Interview with Rose Levy Beranbaum | Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss
Intro: Welcome to the number one cookbook podcast, Cookery by the Book with Suzy Chase. She’s just a home cook in New York city, sitting at her dining room table talking to cookbook authors.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I’m Rose Levy Beranbaum, and my latest cookbook is Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss.
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If you’re a serious baker, you’ve probably heard of Rose Levy Beranbaum. After all, she’s written the bibles on baking, the Cake Bible, the Pie and Pastry Bible, the Bread Bible and the Baking Bible. Plus other cookbooks and Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss happens to be your 12th cookbook, and it’s not focused on baking. So what’s the inspiration behind this cookbook?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Well, to start with, my favorite thing is baking bread. I’m known more for cakes, and of course I love pies, but the thing I love to eat most is ice cream. So one day I woke up and I thought, why don’t I do an ice cream book, and what fun it will be to test all the recipes and to develop new ones. That’s how it happened.
Suzy Chase: So I’m curious to hear about your first memory of ice cream.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Interestingly, it was one of the few things, of course, I liked to eat. I wasn’t a big eater as a kid, and who doesn’t like ice cream? So if I was willing to eat anything happily, it was ice cream. And I remember it was in the summer where we went to my great uncle’s hotel in the Borscht Belt, and there was a little truck that would come by and there were those Dixie cups that had half chocolate, half vanilla. But what I remember most interestingly, is that it came with a little wooden spoon at the top. Now the spoon is plastic. But there’s something about the wooden spoon and there’s some flavor from the wood that made it tastes special or more special. And I miss that.
Suzy Chase: Why should we make our own ice cream?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Oh, there’s so many reasons, but most of all, you can make it the way you want it to be if you follow some of my little tips. But there are things that keep the ice cream that’s shipped to supermarkets, when it goes through or freeze and thaw process, forming crystals, ice crystals. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, some even the best brands and supermarkets are sometimes icy especially in the summer when it goes through more of a freeze thaw. But it’s minimized by using some of those powders and various emulsifiers that prevent it. When you make your own ice cream, you can use the best quality ingredients and you don’t have to use those extra things that keep it safe so to speak.
Suzy Chase: You weren’t starting from scratch when it came to writing and testing ice cream recipes because you had over a dozen recipes in the Pie and Pastry Bible and the Cake Bible. Talk a little bit about the process of developing new ice cream flavors for this cookbook.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I’m not creating things that nobody’s ever done before. It’s just the way in which I make them and write about them that’s different. And one of the things was the black raspberry, which I’ve had commercially and liked it but didn’t love it. And then when we were walking down the back road, our neighbor who invited us to pick their black raspberries allowed us to do that. I was eating them and I actually almost broke a tooth. I had to go to the dentist because black raspberries had the hardest seeds of any thorn berry that I know of. That’s it, I’m never going to be eating black raspberry again. And then my mind went to, why don’t I try ice cream? And now it’s my favorite ice cream, one of the top favorites.
So, that was where I began. But actually I began in my method of concentrating the juices long ago when I wrote an article for Cook’s Magazine, and that was on apple pie. And when people would say to let the apples sit in the liquid and then throw away the liquid to keep the bottom crust from getting soggy. And I thought, what a pity to lose those juices and sugars and Apple juices. Why don’t I just concentrate it down? So, that’s how I decided to approach the ice creams using fruits and berries that have a lot of water content. And that’s by letting it sit with the sugar, and of course, it has to be frozen first so that it releases the juices. And then, I just concentrate the liquid. And the pulp never gets cooked so it keeps its fresh intense flavor.
And that’s part of the way in which I create ice creams, they’re smooth and creamy and don’t form large ice crystals. We don’t want to make sorbet, we want to make ice cream, at least if you get a book on ice cream, that’s the goal. So, you don’t want your ice cream to turn into sorbet. And of course, one of the major reasons it won’t is not only the chilling process, but using the high proportion of cream to milk. And if people say, oh my goodness, so much cream, but it’s ice cream, it’s not ice milk. And I’d rather have a small amount than a much larger amount of ice cream that’s icy and doesn’t have a high cream content. And then of course there are the egg yolks that are nature’s emulsifier. So they give not only flavor, but they also keep everything in suspension. There’s just so many tricks to making ice cream but it’s very easy in the end if you just follow a few simple things.
