuals who desire the flavor of natural vanilla without using the whole bean or an alcohol solvent. Because glycerin is a vegetable oil derivative, with a higher evaporation point, it dissipates less during baking than a vanilla in an alcohol base. I find that glycerin, when tasted alone has a distinctly bitter taste though in minute quantities and added to other ingredients this may not be perceptible. Euro Vanille and Searome both use the inverted sugar to eliminate any bitter aftertaste.
The now ubiquitous vanilla paste usually contains natural vegetable gum such as carogene for viscosity so it is thickened but still fluid enough to pour. The paste also may contain either the seeds and/or the pod, and sometimes a small amount of vanilla extract in alcohol or sugar syrup.
Paris Gourmet imports a Gahara (Indonesian) vanilla paste made from the entire bean in an alcohol, water and emulsifier medium. This is offered as a more economical approach as the beans used are not of the same quality, resulting in less purity and flavor depth. Nielsen Massey and Mr. Recipe, however, use the same quality beans in his paste but not the pod because it sometimes will add bitterness. Isaacson claims that chefs prefer the paste or the essence to extract and produces extract for the consumer only because recipes call for that product.
The vanilla bean seeds add a subtle earthy depth of flavor and unique sweet quality, but the bean alone cannot offer the full depth of flavor. The extract, though easier to use, lacks the sweet roundness and in excess may even impart a bitter edge, hence the popularity of the vanilla pastes which offer a balance of complexity, richness and fullness of flavor. Vanilla paste, however, is not as strong as extract because it is not full strength or full extraction. It is, therefore, somewhat of a compromise. The ideal flavor profile would be a combination of extract and seeds, and second to that paste, and seeds.
Pure vanilla is also marketed in the form of a powdered bean, and also powdered with sugar. Though most of the flavor resides in the seeds, when the entire pod is used the resulting powder is coarser than the seeds alone and the flavor less subtle and delicate, delivering far more flavor impact but less depth of flavor than extract. Euro Vanille markets a powder that is 100% vanilla, using the bean and the seeds. Nielsen Massey’s vanilla powder has been encapsulated onto a maltodextrin (modified cornstarch) as opposed to the more usual dextrose base which is much sweeter. The FDA allows allows pure vanilla powder to contain lactose, food starch, dried corn syrup, acacia, and an anticaking ingredients.
To sum it up: The major advantages of vanilla paste, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla powder over extract is that more can be used without resulting in bitterness, and that the flavor does not dissipate during cooking or baking. The major advantage of extract is richness and intensity of flavor and ease of disbursement in a liquid medium. Aaron Isaacson advises using paste in recipes that are not subjected to high heat, in conjunction with extra seeds to give the extra flavor boost that you would not have with just the bean alone. He says that the extra sugar in the paste also brings out more vanilla flavor, making it more complex, richer, more mellow and rounded. He advises using the essence or extract in combination with the bean for long baking such as cakes and crème brulée, because it is richer and more full bodied. Though some of it dissipates, there is still an uderlying flavor carried by the alcohol.
Keeping in mind that taste here is highly subjective and particularly dependent on freshness and quality of the product, the suggested exchanges are:
1 teaspoon of vanilla powder = 1 teaspoon of extract = 1 teaspoon paste
(When using Tahitian, I use a 1-inch piece of bean to = 1 teaspoon extract.)
2-inches of bean=1 teaspoon of extract; 1 whole bean = 1 tablespoon extract or paste
Incidentally, most vanilla products are designated as kosher (the designation appearing on the packaging).
There are thought to be over 250 organic flavor components in every high-quality vanilla bean and only one in artificial vanilla: vanillin. This is commonly produced using wood pulp ( which is why wines aged in oak barrels often have a noticeable vanillin flavor component)
How to Evaluate Vanilla
Appearance: A vanilla bean should be dark brown, plump, glossy or oily, and flexible. It’s surface can display white vanillin crystals. If you look very carefully, you may even find a distinctive mark on a vanilla bean. Some growers actually brand each bean to prevent theft during processing! The average bean measures 5 to 6-inches in length but some measure almost 8 ¾” in length, depending on variety. Those that are the ripest will tend to split sharply along their length.
Sometimes you will notice a white substance coating the vanilla beans. This is usually not mold, it is most probably flavorful natural vanillin crystals which migrate to the surface. (Some disreputable producers harvest this vanillin for other purposes, lowering the quality of the bean. According to Chris Broberg, beans still containing all their vanillin smell sweeter. He recommends always getting an analysis. To determine whether the white substance is mold or vanillin, simply touch your finger to the bean. If it is mold it will not disappear but if it is vanillin crystals, after a few seconds they will vanish.
