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Cake/Bread/Pie&Pastry Bibles Cookbooks

I am thinking of buying one or more of the these Cookbooks by Rose Levy Berenbaum. Are the recipes consistently successful? Or are other books on these subjects better? What I am most interested in is her explanations of the process, it seems so few consumer (as opposed to professional) books do this for baking. I appreciate any thoughts. Thanks.

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  1. RLB's Cake Bible is a great book, if you want to understand cakes and cake making. It is the best book for high-end cakes, like for decorating. For everyday cakes, brownies and desserts Baking from My home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan is wonderful. Dorie was the ghost writer for Julia Child's baking books. I also reco Roland Mesnier's Dessert University. He was the White House pastry chef for over 30 years and also taught patisserie. His and Dorie's recipes are easy to follow and I haven't had any problems with results being fabulous. Roland has a book on just cakes coming out this fall. I've pre-ordered it and can't wait. If I could only buy 4 cake books these would be my choices.

    1. I think it depends on how technical you want to be. I really like the Cake Bible and can find anything I need in it. The recipes can be more difficult. If I want a quick, fail proof cake, I use CI's Best Recipe cookbook. If I want to play around and work on different techniques, I use the Cake Bible. Since you're interested in explanations, the Cake Bible would be right up your alley. The next book I want to buy is the one kayakado mentioned, Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowser

        I've not been baking much lately, but I think the Cake Bible is an invaluable resource. I love her white spice cake.

      2. Here's the thing -- RLB's recipes are EXACT. You follow the directions to the tenth of a gram weighed out, you do every seemingly-pointless thing, and you will come up with exactly what the recipe is supposed to do. It is a great resource for learning new techniques. It is not a good set of books for throwing something together in a couple of hours. You HAVE to read the recipe from start to finish and make a plan, or you will be horribly discouraged. Also, check her website for addenda or errata before you begin... the focaccia bread recipe in the Bread Bible, for example, fails as written in the book, but succeeds with the erratum, which I printed and inserted into the book.

        Now, RLB has been known to lurk on these boards, so she may have things to add.

        1. Thanks for the insight. This blogger made me want to give her books a try as I am only an occasional baker, thus my interest in the explanations: http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com/2...

          1. I have her Bread Bible, and it's pretty good, though overly fussy in technique at times.

            1. Cake Bible is a masterpiece. I agree with the above posters in that it truly is a teaching tool. RLB does a wonderful job of explaining why things need to happen the way the recipe flows. But her recipes do require thorough reads and some patience. As one who has gotten very tired of cakes made with shortening in the frosting or grocery store canned frosting, her buttercream recipes do remind you what cake really is supposed to taste like.

              I also love her food processor pie dough recipe in the Pie & Pastry Bible. It's quick, easy and has never let me down.

              In summary, these aren't the cookbooks I use most often, but they are the ones I use for the most important occasions.

              1. If you are willing to do some extra work--precise measuring, precise ingredient temperatures, etc.--the Cake Bible is fantastic. I have never made anything from it that wasn't delicious, and usually impressive, too. The chocolate Domingo cake is superb.

                The Pie and Pastry Bible is excellent, too. Rose's apple pie with cream cheese crust is a lot of work, but on one occasion it turned out so well, it was the single best pie I have ever made. Nowadays I make Rose's plain crust recipe slightly modified (I use the Cuisinart, then finish it off by hand--none of that plastic-bag mixing) and make a free-form tart. The only recipe clunker I ever found was the blueberry-pie filling, which was too lemony (for me).

                For bread, I recommend Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. I've made many recipes from it and had a problem only once, when my pumpernickel died. Probably a draft got it! His recipes and instructions (given three ways, for hand kneading, processor, and mixer, I think) are impeccable.

                1. I have Pie and Pastry, Cake and Bread Bibles, though I have mostly used Pie and Pastry. I agree with what others have said: the recipes are fussy, exacting, time consuming, and produce breathtaking results. In general I am not a big recipe-follower, but the precision of the measurements and directions in RLB's books scares me into submission and I have been thrilled with the end product every time.

                  But I also agree--don't undertake a recipe out of one of these books on a whim. These are special occassion goodies that require lots of planning for flawless execution. The exception to this has been the scone recipe, which still requires scrupulous compliance with the directions but is quick enough that I have made them often in the morning to bring to work. And they are truly the pinnacle of sconeness. I've never had anything that comes close, and I get marriage proposals every time I make them.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Pistou

                    If you're referring to the scones with candied ginger in them, those scones have earned me more marriage proposals than any other dish I've ever made.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I ordered the books--I could use a good marriage proposal right about now LOL

                      Thanks to all for the insight.

                  2. pie and pastry bible is in constant rotation in my house. of all my cook books (which are many), it's used as often as any...

                    I guess the recipes are exacting, though that's exactly what I expect with pastries...

                    1. Just received the books from ecookbooks. Wow, there is a lot of information there. Looking forward to actually cooking from them. Any favorite can't miss recipes aside from the scones (I'm not into chocolate so much though)?