Rose’s Baking Basics

A Letter to Rose Levy Beranbaum

Dear Rose Levy Beranbaum –


It’s not you, it’s me.  I know that you are an award-winning cookbook author and a baking matriarch.  I know that baking requires precision. When I first looked at this book I thought that the step-by-step breakdown was great.  I know that many people love this book and also that you appear to be a lovely person, who is genuinely interested in helping people be better bakers.  But so many steps? Rose, I feel like you made this harder than it has to be.


This book features “100 essential recipes” and it’s a good mix, covering the basics as promised.  There’s a little of everything – cookies, cakes, pies and tarts, bread, toppings and fillings, plain and fancy.  The Triple Lemon Velvet Bundt Cake is supposed to be a winner, but it calls for 7-11 egg yolks, which seems like a lot.  I considered making Babka Swirl Loaf, but there were too many steps involved.


So Rose, what did I make? I tried to make Scottish Shortbread Cookies.  I even bought bleached all-purpose flour and special European butter. While the cookies tasted delicious, they also crumbled into shards rather than the cute wedges they were supposed to be.  I couldn’t figure out how to properly transfer the cookie dough from the food processor to a plastic bag, to another set of plastic wrap to the baking sheet. It seems like too many steps, which I clearly didn’t execute properly.  I also thought using all of that plastic was wasteful. I know you are American, but really?


I fared better with Fudgy Pudgy Brownies.  I used the three eggs you called for, but Rose, I did not weigh them.  I will not weigh my eggs. I also jury-rigged a “cake strip” out of foil and paper towel to keep the edges of the brownie from getting chewy, and it did work.  But again – wasteful. The brownies were both fudgy and pudgy. My son Jack said that they were the best brownies I ever made, but I think I have made other brownies that are just as good.


For Valentine’s Day, I made the French Chocolate Tart.  This was very good, not too sweet and not hard. My quibble is about the crust.  I made the Sweet Almond Cookie Crust. Again with the plastic Rose. And the directions for rolling the dough and lining the tart pan were over the top.  More plastic, a cardboard cut-out template and a cake plan is too much.  I made it my way and it appeared to work just fine.  


Now you may feel that this criticism is unfair and you may well be right. Except for the shortbread, everything I made was good.  I already know how to bake so maybe this would be better if I didn’t. I will still use this book. But if I was looking for one basic baking book, I can’t say that this would be my first choice.  I speak truth to power. Sorry Rose.


Naomi Bussin

Categories: Book Review, Food & Nutrition