Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Cookbook Author, Baking Is as Much a Science as an Art

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

To Cookbook Author, Baking Is as Much a Science as an Art

Article excerpt

Rose Levy Beranbaum tasted her first made-from-scratch cake when she was a student at the University of Vermont. It changed her life.

Up until that time, she had sampled only one other cake in her entire 17 years, and it was made from a mix. Her mother was a dentist, so sweets were not available around the house, and her family kept kosher, so most store-bought treats were not available to her.

On a recent phone call from her home in northern New Jersey, she said that first homemade cake she had in college "was amazing, but it didn't have the same texture as the one cake-mix cake I had had at a birthday party.

"That became my goal, to make a cake with that texture."

When Beranbaum has a goal, apparently, she does not mess around. She studied food in college (at the time, the major was still called Home Economics) and then went on to get a master's degree in food science and culinary arts.

Her 30-page dissertation was on the effects of sifting yellow cake mix, proving that sifting does not actually incorporate the ingredients evenly, as is commonly thought, but it does allow the flour to hydrate more readily and evenly.

"The teacher said she had never seen anything that thorough," she said.

Beranbaum has gone on to write 10 well-received cookbooks about baking, several of which have been best sellers and won major awards, including the prestigious James Beard Award. Her most recent book, "The Baking Bible," was released last week.

On Nov. 12, she will be a featured speaker at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival.

When Beranbaum was growing up, her grandmother did the cooking but she didn't like to cook. As a result, Beranbaum did not like to eat. "Eating was something you did because you were forced to," she said.

"I remember there was something (my grandmother) made that I loved, which was an apple pie. She only made it once. I said, 'Now this is something I'll eat.' She said, 'This is not worth the effort.'"

When Beranbaum was finally introduced to food that was actually good, she said, she had an epiphany. She was so taken by the possibilities of good cooking that she studied it in schools both here and in France. But, she said, the classes only served to confirm what she had already figured out about baking by doing it herself using trial and error, and logic. …

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