Suzy Chase: So I have to mention that your 2014 cookbook, The Baking Bible just had an emergency reprinting due to the quarantine. Did you see that coming?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I wonder how you know about it.
Suzy Chase: I do a lot of research. I think I read it somewhere.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I was told that they were having an emergency reprint and I’ve been waiting to get some little corrections done and last reprint went back so fast that I never got to make them. So that’s the only person I’ve discussed this with, she said, and I guess it’s because everybody’s baking now, which is wonderful. I mean, that’s a silver lining to this terrible situation. And she said, “You have only one day or the same day to turn around,” because apparently they completely sold out. And so I did it and all the corrections were made, which I’m thrilled about. So now it’s back in print I’m sure because I noticed that Amazon has gone up.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of books, you kicked off your cookbook writing career with Romantic and Classic Cakes in 1981. So this was part of the Best American Cooking School series spearheaded by Irena Chalmers, who we just lost in April. Can you talk a little bit about Irena?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Oh, I would love to. I once actually bought a radio so I could hear her, because she was not on FM, she was only on am when she spoke. She was a visionary. She had those beautiful way of expressing herself, very clever. And she actually believed in me when I was just starting out. It was very hard in the 80s to launch a cookbook, well, it’s not probably easier now either. I feel so lucky, it seems like a miracle to have 12 books and the 13th is on the way too. But I’m getting off Irena. She was president of Les Dames d’Escoffier when I became a member. I got to know her very well because she had the idea that if you publish a book written by somebody who has cooking classes, the chances are, the recipes will be very well tested.
At the time, Cecily Brownstone who was the editor for years of Associated Press said to me, “Rose never be a typewriter cook.” And I said, “What is that?” And she said, “It’s somebody who types up the recipe without trying it just because they think it will work. You always have to try it. The proof is in the pudding.” So Irena very cleverly thought, okay, this will be well-tested recipes, I’m at heart a writer and I would like to give detail. Everything was completely written except it was single-spaced. And she said in her amicable accent, which I wouldn’t even try to imitate, “We can’t work from single-spaced, we’ll have to hire an editor,” which cost her quite a bit of money to retype the whole thing. Ultimately, she was very happy to have all that information there. And the books, all of them went into I think a second, even the third printing.
So it was a different way of publishing them because it was not available in bookstores, it was only available in gourmet stores, and specialty stores like Dean & DeLuca. And I remember Giorgio DeLuca saying to me when I very excitedly told him that I was going to have a cookbook that surely would be carried in his store, and he said, “Oh, who’s publishing?” And I said, “Oh, it’s Irena Chalmers.” And he said, “Oh, we don’t do group books.” Well, guess who was the first one to order them? It was just so much snobbery involved in the whole thing. It was Milton Glaser who did the artwork. And Milton Glaser is one of most famous artists. He’s still alive I think. And the only reason I’m wondering is because he would be in his 90s, that was the age of my aunt, who also went to Cooper Union, and they dated, it’s just such a funny small world.
So, that was a really fun project and got me started. And actually, I wrote typical style three times the amount. I didn’t know that it was all part of a series, therefore it had to have the same number of pages. So, I ended up using all of it, plus maybe 10 times more for the Cake Bible. In fact, when you asked me, Suzy, what inspired me, I realized that I have ice cream in most of my books. And by the way, I know you’d be asking me this but I just can’t resist mentioning that my favorite ice cream in the book in addition to the black raspberry is what I call the upside down lemon meringue pie.
What made me think of it is that the egg white is made into a meringue and it’s a meringue shell. And then one of the other tips that I give is using lemon curd or fruit curd. Then all you have to do is add heavy cream and a little milk, and just a little bit of sugar to balance it. So you have this upside down lemon meringue pie that is crunchy like a pavlova, crunchy but marshmallowy sticking when it’s frozen, with the creaminess of the ice cream.
During the photo shoot, I couldn’t stop eating it. And of course we had every single ice cream there and I was eating a lot of ice cream and being careful not to overeat, but I just couldn’t keep away from that upside down lemon meringue.
