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Eat, Drink + Think

Can A Novice Baker Be Taught From Scratch? This Pastry Legend Says Yes.

Master baker Rose Levy Beranbaum, a pastry legend, has committed to taking her majesty down a few notches to teach those of us who don’t know the basics of mise en place.

Offering 600 timeless recipes (when do oatmeal cookies ever go out of style?), Rose’s Baking Basics is nothing less than a series of lessons from a master chef intent on whipping even the the most clueless kitchen neophyte into making cakes and cookies that are ready to be shown off.

I spoke to Rose about teaching the unteachable, about her best bit of cooking advice, and her cake of choice for a Yom Kippur break-fast.

Image by Sari Kamin

Shira Feder: What’s one tip you can offer to complete baking novices?

Rose Levy Beranbaum: Weighing is a lot easier, faster, and more accurate than measuring. And metric system rules: Grams are accurate to 1 gram and ounces only to 1/4 ounce which is 7 grams!

I feel this cookbook is a great way to teach kids how to cook. Was this cookbook part of an attempt to get kids, especially boys, in the kitchen?

Beranbaum: The concept behind this book was to teach people of all ages, beginners, and advanced bakers. The step-by-step photos are, in my opinion, the ideal way for people to see the different stages of baking each recipe.

What’s the biggest mistake people generally make when baking?

Beranbaum: Substituting ingredients before trying the recipe the way it was written the first time. There is a difference between bleached and unbleached flour for example. Try to be true to the recipe unless an alternative is given.

Your cookbook has something I’ve never seen in a cookbook before: a mise en place section. What was the inspiration behind putting that in?

I decided to write the book exactly how I bake and now I wish I could revise all my books to have the mise (prep ahead) and the numbering. Also, by having the step-by-step photos, the text is more streamlined.

What do you think people can learn from baking?

I always say that especially for children, it is the best possible lesson because it teaches: patience, precision, alchemy, order of preparation, reading carefully, science, math, art, creativity.

What’s one dessert in your cookbook that you would recommend for breaking a Yom Kippur fast?

The Apple Walnut Bundt with optional Caramel Glaze. It keeps at room temperature without the caramel glaze for 5 days and is perfect for the Jewish New Year season.

Shira Feder is a writer. She’s at feder@forward.com and @shirafeder

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