From A Rabbi's Great-Great-Granddaughter, A New Bible
Rose Levy Beranbaum's Luscious Apple Pie. Courtesy of HMH
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Foodies of all faiths know Rose Levy Beranbaum as the author of the “Bible” series of cookbooks: Cake, Pie and Pastry, Bread and, in late October, Baking.
What they might not realize is that their scribe is the proud great-great-granddaughter of an Eastern European rosh yeshiva. Indeed, Levy Beranbaum, something of a guru in her own right to legions of flour-dusted bakers, is his daughter Rose’s namesake.
Like so many Jews with massive crossover appeal – think Idina Menzel, Neil Diamond, Irving Berlin – Levy Berenbaum has done her version of a holiday album, publishing Rose’s Christmas Cookies in 1998. But her very Jewish childhood inspired her career, in the sense that the lackluster ethnic food she was fed at home sharpened her hunger to eat better someday.
“I grew up not wanting to eat,” Levy Beranbaum told The Jewish Week, reflecting tenderly on the culinary apathy of her beloved grandmother, a frum lady who lived with her family and fed her.
“She didn’t love cooking; she did it out of obligation and routine,” Levy Berenbaum said. “So indifferent was my grandmother to cooking that she would forget all about the string beans, all the water would evaporate from them and she would say ‘Oy!’”
But young Rose liked them burned, and absorbed a powerful lesson in those unlikely moments: that food could be wonderful. Then, in college at the University of Vermont in the early 1960s, she ended up in a Home Economics course where she learned that it could be wonderful on purpose.
Finishing her degree at NYU, she wrote her thesis on whether sifting the flour affects the quality of a yellow cake, and her published work, like The Baking Bible, combines that scientific rigor with the gloss and heft of a coffee table book.
Lucky for us, because Levy Beranbaum sometimes uses her powers to redeem the recipes of her youth; the new book’s got hamentaschen, rugelach and honey cake. It also has a doozy of a receipt for "Luscious Apple Pie," which was one of the few things her grandmother made that she liked. The rabbi, no doubt, would have loved that version, too, and this version more.
Notes from Rose:
A commenter on my blog came up with the idea to add thickened apple cider to the apples in an apple pie to make more sauce in the filling — a request from her husband. I tried the idea and love the luscious texture and added flavor the apple cider gives to the apples. I still like to concentrate the apples’ juices to keep the bottom of the crust from getting soggy and to add a wonderful caramel undertone to the filling.
In my book The Pie and Pastry Bible I have many pie crusts, but in recent years, when I bake a pie, the pie crust I always turn to is this one. I am offering it here for all the different sizes of pies in this book. If you want to use this pie crust for a savory pie, use one and a quarter times the salt.
I always use pastry flour because it produces the perfect ratio of tenderness to flakiness. Bleached all-purpose flour, with its higher protein content, will not be as tender, and unbleached all-purpose flour will be less tender still. There are two solutions if you are unable to find pastry flour. The first is to cut the all-purpose flour with cake flour. Use two parts bleached all-purpose flour to one part cake flour by weight or almost two to one by volume. The second solution is to use bleached all-purpose flour and work the dough as little as possible to create a minimum of elasticity. The food processor method is the easiest way to mix the dough because it’s faster and the dough gets handled less and stays more chilled, but if you work quickly, the hand method will produce a crust that will be slightly flakier. With either method, be sure to keep the ingredients very cold to maintain flakiness.