Suzy Chase: We’re celebrating National Ice Cream Month this month, and I made your recipe for Chocolate Semifreddo Seduction on page 140. Can you tell us about this rich cream?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Well, I noticed that you put it on Instagram and I was delighted because that is one of the three ice creams that doesn’t need an ice cream machine, except that it isn’t really an ice cream. Semifreddo is kind of like a mousse, and it’s served, semifreddo means have frozen. Well, semifreddo is not something I invented, but it’s something that I added to the book because I thought although technically it may not be an ice cream, it’s ice cream like. And I think it’s one of the most delicious ways to eat chocolate that I know. Oh, speaking of which, the white chocolate ice cream in the book, oh my God. Lisa Yockelson who wrote Chocolate Chocolate, this is a recipe she gave me. And I loved it so much I called it white chocolate ice cream bliss. The only recipe in the book that has the same name as the title because it’s that special. The white chocolate gives it the most amazing texture. And then I garnished it with gold leaf just because it’s like a golden recipe.
Suzy Chase: Flex for gorgeous, the gold leaf flex.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: This is such a beautiful book. I have to say, Erin Jeanne McDowell, who’s a colleague and has written this wonderful pie book, we’re planning to do Pie a la Mode, my ice cream with her pies. She did all the styling. I don’t know if anybody else could have gotten how many balls of ice cream are on the cover? At least 15, maybe 20, each one in it’s perfect condition.
Suzy Chase: She’s amazing.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Isn’t she. She’s from Kansas.
Suzy Chase: And she’s a friend in my head.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Another Kansite. Is that what you say this?
Suzy Chase: I think it’s Kansan, but I like Kansite.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: It works. Anyhow. She said it was the hardest photo shoot that she’d ever done because of the texture of the ice cream. She kept the room so cold that I had to wear about five layers of clothes. But we were all so happy. After all, we were eating ice cream. But we all were friends. So, it was just fun, fun, fun. And I’m hoping that she’ll be doing the next book too. So, that’s another fun subject. What goes with ice cream best, Suzy? Can you guess?
Suzy Chase: Well, I heard a little something about the Cookie Bible.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Oh, you are clever. Yes, yes. I always thought it sounded silly, Cookie Bible, but then I noticed people calling their books things like the Bagel Bible. Ever since I started this bible business, I thought, it’s going to be a pretty complete comprehensive book and sounds right. So, what’s going to come next. And that’s also another thing that has been in all of my books. Can never resist putting a favorite cookie. But I revisited the way in which I do that. This is the thing, after doing 11, 12 cookbooks, you start looking at things differently. The whole subject interrelates and the way in which you can manipulate ingredients and understand them and the temperatures. And ice cream basically is all about temperature.
Suzy Chase: In Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss, your first chapter is called flavorful ice creams. It includes the most basic best loved ice creams like vanilla, mint chocolate chip and caramel. But you’ve included something called Turkish stretchy ice cream. Can you describe this?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Well, first of all, I have to tell you this, thanks to my grandson who went to Turkey and came back and said, you have to explore Turkish ice cream. And when I started Googling, I saw that it required the root of orchid called Salep, which wasn’t legal in this country. And it’s ice cream, it’s incredibly stretchy. It’s not so much the flavor because you don’t get really a flavor from it, but you can flavor it with other things. So I started asking people, like somebody from Turkey sent me some, it got confiscated by customs somewhere along the way. I don’t think he was put in prison, but anyway, he sent me a recipe book, that got through. Anyway, I finally found that you could get it from Greece and it may not be from the orchid root and maybe somehow different but it works.
And my stepdaughter had said, “Well, why would you put it in the book when nobody can get the ingredients?” And I said, “Because I want them to know what it is.” Well, guess what, now there are dedicated ice cream places for Turkish ice cream. I went to visit one in Brooklyn. Now I’m so glad it’s in the book because it’s so dramatic and it’s unlike anything else you could imagine. That chewiness is just unique. Glad you asked about it.
Suzy Chase: Last week I made your recipe for soft candied grapefruit peel, chanterelle on page 185. I finally remember chanterelle first in Soho and then in Tribeca. Can you talk a little bit about this?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Oh, just tell you that, that was where it took Barbara Kafka when I became madam. Barbara said that she would love to go to lunch with me. So I took her to chanterelle that was in my neighborhood. She came in her limousine. That’s another great food person we’ve lost in recent years, by the way. And that was where I discovered those grapefruit peels that are just so succulent because they leave some of the pulp on. The rind is often bitter, the pith, but the way they do it and the way it is in this book, it isn’t.
