Get the expert scoop (and a recipe) from alumna Rose Levy Beranbaum
by Linda Angrilli
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s favorite dessert is ice cream—and so what? Who doesn’t love a cold, sweet scoop of delicious on a hot summer day (or a pint of comfort on a lonely lockdown night)? But the Fashion Design alumna is a legendary baking expert, and the author of 12 (soon to be 13) books with titles like The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible, and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. She’s famous for meticulous recipe testing and detailed instructions that explain how and why ingredients and techniques work, so even a novice can achieve a lovely, tasty result. Her fans tend to be fanatics. And her irresistible indulgence is … ice cream?
Yes. Her latest book is Rose’s Ice Cream Bliss. It includes everything from a luscious vanilla (America’s favorite) to fruity treats from strawberry to blood orange and trendy flavors like green tea, lavender, and olive oil. There’s also the lemon-ginger confection that convinced her dubious publisher that the baking maven should turn to ice cream. One reviewer called it a “pivot,” but Rose—a former dancer—prefers the more poetic “pirouette.”
Rose is not a “little bit of this, little bit of that” kind of person. Unlike cooking, baking requires precision; bad chemistry equals bad baked goods. She prefers weighing ingredients in grams rather than measuring by volume because it’s more accurate and faster. She’s proud that The Cake Bible was the first cookbook to provide weights along with measures—and now everybody’s doing it. A perfectionist who cares about aesthetics as well as technique, she originally wanted to be a fashion designer (that’s why she went to FIT, graduating in 1970), and says she now designs cakes instead. She also offers a line of well-crafted and carefully tested products for cooking and baking.
Rose is waiting out the pandemic at her mountaintop home near the Delaware Water Gap, where she’s able to spend time in nature, and get fresh produce from a local farmer. Meanwhile, she and her longtime collaborator Woody Wolston are at work on demonstration videos and proofreading the manuscript for her next book, The Cookie Bible, due out in fall 2021. She’s also writing a memoir, Ma Vie en Rose.
The Cookie Bible is another pirouette, back to baking. It revisits recipes from her previous books, adds new ones, and includes stories from throughout her life. “All food is comfort; all food is pleasure,” Rose says, and her recipes, whether for baked goods or ice cream, certainly make the case.
Here are a few of Rose’s favorite tips, not just about ice cream:
Make ice cream the day before (if you can wait!); it will be much better.
Keep ice cream in the coldest part of the freezer, surrounded by other things. It will stay frozen solid, preventing ice crystals from forming.
When making apple pie, don’t waste the delicious juices that result from adding sugar, salt, and spices to the sliced apples; boil them down and pour the syrup over the pie filling before baking. Ice creams made with high-water-content fruits also benefit from reducing the juices.
When making caramel, spray your pan—even a nonstick one—with cooking spray; the caramel will slide right out.
And, to repeat, because it’s life-changing for a baker: Weigh ingredients rather than measuring by volume—it’s easier, faster, and more accurate.
Besides ice creams, the book includes toppings, decorations, and add-ins, and instructions for making perfect swirls. Photographs by Matthew Septimus.
Check out her blog, Real Baking with Rose, for recipes, tips, and videos. And watch her demonstrate how to make ice cream (not the semifreddo recipe below).
Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Chocolate Semifreddo
It’s hard to believe, but this rich chocolate cream is made with cocoa powder, not chocolate. I use cocoa because the cocoa butter in chocolate would become very hard when chilled, whereas a semifreddo, which means semi-frozen, should have a lighter, airier consistency, which the cocoa powder provides. The egg yolk adds shine and silkiness and enhances the flavor.
Makes two half-cup servings; it can be multiplied for more servings. Both weights and volume measures are given. This recipe takes 5 minutes to put together and 30 minutes to chill. An ice cream machine is not required.
Sugar, preferably superfine
Unsweetened alkalized cocoa
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (sifted before measuring)
a tiny pinch
a tiny pinch
1/4 cup (59 ml)
1/2 cup (118 ml)
1 (to 2) large egg yolks
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon (17.5 ml)
Pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml)
*Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, and salt. Whisk in the milk until smooth. Then whisk in the cream.
Heat the mixture on low heat, stirring constantly with the whisk, until it begins to boil. Cook it at a low boil for 1 minute, continuing to stir, until thickened.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolk and vanilla. Scrape the chocolate custard into the strainer. Press it through the strainer and scrape any mixture clinging to the underside into the bowl.
Divide the chocolate custard into two pot de crème containers or 6 ounce custard cups. Cover tightly and freeze for at least 30 and up to 45 minutes before serving. It is at its best texture at this point, when only partially frozen. If you are making it further ahead of time—more than 45 minutes before serving—keep it in the refrigerator; then freeze it for 20 to 30 minutes before eating.
Keeps for 3 days, refrigerated, in a covered container.