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Rose Levy Beranbaum Baking Books


ElsieD
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I am interested in knowing if any of you bakers out there have any or all of the following books by Ms. Beranbaum:

The Cake Bible

The Bread Bible

The Pie and Pastry Bible

I have read conflicting reviews of these books. A lot of people say the recipes are overly complicated and that if you are the tiniest bit off in your measuring, the end result will be a flop. Others think the books are the holy grail.

As I am considering getting these books, I would appreciate your input. I am not a professional baker but I have a many years of baking experience.

Thank you.

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Thank you for your response. The Cake thread is more recipe related - which is not really what I am interested in. I am more interested in knowing how it functions as a baking book - I have read conflicting reviews and want to know if others experienced the stated shortcomings (poor layout, missed steps, incomplete directions, etc.). I gather that she is a perfectionist but that her recipes work. However, I don't want to get the books if it means that it takes me a full day just to put together an apple pie, for example. It may also be that the mistakes were corrected in subsequent editions.

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I have all the books you listed, and then some by RLB. I've tried at least a third of the cake recipes from The Cake Bible, and all of them worked for me. I use her buttercream recipes almost but not quite exclusively (scaled up a lot, though!). I've' tried most of the tart recipes (but not the tart dough, I have my own favorite, thanks to Chefpeon!) and had no problems either. I haven't made anything from the bread book, though.

If you are used to baking by weight rather than measure, her books are a joy (no converting); you cannot mix the measure method with weight (you weigh the flour but measure out the sugar, for example) because that can cause a problem (a cup of all purpose flour can weigh 4.5 or 5 ounces depending on whether you dip into the container or sift it or spoon it in. Multiply that by 3 cups of flour and you've got either an overage of 1.5 ounces or are short 1.5 ounces. This could be a contributing factor if a recipe doesn't work.)

Having said that, if you are off just a little, the recipe will most likely work but may be a little dry or too moist or whatever. It won't be an utter failure unless you really mess things up! :biggrin:

She has a baking blog that maintains a list of all the errors in all the books.

Rose's Baking Blog

If you are precise, you will like the way it is written; if you are very casual about measuring/baking, it may not be a good fit for your style. maybe you can borrow one from the library and see how it works for you.

BTW, there's a new version of the Cake Bible coming out next year.

Edited by JeanneCake (log)
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I have 2 of the 3 RLB books, and have also baked a limited set of recipes from the Bread Bible.

I don't agree with the generalized statement that RLB's recipes will turn out "flops" if you are imprecise with your measurements. You could easily say the same of any other baking recipe. These are just cake/bread formulas after all. Technique counts for a lot, especially with foam cakes, and RLB's recipes are usually quite detailed and helpful in their instructions.

One of the major pluses of her books is that she provides gram measurements for everything. Another plus is that her recipes are very detail-oriented in their instructions, which I found good when I was starting out. If you bake regularly, you will quickly figure out where to make workable shortcuts. Both the Cake Bible and Pie/Pastry Bible have good reference sections.

As Jeanne mentions, you might want to wait until the updated Cake Bible is released. This is being edited as we speak, according to RLB's blog. I can say that I've never gotten more out of a single cookbook than the Cake Bible. That doesn't make it the holy grail, just a very good book. I also use recipes from many other sources.

For the Bread Bible, however, you might want to go with another book if it is your first/main teaching book. I personally found it easier to get into breads through books that are simpler in their instructions and perhaps more accessible to beginners. But the few recipes in the Bread Bible that I've tried are good and definitely work. Her Challah recipes are my standard.

Also, if you want one book to cover everything cake/pastry-oriented, with a ton of usable recipes (albeit scaled to large production), then you might want to consider Bo Friberg's The Professional Pastry Chef.

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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I own The Cake Bible, and think it's a great reference work as much as a book of recipes. A lot of what I've learned about flours, fat content of butter and cream, substituting ingredients or baking pan sizes, etc. I've learned from this book. It convinced me to buy a food scale so I could bake by weight and not volume, and now I'm a convert.

As for the recipes, most of those I've tried have been very good. I've had a few failures, but I would suspect that it's my fault--I'm not a great baker and I have a lousy oven. Many of the fancier, decorated cake recipes are not of interest to me, so haven't gone in that direction, but there is a lot of info for those who are so inclined.

Having recently ruthlessly discarded a number of cookbooks while putting the keepers away to await the end of a much anticipated kitchen renovation (convection oven, here I come!), it was an easy call to keep this one. if there's a corrected edition coming out, wait for that.


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