Welcome to Real Baking with Rose, the personal blog of author Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Spend A Moment with Rose, in this video portrait by Ben Fink.

Check out my new creations


RSS AND MORE



Get the blog delivered by email. Enter your address:

Eat your books

Category ... FAQs

Tips from Hector on Nurturing Your Sourdough Starter

May 18, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

I've developed my starter at a 75 to 85 oF kitchen, in Hawaii. And as some people experience, the process looks different from how it is described.

A warmer environment accelerates the process. I would recommend in this warm case, to follow the instructions for the first week, then do your feeding at shorter time intervals.

Ideally, you want to feed when the starter is at its peak activity (the most bubbles, higher, before it deflates). Seems like your starter is now on its peak, so actually, feeding it sooner as you say will be ok, but just in case, I like to let the starter "over activate" during the first week, to get the most yeast growth possible.

I've read somewhere that when the ideal temperatures are not possible, the starter will behave differently. I was getting a lot of smell and bubble activity. After 4 weeks, I've kept feeding daily, a few times I will forget and let 2 days pass by which turned my started "really dirty and stinku looking." I am glad I did not give up since the first time I made bread it proved the starter was alive!

It is really easier than what we think, and definitely don't get discouraged if things don't look as expected. Having your own birth starter becomes beloved.

Ratio vs. Percentage

Nov 12, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Bake Bread Instead!

i was browsing the internet yesterday and came across a lively discussion/dispute as to whether the "dough percentage" in my book was a percentage or a ratio.

technically, a percentage is based on the total, for example if the total weight of the dough were 100 grams and water used to make it were 40 grams the water would be 40% of the total. but NOT with the traditional baker's percentage in which the percentage of the water (or any other ingredient) is based on the flour whose value is given as 100%. this makes it easier for bakers to scale the ingredients up and down and to create new formulas (recipes).

so in this bread which weighs 100 grams (for clarity let's leave out the small weight of yeast and salt) if the water weighs 40 grams and the flour 60 grams, to get the baker's % you divide the weight of the water by the flour and get 66.6%

in my listing of the percentage of water i also included residual water, for ex. if i added banana or honey i included the amount of water contained in this ingredient. this information is not necessary to the success of the recipe. it is there to give a sense of what to expect from the texture of the bread. a bread of 66% hydration is average. 72% hydration will have a crumb with larger more open holes, etc. etc.

NOW: enough of this nonsense and BAKE THE ___BREAD!!!

Ingredients in the UK

Oct 15, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Great Feedback from Cherry and Alexis

You gave me useful advice a few years back about flour after I moved to the UK. I've since discovered that McDougall's Grade "00" flour (not self-rising) is a perfect substitute.
Additionally, I find that buttermilk is a better substitute for American sour cream than (higher fat) UK soured cream in cakes and muffins--seems to give more reliable results than an educated guess at the amount of soured cream to decrease.
Thus, with a few added marginalia, the US "Cake Bible" remains in use here.
Cherry

AFAIK, the 00 is not bleached, but it is somewhat softer than the regular plain flour. I researched this once, and according to the Flour Advisory Bureau, bleached flour is not available to the UK consumer. (Although I suspect that the McDougall Supreme Sponge is bleached as it claims it can absorb more fat and sugar than regular flour... sadly it's only available in self-rising!)

UK spoons are now pretty much standardised at 5 and 15ml. The Aussies are the ones who are off: an Australian tablespoon is 20ml! I bake in metric now so I can ignore imperial versus US ounces.

The other headache is baking powder. I know a lot of Americans who report having to use 1.5x as much. My guess is that there's more bulking agent--the first ingredient listed on the container is rice flour. I'll be honest, I cheat: I bring American baking powder back with me (and I've got some Swans Down as well).

British soured cream is the same fat content as American, 18%, though it tends to be thinner in texture. I've never had a problem cooking with it.

The Chocolate Wedding Cake in the Cake Bible

Oct 13, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Karen Question

I am planning on making the chocolate butter wedding cake for a friend's wedding next weekend. Your chocolate base cake formula appears to have more butter (530 grams butter for 12 inch layers or 75.67 grams x rose factor 7) that the 3-tier chcolate butter cake to serve 150 (400 grams butter for 12 inch layers) although the other ingredients are the same. Could you please advise what is the correct amount of butter to use?

Rose Reply
You're right! Originally I made the cake just as it appears on page 486-487 but decided to add more butter to make it more moist. You could instead just add a little syrup.
I changed it in the base but forgot to change it on the larger recipe. If you opt to go with the higher butter it would be 16 oz./454 grams for the two 6 & 9 inch layers and 18.5 ounces/525 grams for the two twelve inch layers.
Do let me know what you decide to do! Either way it will be delicious and chocolatey!

