Piglet Community Pick: The Baking Bible

February 20, 2015

Read up on some of 2014’s most-loved cookbooks, tested and reviewed by the one and only Food52 community.

Today: Aargersi tells us why she's sweet on The Baking Bible.

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You already know that this is a great cookbook -- it’s Rose Levy Beranbaum for heaven’s sake. I'm only here to tell you why.

First off, Rose (I can call her Rose, now that I have cooked her food) asks that you use the specific ingredients listed in each recipe, but doesn't ask for you to follow her blindly. She explains exactly why in her "Golden Rules" section: Flours have different protein levels -- even the same types vary among different brands; baking powder and baking soda are hygroscopic, which means they take up water and therefore are better measured than weighed. I did not know these things, or many of the other nuggets of wisdom that were sprinkled throughout the book, like how to ensure a better cheesecake or tricks for oatmeal cookie success. What's more? The recipes are presented in both weights and measures; I baked using both methods, and they each worked just fine, but precision-oriented bakers will especially appreciate the option to measure their dry ingredients by weight -- a detail that's often omitted from American baking books. 

On to the recipes: The first recipe I made was the Almond Coffee Crisp Cookies, which were impossibly thin, crisp, and irresistible. You'll have to give a bunch away lest you eat them all in one sitting. You bake the dough in thirds, baking off the first batch while the other two rest in the fridge -- a smart and efficient method. That being said, my third batch was the best, so I will chill all of the dough before baking them next time.

Next up, I tried the English Dried Fruit Cake. There were no strange electric green and red orbs of candied fruit here -- this cake is made with fresh apples, dried fruits, and nuts. It is a snap to mix up, and the cake is incredibly moist and pleasantly spiced with cinnamon and orange. I made it in two rounds, soaking one in rum for the adults, and topping the other with cider caramel for a kid-friendly version. Both were happily consumed by a crowd of Food52ers at a Christmas lunch.

More: Still not sure about fruit cake? Let us change your mind.

Now on to the scones. Oh, the Irish Cream Scones. I would have bought the cookbook for this recipe alone. Do as Rose says, and use the correct flour, as it will affect the quality and texture of the finished product. As it happens, I couldn't find the Gold Medal bread flour that the recipe calls for, but Rose includes instructions for how to substitute a blend of standard flours to achieve the same result. When I made a batch to put in Christmas baskets for our neighbors, I ate one, then immediately made a second batch. After that, I went to the store for more cream to make a third batch. They are unbelievaly light and tender, perfumed with lemon, and studded with plump raisins. Every neighbor declared them to be the best scones they had ever eaten. Once you have the base down, feel free to mix it up: I tried orange zest and currants in one of my batches, and I am contemplating making a savory version as well. These will be in my regular rotation -- forever.

More: We can't wait for summer to make Rose's Fresh Blueberry Pie again.

My final feat (up until now -- I am not done with this book!) was the Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart. My crust did not behave as nicely as the one in the book. Instead of being beautifully rolled and crimped as pictured, mine was only semi-rolled and pressed into the tart pan. But no matter -- everything went smoothly after that. This tart was a show-stopper with its bright yellow curd and crimson cranberry swirl. It elicited the response, “YOU baked THAT?” (Should I be insulted? Nah.) Once it was cut, there was just a whole lot of yums and happy tart-eating sounds. 

I have never considered myself much of a baker, but with my friend Rose’s expert guidance, I am certainly getting better!

First photo by Mark Weinberg; scone photo by James Ransom


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Written by: aargersi

Country living, garden to table cooking, recent beek, rescue all of the dogs, #adoptdontshop


Joan W. December 10, 2015
Ms. Beranbaum is not only a genius, the world's best baker, but one of the funniest people you will ever encounter. I have wondered if she is so inordinately successful because she has such a danged good time. I must leave now to go an conjure up some Wicked Good Ganache to top ~~~
rosalind5 February 26, 2015
I have every Ms. Beranbaum's cookbooks. After this review, I can't wait to get this one too.
Alexandra H. February 23, 2015
Wonderful review! I am trying those scones ASAP!
cookinginvictoria February 23, 2015
Wonderful review, full of interesting details, delicious-sounding recipes and such fun to read! I too must add this cookbook to my rapidly expanding wish list. Love reading about everything that you made, especially the cranberry and lemon curd tart and the dried fruit tea cake. And those scones -- wow, they sound too good to be true. Can't wait to check out this book. Love, love the Piglet. :)
creamtea February 21, 2015
I keep promising I'll never buy/need another cookbook. And now-- I need this one!!
Rose L. February 21, 2015
Abbie, while you have the post-its in hand, oh wait you called them stick-ums--i used to call them stick ups--be sure to stick one of the Golden Fleming and the Chocolate Mousse Cake and the Hazelnut Mousse Tart. I'll stop before I suggest adding every recipe in the book!
Rose L. February 21, 2015
Hi Mrs. Wheelbarrow--so glad to see your terrific book in this group!
MrsWheelbarrow February 21, 2015
Hi Rose! I love your book. I've been dipping in and out but I'm going directly to those scones tomorrow morning.
MrsWheelbarrow February 21, 2015
Really helpful wonderful review! I must make those scones.
Rose L. February 21, 2015
Abbie, I couldn't ask for a more delightful, thorough, and articulate review. When I saw the tweet yesterday I didn't realize it was the tip of a much larger ice cream cone! I thought one couldn't ask for more than "love" but the details are so delicious. i do hope you try the cream cheese cake with lemon curd topping, the Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache, my top favorite caramel buns..i could keep going but that's what rises to the top at the moment. oh yes--the cover pastry--the Kouign Amann!
aargersi February 21, 2015
I am so pleased you liked it, well that you even read it and also commented! You just made my day! The caramel buns are next up per my husband's request, and I am running to put stick-um markers on the others. I am also planning to make and freeze scone dough, and give it to my Scottish friend (close to Ireland!) for a birthday gift tonight!
anotherfoodieblogger February 20, 2015
This is a really great review. I am not much of a baker, either, so maybe this is just what I need to get me started. (p.s. I did chuckle at your profile notes that you don't like the taste of rose and you were reviewing Rose's cookbook! ;) )
Madhuja February 20, 2015
Such a fun review, Abbie! It makes me want to buy the book right now! :)
hardlikearmour February 20, 2015
Gotta love the notorious RLB! Great review, Abbie. ♥
aargersi February 20, 2015
Thanks everybody! It really is a great baking book and will make you look like a Supah-Stah*
arielleclementine February 20, 2015
Abbie!! What a fun review!! Beautifully written as always, and I've gotta try these scones!
EmilyC February 20, 2015
A thoughtful and fun review, Abbie! Those Almond Coffee Crisp Cookies sound so good!
mrslarkin February 20, 2015
I need this book in my life! Awesome review, Abbie.
Annie S. February 20, 2015
I love scones and now it seems that a perfect recipe is afoot! I like them savory and will probably start there. Thanks for this review and your joy about the technical details. I used to skip those until I realized they were there for a good reason!LOL
alaparc February 20, 2015
I have such troubles with scones - they always turn out too dry for my taste. I quit making them for a while but I have some of Rose's cookbooks and I know what she is like. Thanks for the review.
healthierkitchen February 20, 2015
Great review!! I am not much of a baker but now I'm thinking I could learn. I will check out this book.
nannydeb February 20, 2015
Great review and of course I want, no, NEED this book!