Taste: The best way to taste and compare vanilla is in bottled water or club soda sweetened with a simple syrup made by bringing 3/4 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar almost to a boil, stirring constantly until dissolved, held at that temperature for a few minutes stirring, then cooled to room temperature. Use about 1 quart of club soda to 6 1/2 tablespooons simple syrup to 1 tablespoon of vanilla. If the vanilla is of a higher concentration or fold, use proportionately less .
For the vanilla bean, use 1 bean per cup of water/syrup mixture. Split the bean down the center and cut it into 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces. Steep for about 2 hours.
A plain butter cookie is also an excellent way to assess the baking qualities of vanilla.
Storage: Vanilla extract or paste is thought to improve on age, developing nuances, for perhaps as long as 5 years and even longer if stored under ideal conditions. If stored at too cool a temperature flavoring material may precipitate out requiring shaking before use. The ideal temperature for both extract, paste, and beans is 70 to 80°F. at low humidity, and not exposed to light. A plastic bottle or for the beans, a freezer weight airtight bag is preferable to glass which is porous. Beans stored in this manner will keep their freshness for up to 6 months. If vacuum packed they will stay fresh even longer. According to manufacturers, chilling or freezing destroys some of the esthers and flavor components.
Cooking with Vanilla Bean
When using any variety of vanilla bean in a sweet recipe I prefer to scrape the seeds into the sugar and process the two together to distribute them evenly. This is particularly important with Tahitian beans which are plumper than the others and the seeds far more pulpy.
It is recommended, whenever possible, to add the vanilla at the end of the recipe because heating changes the entire chemical nature of vanilla.
Uses for Vanilla
Shirley Corriher, author of “CookWise,” when asked if there is a southern traditional use for vanilla replied unhesitatingly: Yes; we put vanilla in everything sweet.
There is a long standing tradition of vanilla used in sweet desserts however there is also a trend thought to have been started during the Nouvelle Cuisine era by Alain Senderens, in his famous lobster with vanilla nage, of using vanilla in savory food as it was originally employed centuries ago in Mexico. Jean Georges Vongerichten, of Jean George, uses vanilla in his savory cooking and refers to it as a spice. He finds that it “softens the dish and goes well with everything”
Zarella Martinez, of Zarella’s, has perfected a Veracruzian chicken dish called “Pollo en Chile Seco, Vanilla and Orange,” and says “the vanilla bean rounds out the flavor and gives it dimension.” Christian Delouvrier, of Lespinasse, finds that vanilla makes the meat or fish sweeter. One of his favorite uses is with lemon cured in salt in a sauce for foie gras.
In industry, vanilla is used in soft drinks, Coca Cola being one of the major importers of Mexican vanilla. It is also used in perfumes, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and tobacco. Chris Broberg, of Petrossian, reports having enjoyed an inexpensive cigar that had been stored with vanilla beans which imparted a sweet quality, particularly in the aroma.
Jonathan Zearfoss, culinary professor at the FCI, in a class on aphrodisiacs offers a recipe for vanilla bean infused mineral oil to be used as a perfume.
In Mexico, whimsical vanilla bean sculptures in the shape of roses, frogs, etc. are used as room deodorizers and a vanilla bean can even be found underneath the seat of taxi cabs. Note, a drop of vanilla applied to a light bulb before turning on the light also works well as a room deodorizer.
How to Use Left Over Pods: Vanilla beans still have lots of flavor even after the seeds have been removed. Be sure to rinse the bean if it has been used to flavor another liquid and dry it in a low oven or with the heat of the oven's pilot light.
The most time-honored use for left over vanilla pods is to make vanilla sugar by burying the dried pods in the sugar. Pastry Chef Jean Philippe Maury of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, recommends substituting this sugar for 8 percent of the weight of the sugar used in a recipe. Jacque Pfeiffer uses equal parts vanilla bean and powdered sugar to pulverize into a powder. Aaron Isaacson pulverizes the pod with sugar and triple sifts it to get rid of any extraneous matter that would cause bitterness. He uses this to replace as much as 30 percent of the sugar in cakes. He feels it is imperative to use vanilla sugar in cookies as with other forms of vanilla the flavor will to some to some degree bake out, however also adds some extract or essence for the additional flavor profile.