Where to Study Baking

Oct 10, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Gina Question

I am currently in the process of applying for the Baking and Pastry program offered at the Art Institute of Vancouver. I know that this is a good program but am also wanting to keep my options open. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or knew of other Baking and Pastry programs that are offered elsewhere. If you have any advice, I would love to hear it.

Rose Reply
Ii don't know anything about the program in Vancouver but I do know it is an extraordinarily beautiful city and fabulous food town. You should definitely check out the French Culinary Institute, and the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC, the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, and Johnson and Wales which has several campuses.

Why Does the Cake Dip in the Center?

Oct 05, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Question from Kim

I've been baking cupcakes using your All Occasion Downy Golden cake recipe. The texture is incredible - soft, light, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth. The only problem is that the cakes rise beautifully in the oven - but then about 5 minutes after I take them out they begin to sink in the middle. What do you think could be the problem? I'd love for them to be just slightly rounded on top, for the sake of presentation.

Rose Response

First i'd like to say that when I make cakes in two layers I like the cakes to be perfectly flat for tiering but when I make one higher layer I also like it to be gently rounded.

Dipping is always a structural problem. It can be either of the following

The Wrong Type of Flour
If using unbleached flour for a butter cake in which the butter is used in softened form, as opposed to melted as for a genoise, the cake will dip in the center about 5 minutes after baking. This is because the smooth flour particles of unbleached flour cannot effectively hold the butter is suspension. So use bleached cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour.

Too Weak a Structure
This is usually due to too much leavening. Try dropping the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon.

The larger the cake, the less amount of baking powder per cup of flour is used. This is because the distance from the sides of the pan to the center are greater so that they batter needs a stronger structure to support itself.

Good News for Fellow Bloggers

Jun 16, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Over the past half year's life of this blog there have been about 1000 questions and responses from me (i can hardly believe it myself) which makes is rather difficult to find the answers to frequently asked questions.

We are presently working on providing an easier way to search the blog for answers to your questions.

In the very near future there will be new categories within the FAQ's, such as cakes, cookies, pies, bread, equipment, ingredients, and during the summer, as time allows, i will organize the already posted questions and replies that are most relevant into these categories making it easier to find what you need.

Stay tuned! And thanks for your patience and for your wonderful comments and questions that have made this process all absorbing and joyful instead of feeling like work.

I love the famous Buddhist quote: "Find work you love and you'll never work a day in your life!"

Why Cakes Dome???

Jun 11, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

There are two desirable looks to the top of cake layers:

1) slightly rounded for a one layer cake
2) perfectly flat to stack as a multiple layer cake

Cakes dome in the middle for two reasons:
1) the metal on the outside of the pan conducts the heat faster so that the sides of the cake set while the center still continues to bake and rise higher than the sides.

2) the structure of the cake is too strong, preventing the leavening gases from escaping til toward the end of baking when they erupt through the center like a volcano.

My recipes are created to have the proper strength or structure of the batter to result in level or slightly rounded tops.

Solutions:

If you are getting doming:

1) try silicone pans (silicone does not conduct the heat the way metal does making the center to sides more even).

2) wrap metal pans with moistened cake strips. you can make your own by wetting paper towels and wrapping them in foil or purchase cake strips that can be reused many many times.

3) use a weaker flour. i you are using all purpose flour switch to cake flour.

4) increase the leavening. if using baking powder increase it by 1/4 teaspoon; if baking soda 1/16 teaspoon. you may need to increase it further depending on the results. leavening weakens the structure of the cake by breaking through the cell walls created by the gluten formed by the flour when combined with liquid.

5) increase the butter: an extra ounce of butter will coat the flour more preventing the formation of gluten, weakening the structure.

What is the difference between condensed and evaporated milk?

Mar 31, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Condensed milk is both thicker and sweeter than evaporated milk.

How can I keep a pie crust from shrinking when I prebake it?

Mar 29, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in General

A pie crust that shrinks a great deal is also one that is tough. This is a result of too much water, too high a protein flour, and or overhandling of the pastry. My cream cheese pie crust in The Pie and Pastry Bible is one that shrinks very little.

But it will help any recipe to allow the dough to relax after rolling and lining the pan for at least 1 hour, covered and refrigerated. Lining the crust with parchment and dried beans or peas until it has set also helps to keep itís shape. A coffee filter, the sort used for coffee urns, is just the right size and shape to line the pastry.

Can you use those new low water higher butterfat butters in all baking?

