The Baking Bible — Off the Shelf
Long-hailed as the queen of American baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum is back in the spotlight with her new book, The Baking Bible. Beranbaum’s steady voice and seasoned hand is the perfect guide for any home cook, regardless of skill level. In fact, what you'll find in the pages of The Baking Bible far exceed standard recipes. Beranbaum intentionally loaded as much information as she could into each recipe, telling FN Dish: "Some people at first glance perceive my recipes as intimidating because they are long, but on the contrary, they have all the information needed to achieve success. Guidance is given for each step of the recipe so that they work for beginners as well as advanced bakers."
The book covers every type of baked good imaginable, from rugelach to cupcakes to cheese course pairings. It starts with Cakes, then covers Pies, Tarts and Other Pastries; Cookies and Candy; and ends with Breads and Yeast Pastries. Each section has numerous subcategories, all clearly identified and simple to follow. It makes finding the exact recipe you're looking for easy as pie. It also contains Beranbaum's Golden Rules, perfect baking mantras to bring into the kitchen at any skill level. Beranbaum offers two crucial tips that home cooks tend to overlook: "Weighing is not only more precise, it is faster and easier. Many affordable scales are available that switch back and forth from ounces to grams. Beginning bakers should know that they need to use the exact ingredients specified in the recipe and not try to substitute unless substitutions or equivalencies are offered in the book. Oven temperature is critical to the success of baking, so if recipes are taking longer or less time than the range indicated, the oven needs to be adjusted either by turning up or down the heat or calling in a professional to calibrate the oven."
But don't mistake the book's heft and content for a collection of complicated recipes. Beranbaum wrote these dishes up with the busy home baker in mind. Some of her favorite low-fuss recipes include the Chocolate Sweetheart Madeleines, the Cadillac Milk Chocolate Bread Pudding, the Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes and the Rose Red Velvet Cake, which Beranbaum says "has a major wow factor because it looks like it was sculpted by hand but is actually formed by the pan itself and easy as can be."
As for the dishes you'll find on Beranbaum's holiday tables, they're all there in the pages of The Baking Bible. She balances pies (the Frozen Pecan Tart or the Winter Pomegranate Meringue Pie) with beautiful breads (the Sugar Rose Brioche), cookies (like Rugelach or the Ischler, recipe below for you to try at home) and Beranbaum's personal favorite, the Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake. The Baking Bible is on sale now and you can order your copy here .
This Austrian cookie ranks as one of the finest of all time. It was created in the wonderful Zauner Bakery in the spa town of Bad Ischl, which was said to be the favorite vacation spot for Emperor Franz Joseph. The classic method is to sandwich the fragile, thin almond cookies with apricot lekvar or preserves and then to dip the cookies halfway into melted chocolate. Because I am one-quarter Austro-Hungarian (my great-grandfather fought in Franz Joseph’s army), I feel I am qualified to adapt the recipe slightly by spreading the melted chocolate onto the entire inside of the cookies so that I have the glorious taste of apricot and chocolate with every bite.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) (4.7 ounces/132 grams)
1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon bleached all-purpose flour (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) (7.8 ounces/220 grams)
Food Processor Method: Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and let the cubes soften slightly while measuring out the remaining ingredients. The butter should be cool but soft enough to press flat (60 degrees to 70 degrees F/15 degrees to 21 degrees C).
Process the powdered sugar and almonds until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter and process until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla, and process until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add it to the processor and pulse just until incorporated. The mixture will be in moist and crumbly particles and hold together if pinched.
Stand Mixer Method: Soften the butter to 65 degrees to 75 degrees F/19 degrees to 23 degrees C.
Using a nut grater, grate the almonds until very fine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream the almonds, powdered sugar and butter, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed to medium, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until blended.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated and the dough just begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.
Scrape the mixture into a plastic bag and, using your knuckles and the heels of your hands, press it together. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to press down on the dough, kneading it until it is smooth.
Divide the dough into quarters, about 6.9 ounces/195 grams each. Wrap each piece loosely with plastic wrap and press to flatten into discs. Rewrap tightly and place in a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 2 days to firm and give the dough a chance to absorb the moisture evenly, which will make rolling easier.
Preheat the oven 20 minutes or longer before baking; set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C.
Remove a dough disc from the refrigerator and set it on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough soften for about 10 minutes, or until it is malleable enough to roll. Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick, moving it from time to time and adding more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.
Cut out twenty 2-1/4-inch cookies. Set them a minimum of 1/2 inch apart on a cookie sheet. Set aside any scraps, covered with plastic wrap, to knead together with the scraps from the next three batches.
Bake for 4 minutes. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheet halfway around. Continue baking for 2 to 6 minutes, or just until they begin to brown at the edges.
Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for about 1 minute so that they will be firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Use a pancake turner to lift the cookies onto another wire rack. Cool completely. While each batch of cookies is baking, remove the next dough disc to soften before rolling and then roll the dough for the next batch. After the last batch is cut, if desired, knead together all of the scraps and repeat chilling, rerolling and cutting.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 60 percent to 62 percent cacao, chopped (227 grams)
In a microwavable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often — do not let the bottom of the container touch the water), heat the chocolate until almost completely melted.
Remove the chocolate from the heat source and stir until fully melted.
Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth. The mixture should drop thickly from the spatula. Set it aside in a warm place. If the ganache thickens before all of it is used, it can be restored in the microwave with 3-second bursts or in a double boiler set over hot or simmering water.
Make the lekvar filling in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid; combine the dried apricots and water and let them sit for 2 hours to soften.
Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan tightly, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on the lowest possible heat until the apricots are very soft when pierced with a skewer. If the water evaporates, add a little extra.
In a food processor, process the apricots and any remaining liquid, the sugar, lemon zest and brandy until smooth.
Scrape the apricot mixture back into the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deep orange in color and very thick. When lifted, a tablespoon of the mixture will take about 3 seconds to fall from the spoon.
Transfer the lekvar to a bowl and let it cool completely. You will need only about 2/3 cup, but it keeps just about indefinitely refrigerated. Making a smaller amount risks scorching the lekvar. Lekvar made from dried apricots is the most delicious and concentrated, but the apricot glaze that follows makes a viable alternative.
Using a small offset spatula or butter knife, spread the bottoms of half of the cookies, up to 1/8 inch from the edge, with a very thin layer of the apricot filling (about 1/2 tablespoon/3.7 ml). Spread the bottoms of the remaining cookies with a slightly thicker layer of the ganache (about 1/2 tablespoon/6 grams). Set the chocolate-coated cookies, coated side down, on the apricot-coated cookies. Let them sit for a minimum of 30 minutes for the ganache to set completely.
Store airtight at room temperature for 5 days; store frozen for 6 months.
Excerpted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as the publisher. Recipes from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Photography by Ben Fink. Copyright 2014.