For years I have added some of my spent vanilla beans to vanilla extract, a precursor to the now ubiquitous vanilla pastes.
Personal Preferences and Passions of the Chefs
Chocolate has had its day in the sun and is clearly here to stay, but now there seems to be a gradually swelling trend toward vanilla awareness, exemplified by the variety of the bean used often appearing on dessert menus. Vanilla, traditionally a supporting player, is well on its way to stealing the show, possibly leaving chocolate in the cocoa dust.
Jean Francois Bonnet, of Cello, prefers Madagascar, in particular the Euro Vanille, because he finds Tahitian too strong but agrees that it works well with assertive tropical flavors such as passion.
Chris Broberg, of Petrossian, prefers Mexican, saying it is not as cloying as Tahitian, nor slightly fermented like Madagascar, nor smoky like Indonesian. He infuses it in syrups to flavor fruit and jams.
Phillips Conticini, of Petrossian, likes the texture of Madagascar grains though he appreciates the flavor of Tahitian as well.
Francois Payard, of Payard, prefers the Madagascar.
Claudia Fleming, of Grammercy Tavern, says we overlook this most precious of essences. She feels that vanilla has been neglected and pushed aside because of the trendy things being done and would like to resurrect it. She is serving a baked warm chocolate chiboust, with vanilla ice cream, using the bean and extract which boosts the flavor, with a vanilla bourbon sauce.
Johnnie Iuzzini, of Daniel, finds Madagascar richer and sweeter than Tahitian which he feels is more aromatic but less flavorful. He says that vanilla can stand on its own but complements and rounds out a lot of desserts—things you want to keep simple yet add a little flavor. He uses vanilla with fresh fruits such as a fruit soup with melon and a little elderflower water, or in a fresh cream to give it a ripe non-processed flavor. He likes vanilla in invert sugar from Sevarome as it incorporates easily into other things but employs vanilla bean ground with sugar in tarts, sifted to take out any chunks.
Emily Lucetti, of Farralon, uses Tahitian in ice cream and panaccota where it is the main flavor and Madagascar (due to the greater expense of the Tahitian) in applications where it is more masks by other flavors She says it used to be an accent flavor and now is a primary flavor and has emerged in its own right.
Nancy Oakes, of Boulevard, adds vanilla to her brining liquid for meat.
Francois Payard, of Payard, says that vanilla is a very interesting product that can be adapted to a lot of different desserts and the flavor changes depending on what you put it with.
Andrew Schotts, of Ghiradelli Chocolate, has a favorite recipe for sea bass with veal stock and vanilla.
Jean George Vongerichten, of Jean George, prefers Mexican partially because he feels it is fresher and therefore more flavorful. He uses it in many of his savory recipes.
Bill Yosses, of Citarella, prefers Madagascar because it has more seeds, and the flavor is more concentrated and pungent, compared to the Tahitian which is more rounded, mellow and floral. He says he has always been attracted to vanilla as a central element of a dessert and that it is so often used as an “accent,” it must be tired of singing in the chorus. He is doing an all vanilla plate called “vanilla decadence” to include a warm vanilla cake with 12 bean vanilla sorbet (12 beans per quart!) He also uses it in fruit marinades with tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple, and tropical fruit skewers with vanilla and réglisse marinade and kalamansi dipping sauce.
