A few weeks ago, I attended “Conversations with Dorie,” a baking demo at the Kings Cooking Studio in Short Hills, led by famed cook, baker, and cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan. Greenspan took us through four delightful recipes from her most recent book, Baking Chez Moi, Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere. From the delicious double strawberry and rose shortcakes, to elegant bubble eclairs, to the luscious Top Secret chocolate mousse, the afternoon flew by as Dorie brought these recipes to life, enchanting the class with stories of her baking life in Paris.
About a week later, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dorie in an exclusive interview for JerseyBites, and I was thrilled to have this one-on-one conversation with one of my all-time favorite bakers!
Our discussion ranged from tips for home bakers to the subject of her next book, to pastry tours in Paris. Read on for my very own conversation with Dorie.
TERRY: What is the inspiration for the cookie book you are currently working on?
DORIE: I have always loved cookies. Each of my baking books has hefty cookie chapters, but I didn’t really think about it until the idea started to take shape during Beurre & Sel, (the pop-up and then permanent cookie bakery she ran in New York City with her son, Josh). We were creating really unusual cookies, and when the bakery closed, I thought, “Gee, I love doing this.”
What kind of cookies will be in this book?
There are 150 recipes, [with] everything from “cocktail” cookies—small, savory cookies that you can enjoy with wine, cognac, port—to pfeffernusse—tiny spice cookies popular in Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands. I love focusing on one subject and seeing how far you can go. I only care about deliciousness!
What do you think the most important things are for home baking success?
You know, so many people can cook but not bake. I think baking is easier than cooking. I love the process of baking; it engages all your senses. Baking is an optional thing—you bake for pleasure. Baking is about transformation and magic. I am a big believer in mise en place [the French phrase meaning “to put in place”]. Bakers often don’t wait for things to cool to the right temperature. Read the recipe thoroughly before starting, give yourself time to bake; it’s not a last-minute thing. And finally, your job is to follow the recipe. If you do these things, you have a good chance of being successful.
Do you cook/bake differently depending on your location? (Dorie splits her time between New York, Connecticut, and Paris.)
My food is the same but shopping is different. In Paris, I shop every day, and we entertain friends for dinner more often in Paris; it’s more spontaneous. But it’s also a function of the kitchen. I have a lot of space in Connecticut and Paris, but I have a galley kitchen in New York.
Do you have any formal training as a baker?
No, I was taught from cookbooks. I loved baking and after grad school, I got a job as a baker, but was fired. So I started writing about food and got a permalance job for Elle magazine. They had a great food section so that was the start of my training, working with the most fabulous chefs, translating recipes for home cooks. I worked with Jean Georges, Daniel, Pierre Herme. I got my training standing next to great chefs!
Would you ever consider leading a pastry tour in Paris? (Which would be a dream come true for me!)
No [laughs], there are people that do that now. There is a wonderful group that does food tours called Paris by Mouth. They offer cheese tours and pastry and chocolate tours. In Paris, we live in the sixth arrondissement, which is basically sugar plum central. It’s a quick walk to Pierre’s shop, and fabulous chocolate shops like Laduree, and there are great pastry shops everywhere you turn. I still scout pastry shops all the time. In Paris, it’s art. I love the tradition of French pastry—it’s hundreds of years old. Cloistered nuns in the Middle Ages made macarons!