Mar 28, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Not without making changes to the recipe as it will throw off the water balance and make pie crusts and cookies too fragile without adjustment. These butters are ideal for puff pastry, Danish, clarifying butter, and, of course, for spreading on bread.

Why do baking recipes call for unsalted butter and then add salt?

Mar 27, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Why do so many baking recipes call for unsalted butter and then salt is added anyway?

Because the amount of salt in salt butter far exceeds the amount you would add. Also, unsalted butter has a fresher, more delicious flavor.

What is the best way to stabilize whipped cream for frosting a cake?

Mar 26, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Whipped cream tends to water out slightly after beating so to keep this from happening I use a small amount cornstarch which does not affect the texture.

It will not hold up well at room temperature but in the refrigerator will stay well on the cake for 24 hours! Many people have reported that this recipes has saved their lives!

For 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, use 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch (if your cream is very low in butterfat use 1 1/2 teaspoons), and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Refrigerate the mixing bowl and (preferably whisk) beater for at least 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan place the powdered sugar and cornstarch and gradually stir in 1/4 cup of the cream.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and simmer for just a few seconds (until the liquid is thickened). Scrape into a small bowl and cool completely to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.
Beat the remaining 3/4 cup cream just until traces of beater marks begin to show distinctly.

Add the cornstarch mixture in a steady stream, beating constantly. Beat just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

What is the best chocolate to use for baking?

Mar 25, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Generally cocoa (Dutch-processed) gives the best flavor impact in baking. In ganache (heavy cream and chocolate) or chocolate cream pie, where the chocolate is the main ingredient and does not get subjected to long heating, bittersweet chocolate is a good choice.

Brand of chocolate is entirely a matter of personal preference. What tastes good by itself will also taste good when mixed with other ingredients. You be the judge!

Why is butter better for baking than margarine or other fats?

Mar 24, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Butter is the fat that melts closest to body temperature so there is no perception of greasiness on the palate. Not only does it offer its own lovely flavor, it also enhances the flavor of other ingredients.

Why not just use a cake mix?

Mar 23, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in General

Cake mixes contain emulsifiers which give them what is known as tolerance, i.e., the ability to keep their texture despite additions of various extra ingredients. These emulsifiers result in an unpleasantly metallic after-taste. The flavor of a cake baked from scratch is incomparably superior.

What is the difference between 1 cup flour, sifted, and 1 cup sifted flour?

Mar 22, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

There is a big difference in the weight or amount of flour. 1 cup flour, sifted means you put the flour into the cup and then sift it. 1 cup sifted flour means to set the cup on a counter and sift the flour into the cup until it mounds above the top. Then, with a metal spatula or knife, level it off. Be sure to use a cup with an unbroken rim, referred to as a dry measure as opposed to a liquid measure which has a spout. With this second method you will have the least amount of flour because the flour is aerated. Do not be tempted to shake the cup or tap it as that compacts the flour.

Is it really necessary to sift flour?

Mar 21, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Not if you weigh it. Sifting makes it easier to measure consistently. It does not, however, evenly incorporate dry ingredients. Whisking them together by hand, beating them in a mixing bowl, or whirling them for a few seconds in a food processor does a far better job of mixing.

With all the specialty flours on the market, how can you tell which to use?

Mar 20, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

When a recipe calls for cake flour, it is best to use cake flour but be sure it does not contain leavening. You can substitute bleached all purpose flour: for 1 cup of cake flour use 3/4 cup bleached all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons corn starch. For pie crust, pastry or bleached all purpose makes the most tender crusts. A national brand bread flour is usually best for bread but a strong (high protein) all purpose flour gives very similar results.

How can you be sure your oven is holding the right temperature?

Mar 19, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Most oven thermometers I have tested are unreliable. The best way is by baking a reliable recipe. If the recipe says bake 30 to 40 minutes and it is done in 25, turn it down 25 degrees. If it takes longer than 40 minutes turn it up 25 degrees. Occasionally oven thermostats become erratic and do not hold temperatures no matter what the setting. This requires professional calibration or a new thermostat.

Why do recipes for beaten egg whites warn you about dryness?

Mar 18, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Why do recipes for beaten egg whites always warn you to beat until stiff but not dry and is there a way to keep this from happening?

When egg whites are over beaten, they start to lose their moisture, airiness, and smoothness and break down when folded into other ingredients. The miracle solution here is surprisingly easy: use 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every egg white (1 teaspoon for 8 egg whites).

Add it to the whites soon after you begin to beat them, when they start to get frothy. Note: egg white will never beat to stiff peaks if there is it comes into contact with any grease, either from the bowl, beater or even a bit of broken egg yolk.