Sources: (Some of these are food service only)
The Vanilla.Company: 800-757-7511, www.vanilla.com: Bourbon, Tahitian, Mexican
Crossings “Euro Vanille” 978/456-8116 : Madagascar & Tahitian
Dairyland: 718/842-8700 Madagascar, Tahitian
Honey Locust Valley Farm 845/561-7309, Mexican
La Cuisine: 800/521-1176: Madagascar
Lydia Jording: 800/650-4622, Mexican
Mr. Recipe Premium Pure Vanilla Products: 845/368-1999, Madagascar and blended Vanilla Essence
Paris Gourmet: 800/727-8791 x202: Indonesian
Nielsen Massey: Mexican, Tahitian, Madagascar, Indonesian
Tripper: 805/988-8851 Indonesian
Vintage Chocolate, 908/354-9304 Sevarome brand Madagascar bourbon
Zingerman’s: 888-636-8162 Mexican
May 2005, Food Arts Magazine, Best Bakeries of the Bay AreApril 2005, Food Arts Magazine, a new 100% whole wheat walnut bread recipe to satisfy the new dietary guidelines Food Arts, May 2004: Article on the new technology in thermometers March 2005, Hemispheres Magazine (United In Flight Magazine) Bread story (with recipe on their website www.hemispheresmagazine.com, click on cyber bar) Food Arts November 2003 pages 94 - 102: "Rose's Vanilla Bible" Bride's Sept/October 2003 pages 169 – 171 Wedding Cakes
The following is an interview I did with Marguerite Thomas for IACP Food Forum, the publication of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. It was published in the early part of 2006. You can download the 500k PDF here.Let's start with the beginning, The Cake Bible, the book that made your name when it came out in 1988. The Pastry Bible and The Bread Bible followed. Did you first come up with the concept of a book, or a series, and the "Bible" title, or did you write the first book and then you and your editors worked out that brilliant title? I had it in back of my mind to do a "bible" sort of definitive book, and though the word "bible" did occur to me, I would never have had the temerity to call it that if, not for [the late food writer] Bert Greene, who was my best friend. He came up with the title entirely on his own. He insisted that I call it a bible because, he said, I was his muse and he knew that's what the book would be because of my approach to baking. I resisted at first, but when everyone at the publishing company starting calling it by this name -- and giving it more respect -- I started to reconsider. It's hard to imagine not liking that title. I asked the bicoastal restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, whose opinion I greatly valued, what he thought of it, and he said it would be like sticking my chin out and saying, "Here! Punch me!" This clever assessment helped me to realize that I believed 100 percent in what I was doing and that I was willing and ready to take it on the chin! Was The Cake Bible your first book? My first book was Romantic and Classic Cakes (Irena Chalmers Great American Cooking Schools Series, 1981). It was written on an IBM Selectric typewriter, and it was a great dress rehearsal for a larger book. I could never have written The Cake Bible, with all its depth and continuity, without a computer. (More after the jump)
Did you set out on a straight path directly into the world of food? No, in 1967 I was actually a student at FIT [New York's Fashion Institute of Technology]. I had a job as a medical secretary at the time, and the doctor I worked for persuaded me that I was too thin-skinned to survive in the tough garment worker environment. I realized he was right, so I transferred all my credits to New York University to major in food. Who were the people who most influenced you when you were growing up? My mother was a pioneer of sorts, being the only woman in the entire dental school where she was a student. Because she worked full-time, I was raised by my grandmother, who had been a sample maker in the garment industry. She taught me magical things, such as how to make a piercing whistle from a single blade of grass, how to draw nectar from a honeysuckle blossom, how to cross-stitch, and how to tell a story (she regaled me with tales from czarist Russia, which she called the Old Country.) My father was a skilled cabinet-maker and still marches to his own drummer. But it was my great-uncle Nat, who was the designer of the Movado Museum watch, who taught me how to think beyond the obvious. You have written cookbooks and articles about food not related to baking (Rose's Celebrations, in 1992, and Rose's Melting Pot, in 1994, both published by William Morrow), but many of us have always felt that baking and cooking require very different mindsets -- a left brain-right brain kind of thing maybe. As someone who has been successful in both, give us your take on this truism. Julia Child advised me that it is very hard to get out of the baking pigeonhole, but that it could be done. Baking requires precision. With cooking, one can be more free-spirited. It took me years to feel free to cook by heart without measuring or being locked into a recipe, including my own! (I once found myself saying "it says" -- and then realized the "it" was I.) I find that most bakers can cook well, but the reverse is not necessarily the case. Book editor Maria Guarneschelli has said that the best food book authors she's worked with have all been uniquely focused on their careers. You, of course, are among the ones she mentioned. Is this particular kind of focus something you've developed, or is it an inherent part of your personality? Maria and I always worked well together because we agreed on so many basic principles, including this one. I have long considered my ability to focus my greatest asset. I'm not sure if it is genetic or if I learned by example, because both my parents embodied this quality. What aspect of your personal road to success are you most proud of? My greatest joy, and what I consider my greatest achievement, is having touched other people's lives in a positive way. For