All photographs courtesy of Claudia Ficca.
I’m so honored today to have a Sweet Talk with Dorie Greenspan. For the select few who may not be familiar with Dorie, she is the self-taught cook/baker turned New York Times Bestselling Author who has written 10 award-winning (including six James Beard and IACP Awards) cookbooks. The first Dorie book I owned was the one she collaborated on with Julia Child. Dorie’s approachable recipe writing was a welcome addition while I was experimenting in the kitchen.
Dorie will tell you herself that her effortless approach didn’t happen early. A bad cooking experiment with French fries at age 13 (read below) kept Dorie away from the kitchen until she was 19 when she married her husband, Michael. After the birth of their son Joshua, whom they affectionately call The Kid, she became hooked to her skillet and apron. In her 30s, Dorie decided to try her hand at recipe writing, a path that led to wonderful book collaborations with Julia Child, Pierre Herme and Daniel Boulud. She’s also penned her own baking book (a bible and a staple in my kitchen- – I dare you not to try the carrot cake!) and her latest book, Around My French Table, which chronicles recipes she created while in her home in France. When Dorie isn’t sharing recipes from her home kitchens in Paris, NY and Connecticut in her books, she’s trading recipes and ideas with readers on her blog.
Most recently, Dorie and Joshua (The Kid) opened Beurre & Sel, a gourmet cookie shop specializing in the most delicious sweet and savory sables and shortbreads your buds will taste. On the very first day they opened, I was at their shop at La Marqueta and nearly melted when I tasted the World Peace Cookies. Port jammers, Cocoa Cayenne, and Sesame Sea Salt are a few of their other flavors, but you can view the whole collection here. They are perfect for a snack or to give to friends and family. You can get them here and even order them online.
Scroll down for the exclusive interview with Dorie and her recipe. I corresponded with Dorie directly for this Sweet Talk and I can attest that she is as sweet and approachable as her wonderful recipes.
A big thank you to Dorie for sharing this recipe and her wisdom!
1. Do you have early memories of cooking and baking with your family?
My mother always said that is was the oddest thing that I ended up involved with food, since she rarely cooked and, when she did – and that was only when she had to – she was miserable. It’s even odder when you know that my first cooking adventure resulted in my burning down the kitchen. I followed in my mom’s footsteps and began cooking only when I had to … and that was when I got married and my husband and I had to do something for dinner. The surprise was that I loved it.
2. What is it about baking and cooking that draws you to the kitchen? Do you enjoy the process as much as the result?
I love both baking and cooking – I love the process, I love the results and most of all I love the sharing. I can’t think of anything better than sharing what I’ve made with family and friends.
3. Home and professional cooks/bakers look up to you. Is there someone you looked up to when you first started cooking/baking?
Thank you. I taught myself to cook and bake by working from cookbooks. Because of their fabulous books, I’ve always thought that Craig Claiborne taught me to cook and that Maida Heatter taught me to bake. I’ve been so lucky to work with great people whom I count as mentors, teachers and friends, among them Pierre Hermé, the Parisian pastry chef, Daniel Boulud, an extraordinary French chef, and, of course, Julia Child, for whom I wrote Baking with Julia.
4. How do you get inspired to make new recipes? Is your process methodical or more playful?
There is nothing at all methodical about the way I work. Sometimes I wish there were, but I’m not the methodical, organized type. For me, inspiration can come from anywhere: from ingredients, for sure; from travel, always; from reading; from talking with friends and colleagues; and from dreaming.
5. Do Michael and Joshua cook or bake? If so, is it a family affair? Is there a staple Greenspan meal that the family loves to have?
Michael is a terrific bread baker and Joshua, who has the best palate in the family, can make a million pasta dishes, all delicious. There really isn’t a Greenspan staple meal, we’re just happy when we can cook and eat together.
6. What is your favorite sable or shortbread from Beurre & Sel?
I always tease and say that asking me to choose a favorite cookie is like asking me to choose a favorite child … explaining why I had only one. I love all of our Beurre & Sel cookies, but in many ways I think the Sablé, a French vanilla shortbread, might be my favorite because it is so simple, because it allows the purity of the ingredients to shine and because, in its simplicity and elegance, I think it epitomizes what we do at Beurre & Sel.
7. If you could give advice to an aspiring baker, what would it be?
Keep at it! The more you bake, the better you get. With experience you learn how a dough should feel, how a cookie should bake, how a cake’s crumb should look. Baking is a craft that engages all your senses – keep baking and your senses will sharpen. And your pleasure in the craft will grow too.