When do you use the whisk beater versus the flat beater on a stand mixer?

Mar 17, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

The whisk beater is used to aerate mixtures such as egg whites for a meringue; the spade or flat beater to mix things together. Unless otherwise specified in a recipe, it is generally the flat beater that is meant to be used.

How do I keep the top of my cakes from swelling up in the middle and cracking?

Mar 16, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in General

Metallic cloth cake strips, available in cake decorating supply places, work very well to keep layer cakes level. Lowering the heat 25 degrees is another solution as is using cake flour or bleached all purpose which have a lower protein content.

How can you be sure the cake will come out of the pan in one piece?

Mar 15, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

With the exception of foam cakes such as chiffon and angel food where the pan must not be greased, a cake pan should be both greased and floured. Solid vegetable shortening is better than butter unless you use clarified butter. A non-stick vegetable spray with flour is far easier to use than the greasing and flouring method and indispensable when using a fluted tube pan which cannot be lined with parchment.

An additional safeguard for cakes baked in fluted tube pans, particularly chocolate, is to invert the cake immediately after baking onto a flat plate and leave the pan in place. The steam thus created helps to release it from the pan. For standard cake pans I grease the bottom to hold the parchment in place and then spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with a non-stick vegetable spray that contains flour.

The standard 9 or 10-inch cake should cool on a rack for 10 minutes which gives it a chance to shrink from the sides of the pan. Itís also a good idea to go around the sides with a small metal spatula or knife, pressing it against the sides of the pan, to be sure none of the cake has stuck.

Fragile cookies vs. tough cookies?

Mar 14, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

For fragile cookies use low protein flour and high fat, For chewier cookies, use higher protein flour such as unbleached all purpose or bread flour with a little water added before the fat to develop gluten.

How to get your cookies to come out higher?

Mar 13, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Use all or part solid vegetable shortening, chill the shaped dough well before baking, use lower protein flour such as bleached all purpose flour, or use egg with an acidic ingredient such as brown sugar, sour cream or cake flour to set it faster.

How to get your cookies to come out flat?

Mar 12, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Use butter, high liquid, and higher protein flour such as unbleached all purpose or bread flour.

Substituting ingredients: Can you? Sure. Should you? Usually the answer is NO.

Mar 11, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Baking is a delicate balance and substituting one ingredient for another will almost invariably throw it off and produce something different which may be better but more often than not is not! Things such as water and protein content make a significant difference to texture. If you would like to experiment, change only one ingredient at a time and see the results. It is a great learning experience.

Can you use more rye flour in a rye bread that suggested?

Mar 09, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Your rye breads have a very small amount of rye flour in proportion to white. Can you use more rye flour in a rye bread?

My preference is for a light rye flavor and texture so I use just under 18% rye. If you want higher than 20% rye you need to make a sourdough rye because the acidity of the sourdough is necessary to keep the crumb from getting sticky (due to the pentosans in the rye flour).

To make a bread with about 42% rye, convert the sourdough starter to a sourdough rye starter by feeding it medium rye flour instead of bread flour. You will need a few extra drops of water to achieve a smooth consistency. It will take 9 feedings until you have replaced all the white flour in the starter with rye. (You can do the feedings every 12 hours, leaving the starter at room temperature, or more gradually, refrigerating the starter as per the chart on page 437.) Then use this starter to make the Sourdough Rye on page 451.

When making the bread, feed the starter only medium rye flour but in the dough, omit the 3/4 cups of rye flour, and use a total of 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (11.5 ounces/325 grams) of bread flour. The dough will rise much more quickly using this high a percentage of rye flour (about 2 hours after the first 2 business letter turns and about 2 1/2 hours after shaping).

Do you have a recipe for 100% whole wheat bread?

Mar 08, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

I find regular whole wheat flour to be to dense when used as the sole flour for a bread. White whole wheat flour, however, produces a delicously wheaty, crunchy, fine-textured bread. It's especially fragrant when you grind the flour yourself shortly before mixing the dough. Simply replace all the flour in the "Basic Hearth Bread" on page 305 with equal weight white whole wheat flour. The first rise will take about 2 hours intead of 1. (I especially like the "Prairie Gold"hard white spring wheat berries or flour from Wheat Montana: www.wheatmt.com, 877-535-2798.)

Do you have any other use for excess sourdough starter?

Mar 07, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Do you have any other use for excess sourdough starter aside from giving it to friends?

Yes! When I feed my starter, if I know i'm going to bake a hearth bread within the next 3 days, instead of throwing out the excess, without refreshing or feeding it I simply refrigerate up to 1/3 cup starter (about 2.75 ounces / 75 grams) per loaf.

