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Baking Basics with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Whether you’ve been baking for years or it’s your first time in the kitchen, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new Baking Basics is a must-have for every cook.

October 5, 2018

I’ve dabbled in the kitchen since I was young. The first meal I ever made was homemade pesto. It would have been perfection, except I misread the recipe and used 10 heads of garlic instead of 10 cloves of garlic. A simple mistake, really.

Time went on and I became more adept at reading and interpreting recipes. However, nobody’s perfect and I made many mistakes. Some of those mistakes didn’t affect the recipe too dramatically, but others resulted in a lot of ingredients hitting the compost bin and hours of hard work down the drain. It wasn’t until I went to culinary school that I truly began to learn some of the finer points of baking and cooking that sent me on my road to success.

I may get a few glares from my fellow culinarians, but to be honest, I’ve always found baking to be much more complicated than cooking. Baking relies heavily on carefully measured and weighed ingredients, precise temperatures and times, and a bit of finesse — and good luck to boot. During my baking heyday, I devoured (pun intended) books trying to learn all of the tricks of the trades. Rose Levy Beranbaum authored many of these books.

While I was experimenting with breads, cakes, cookies and tarts, I wished I had someone like Rose at my side — guiding me through the process, offering helpful hints and tips on how to measure flour or properly mix ingredients (what is “creaming” anyway?), or how to keep my cookies from oozing into one giant mess. With her new book, Rose’s Baking Basics, we get the next best thing. Rose may not physically be in the kitchen with us, but her book walks us step-by-step through our favorite recipes with detailed photos and instructions, plus a few tips and tricks sprinkled in. I was lucky to have the opportunity to chat with this legendary baker and cookbook author, to discover her baking roots (and mistakes), what she’s learned along the way and a few delicious recipes to try.

Q. What was the first thing you remember ever baking? How did it turn out? What did you wish you knew then that you know now? 

A. An oatmeal cookie from the back of the box. It turned into one big cookie. What I wish I knew then: in addition to everything, I would have to say how weighing instead of measuring by volume is faster, easier, and more precise. I wish I had known that my earlier failures would inspire me to delve more deeply into the subject of baking and write recipes that would never let people down.

Q: You have written some of the most comprehensive baking books available on the market. Did you learn anything new while working on this book? Was it easier or more difficult to “work backwards” and go back to basics with this book?

A: Oh yes! Since I did the baking for all the step-by-step photos, I learned many new, valuable tips and tricks as I revisited recipes I had long since perfected — such as how to save a mousseline buttercream that separates, how to make a perfect pie crust using all-purpose flour instead of pastry flour, how to unmold tarts that stick to tart pans in the easiest possible way. But most of all, I discovered how much easier it is — even for me — to bake from recipes formatted the way they are in this book, because they follow exactly how I actually bake, especially the mise en place. And having the step-by-step photos really helped to streamline the text.

Q: My mom is an avid baker, but has recently gone gluten-free. What’s the best or most practical tip you can offer to someone who loves baking but needs to make substitutions or can’t work with all of the ingredients in a recipe?

A: There are several recipes, such as the Pure Chocolate Flourless Cake, that are designed to be wonderful without flour.  Substitutions will radically change a recipe, so it is best to avoid recipes that call for an ingredient that needs to be avoided and turn to recipes which don’t require them or ones that are specially created for the intolerant.

Q: If you could only eat one baked good for the rest of your life, what would it be? And, what would you drink alongside it?

A: The Milk or Dark Chocolate Caramel Tart. Milk is ideal to drink with it. I love dessert wines, but not with the dessert! They are desserts unto themselves.

Q: What single ingredient should everyone have in his or her cupboard?
A: Fine granulated sugar. (You can bake without flour but you can’t bake without sugar!)


Oatmeal Cookies (p. 3)

It may not be the exact cookie that Rose made on her first baking voyage, but I can bet it will turn out a lot better..

Pure Chocolate Flourless Cake (p. 177)

Whether you’re gluten-free or not, you’ll love this perfectly simple chocolate cake which is based off of an award-winning cake from Rose’s Cake Bible.


Jackie Freeman

Recipe developer, food stylist and culinary tinkerer, Jackie Freeman has worked in the culinary field for over 20 years as a private chef, cheesemaker, culinary instructor, recipe editor and a radio and video personality.

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