example, people who have never baked before have started successful businesses using my recipes. You are a prodigious writer of books and articles, and you also have successfully marketed many products. Tell us about your most recent venture. I am the spokesperson for Lékué of Spain. I also have my own line of ceramic bakeware with them called roselevybakeware. It includes Rose's Perfect Pie Plate and a Sweetheart Crème Brûlée set. (Both Lékué and my line are distributed by Harold Imports). Along with books, articles, product lines, and the rest, you put together and obtained all the underwriting for a 13-episode baking show on PBS. Do you have an agent who helps you market all these unusually successful concepts? I have two business managers who handle everything including my book contracts. One is also the business manager for the Rolling Stones, the other is working on the upcoming Canadian Olympics [in Vancouver, in 2010], so their vision goes beyond my food world. Do you have any tips for others about how to keep one's name out there once a book, television show, or a magazine series has come out? I was greatly influenced in this by my friend and colleague Shirley Corriher. In the early days of IACP she advised me to travel and teach in order to get my name out there. She said that at most schools the owners also make sure to get their guest-teachers publicity via local radio, TV, and print. Since we share a great love of food science, the food profession, and people in general, Shirley and I made a point of attending every food symposium we could, including the chefs groups, which at that time were entirely separate from IACP. I also wrote as much as possible for the food magazines. I think this helped establish my credibility with the press so that when my first big book came out they were already acquainted with my work, and they did wonders to publicize it. Did you like the process of creating and appearing on your own TV show? Do you feel that you can reach people in a different way through television rather than print? "Show and Tell" was always my favorite subject at school, and TV is the "show" to the "tell" of my books. I find the process of cookbook writing more gratifying than the process of television production because during most of the former I have total control and can be obsessive about detail. TV is a huge challenge. It forces you to think in an entirely different way, and to give up control. For a good performance one must trust the producer. But TV also provides a huge opportunity to reach many more people and to demonstrate visually techniques that are difficult to grasp, even with the most carefully chosen words. Have you had ideas that were held close to your heart but that you have not been able to bring to fruition? I've always longed to do a four-color cake book. Having studied fashion design, I have a strong feeling for the visual art of design. And I think people want and need to see what a cake looks like. I've been exceptionally fortunate in being able to realize most of my goals and visions, and now that I have just signed a contract with Pam Chirls at Wiley for a comprehensive four-color cake book, I will realize this dream too. When you were growing up in New York City, was good baking, or simply good food, a part of your home environment? Neither! My mother was a dentist, so sweets were not big in our household. But her mother, who lived with us, used to have a candy store, and she would make rock candy, crystallized on dental floss. I only remember my grandmother baking once in all those years. It was an apple pie, and it was wonderful. Her comment when I praised it was that it wasn't worth the trouble. Grandma wasn't a very good cook either, so my interest in food was avoidance more than enthusiasm. But when I discovered how wonderful food could be when prepared well, I was completely seduced by the possibilities. I wanted to spend all my time cooking and baking. Surprisingly, my mother turned out to be an excellent cook after her retirement. Actually, perhaps it wasn't so surprising. I remember her saying when I was growing up that she loved to eat. Of course at the time I thought she was crazy! You have attended all but three IACP conferences, most recently the regional conference in Sweden. You've also traveled twice to Australia to be a presenter at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Any other major, or upcoming, trips? I have been a presenter at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, and I traveled to Japan to research sugar for an article for Food Arts. Earlier this year I was in Ireland, and I have upcoming trips planned to France and Spain. In addition to networking at conferences (and aside from the basic hedonistic pleasure that many of us get from travel), in what way do these experiences influence your work? My baking and cooking have both been influenced profoundly by my extensive travels around the world -- by my exposure to different ingredients and how they are used in cooking and baking. In recent years, the Internet has also provided an amazingly effective vehicle for connecting to people. Recently a woman living in Samoa reported her pleasure in being able to make a multigrain bread from my newest book for her husband, who longed for the bread of his childhood in Germany. I love that you've included the Internet as another means of world travel -- because, of course, you're right to underscore the point that the connection to other people is one of the most compelling reasons for visiting a foreign culture. And in its own way, the Internet enables us to do some of that. I'm really excited about the possibilities of my new baking blog, sponsored by Gold Medal Flour. It will provide a platform for sharing ideas. The world has never seemed so wonderfully and easily accessible. I envision you typically starting each