Just before adding the salt to the dough, I tear the starter into about 8 pieces and knead it into the dough. The starter dough adds extra depth of flavor and moisture, and also speeds the fermentation (rising) slightly even in a dough using the usual amount of instant yeast. (You should also add an extra 1/8 teaspoon plus 1/16th teaspoon of salt to balance this extra amount of dough--less if using less starter dough.) The starter dough serves as a "preferment" making it possible to use the quicker "direct" method of mixing the dough. (Simply combine the flour and yeast from the sponge or biga in the recipe with the flour and yeast for the dough.)

How do you keep a crust crisp?

Mar 06, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Allow the bread to cool completely before placing it in a brown paper bag. If the loaf has been cut into, store it in a plastic bag and recrisp it in the following way. Place the loaf cut side down on the oven stone or baking sheet. Turn the oven to 400°F. and check after 7 minutes. The crust should be crisp and the crumb will be warm.

How can you tell when the bread is fully baked?

Mar 05, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

The only way to know for sure is by inserting an instant read thermometer into the center of the bread. It should read between 180 to 212°F.

Making a Cake in a Different Size Cake Pan

Mar 04, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

DIANNE QUESTION

I wanted to bake your white chocolate whisper cake but use a tube pan instead of the round cake pans. Is this possible and what do I need to know to make this work?

ROSE REPLY

on page 455 of the cake bible is a chart listing the volume of most cake pans. of course if you have an odd-shaped pan you will need to measure the volume yourself by pouring water into it. if it's a two-piece pan first line it with a clean garbage bag.

compare the size and volume of the pans specified in the recipe to the one which you want to use and then either increase or decrease it proportionately.

a cake in a tube pan will take longer to bake than in a 9 x 2 or 9 x 1 1/2 inch pan but use the usual tests of springing back when touched lightly on top and a cake tester inserted in the middle between sides of pan and tube comes out clean.

Are there any tips to getting a crisp crust?

Mar 04, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Choose a bread that does not have a high amount of fat (or sugar). Spritz the shaped, risen dough with water just before placing it in the oven and steam the oven (using boiling water or ice cubes poured into a preheated pan on the floor of the oven). Leave the oven door partially ajar for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. Bake the bread until it is 212°F. so that residual steam inside the bread does not soften the crust on cooling.

What is the best surface on which to bake bread?

Mar 03, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

A preheated baking stone or quarry tiles are ideal. Allow it or them to preheat for a minimum of 45 minutes. Stone retains heat, giving better oven spring or rise to the loaf, and absorbs moisture yielding a crisper crust. To avoid sprinkling flour or cornmeal on the stone, Silpain, or Silpat (both are silicone mats but Silpain is black and has little holes for breathing), or parchment, can be placed directly on the stone.

What is the best flour for bread baking?

Mar 02, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

All purpose flour is fine as long as it is unbleached as bleaching weakens the protein which is needed to give a good texture or crumb to the bread. Bread flour has higher protein and will make a chewier bread. Regional flours may be lower in protein than ones available nationally such as Gold Medal, or Pillsbury. For quick bread containing softened but unmelted butter, however, it is essential to use bleached all purpose flour or the center of the bread will fall and have a gloppy texture on cooling.

I’m afraid I’ll kill the yeast—can this happen?

Mar 01, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in FAQs

Yeast that needs proofing (soaking in warm water), such as active dry or cake yeast, will die if the water is hotter than 120°F. (or if the water is ice cold). Instant yeast, also called Rapid Rise, QuickRise, Instant Active Dry, Perfect Rise, or Bread Machine Yeast, can be mixed right in with the flour without soaking it in water first. Store it in the freezer and it will stay alive for at least year.

Frosting for 90 Degree Weather

Feb 09, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Wedding

MARY QUESTION

Dear Rose,

I hope you can help me with my dilema. My daughter is getting married in
August. The wedding reception will be outdoors in Illinois. She has picked
cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake. The problem is the
frosting....it is usually around 90 degrees and humid. Our baker usually
uses some crisco (yikes!) in the frosting.

I can not do crisco...no matter what the outside temp is...pls help with any
suggestion on how to decorate the cupcakes, what ingredients to use and
presentation.

I am planning on ordering your book, "The Cake Bible."

Thank you soooooo very much.

ROSE REPLY

the best frosting for 90 degree temperatures is the mousseline buttercream but i think the silk meringue might hold up well too. the easiest and safest would be to use a curd such as lemon curd.

EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Sign up for Rose's newsletter, a once-a-month mouthwatering treat!

DATE ARCHIVE

Featured on finecooking.com