At any rate, that was where Barbara gave me three wishes. And one of them was to have a cookbook, and that’s when she introduced me to her editor who was Ann Bramson at the time. The other one was-
Suzy Chase: Who was the editor?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: Ann Bramson. She became the editor at Artisan Books and now she’s retired. She was not my editor. She wasn’t interested, but it got the ball rolling. She also asked me what my second wish was, and I said, to have a TV show. And she said, “You and der ganzen welt.” And I looked at her in total shock and she said, “Oh,” she translated it, “You and everybody else.” In other words, she wanted to show too. But what shocked me was that somebody who had been the food editor of Vogue Magazine would answer me in Yiddish. There’s just so many fun stories that I’m making notes to write in my memoir because I’ve been on the food scene since I was 23 I think it was, when there was no food scene. When I was 19 when Julia Child first had her TV show.
But you’d ask a new question I didn’t answer. Oh yeah. About Chanterelle. That was one of my favorite restaurants.
Suzy Chase: Instead of writing up recipes in paragraph form, you opted for numbered steps and a mise en place section. I’m curious to hear about this.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I think I started doing that. Woody and I decided for Rose’s Baking Basics, which every recipe has steps in it. And it sort of lent itself to have numbers for the steps in the text as well. And we were really taken with the clarity of it. It’s so much easier to follow. And also if you do cross-reference, which I try to avoid, but sometimes you don’t want to repeat a recipe four times, it takes too much real estate in the book. So, you can refer back to page such and such, step number, and it makes it a lot easier.
Suzy Chase: Now to my segment called my favorite cookbook. Aside from this cookbook and your others, what is your all time favorite cookbook and why?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: You mean one that’s not mine, right?
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I remember when somebody once asked what you’d take to a desert Island. And Paula Wolfert said my own cookbooks. Why didn’t I think of that, because I love her cookbooks. My favorite one of all time has to be Julia Child because she was my inspiration. If somebody wants to ask me who is my greatest mentor and I would say Madame Curie because she was an investigative scientist and that’s how I approached baking. But she didn’t write cookbooks. So my favorite cookbook, definitely my favorite cookbook author of all time is Julia. And I remember I actually called about agents and she said I don’t use agents. She was always willing to give advice. And at one point she said to me, this is going to be my last book because cookbook writing is so lonely.
People assume that if you’re a writer is because you’re an introvert, that you love being alone. But it’s absolutely not the case in every case and every situation, and Julia was very outgoing, and I am too. But when you write, you pretty much have to write alone. And ultimately, she started doing books with other people and she had Stephanie Hersh as her assistant, and I have Woody, which makes all the difference in the world. In fact, I could not have written 12 books if Woody hadn’t come aboard and moved from Minnesota because it’s impossible to do that kind of vigilance on your own. You need another person, you need the back and forth and the input. I’m blessed to have that.
When I want say I wouldn’t have written 12, it’s not that I didn’t have them in me, it’s that I couldn’t have, the way I write in the way I work with that precision, I could not have tested, I couldn’t have had that kind of in-depth thinking without having another person who really understood what I was doing.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web and social media?
Rose Levy Beranbaum: That’s about the only place on them these days, right? Except home. The book tour was completely canceled, but thanks for asking. Real Baking with Rose is my blog, is also my Instagram handle and probably Twitter. And Facebook, same thing, RealBakingwithRose.com or Rose Levy Beranbaum. But you have to spell Beranbaum, and that’s the tricky part.
Suzy Chase: Let’s do this together. It’s B-E-R-A-N-
Rose Levy Beranbaum: A, because people always want it to be an E, it’s an A as in Apple, N Nancy, B-A-U-M.
Suzy Chase: Well, gosh, it was truly a treat to chat with you today and I cannot thank you enough for coming on Cookery by the Book Podcast.
Rose Levy Beranbaum: I thank you, Suzy. It’s really great to get to know you and I’d like to know more about what you do
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