day with a wonderful breakfast of homemade chocolate croissants, or muffins and scones just out of the oven. Of course if this vision of your early morning routine is anything close to accurate, you must have the metabolism of a hummingbird to maintain your trim shape. My routine actually begins with a one-mile swim at a nearby pool. Then coffee, and around 11:30 a small lunch, often something I've baked. If I'm wandering around New York during the day, my lunch is usually a banana from a stand. I usually walk wherever I'm going, as I spend so much time at the computer. I try to get exercise whenever I can since I don't consider baking much exercise! Come to think of it, my greatest achievement is not getting fatter than I am given the temptation of wonderful food and desserts I am always surround by. Who -- in the entire world -- would you most like to have dinner with some day? I love this question. "Some day" implies someone with whom I've not yet dined, but if it could be a repeat dinner it would unquestionably be Michael Batterberry, the visionary publisher of Food Arts magazine. He is wondrously erudite and endlessly fascinating, funny, warm, and entertaining. And his knowledge of food and wine are legendary. But if I had to choose a fantasy -- a never-before-experienced dining partner -- I can narrow it down to three. Lionel Poilâne, if only he were still alive. (He was arguably the world's most well-known bread baker, who started a movement towards a return to artisinal bread that spread from Paris around the world). I met Poilâne once at the Chocolate Show in Paris and was utterly taken by his charm, his passion for life, and his métier. And I'd want to dine with Pat Conroy, my favorite novelist, and a brilliant raconteur who also adores food and wine. Also, Martha Stewart, who constantly inspires me with her genius for innovation, self-creation, and a towering creative talent in so many of the arts, including business. I could learn so much from even one dinner with any of these delightful people. As with any author of cookbooks, you surely have more food than you and your husband and friends can possibly consume. Even with plenty of freezer space, have you come up with any creative way to dispose of baked trial runs (short of the garbage disposal)? The garbage disposal starves in my house. A neighbor once told me, as I was headed to the incinerator room, that my failures are her life's delights! Whatever we can't consume I give to the people who work in our building. I've known most of them for over 30 years now and they have become like family. In fact, several of the handymen have very discerning palates and are great "tasters." Alec, from Croatia, is an excellent cook, and Willy, the doorman, used to be a baker. Kenny and Eddy are teaching me Spanish -- just in time for my trip to Spain! It's great to get feedback so close to home. Speaking of feedback, do you have other tasters whose opinion you rely on? My husband Elliott has a fantastic palate, and thankfully is completely honest. I value his discernment and input. But having said that, ultimately I go mainly with my own taste. As Elliott once advised me in his direct but loving way: they're paying for your taste buds, not mine! Rose Levy Beranbaum has written numerous books, including The Cake Bible (William Morrow, 1988), a culinary best seller currently in its 34th printing. Other award-winning books include Rose's Christmas Cookies (Morrow, 1990) and The Pie and Pastry Bible (Scribner, 1998). Her newest and most all-inclusive publication is The Bread Bible (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003). She is currently working on a comprehensive book on cakes for John Wiley & Sons. Beranbaum is a contributing editor to Food Arts Magazine, and her work has appeared in numerous publications including The Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Bride's, Reader's Digest, and Hemispheres. She has been a guest on a number of television shows, and now appears in her own PBS show called Baking Magic. She also writes a blog called "Real Baking with Rose," sponsored by Gold Medal Flour. She recently launched a new product line, roselevybakeware, and is spokesperson for Lékué, a silicone bakeware manufacturer based in Spain. Beranbaum lives with her husband of 30 years, Elliott Beranbaum, in New York City. MARGUERITE THOMAS is travel editor for The Wine News and she writes "The Intrepid Gastronome", a monthly column for the Los Angeles Times International Syndication. She is the author of The Elegant Peasant, Light and Simple Variations on Traditional Country Fare (Jeremy P. Tarcher)
i'll update this blog entry with the current list of books that have recipes that i've writtenREVISION: I have updated "The Cake Bible" for the first time since its publication almost 17 years ago. The update includes new chocolate information, the new types of yeast, and new sources for ingredients and equipment. Look for copies that indicate the revision on the cover. "Mom's Secret Recipe File," pub date Mother's Day 2004, contributed 3 recipes Fine Cooking Magazine issue 65, June/July 2004 "How to Make a Lattice Pie (with a wonderful new flaky, tender, and delicious pie crust and step-by-step photos on the making of the lattice so that even someone who has never made one before will see how easy it is) "What Do Women Really Want: vol.1 Chocolate," by Donna Barstow, pub date May 2004, contributed the foreword. "Food & Wine An Entire Year of Recipes 2004," page 333, contributed Christmas Sugar Cookies from "Rose's Christmas Cookies." Food & Wine "Best of the Best the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year," pages 56 through 67 (from "The Bread Bible.") "On Cooking a Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals, Fourth Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, page 1078, excerpt from "The Cake Bble.