Worry less, bake more

Does the idea of Melissa Clark and Dorie Greenspan chatting about cookies for an hour during holiday baking season sound absolutely perfect? If so, we have great news – the pair of cooking mavens recently sat down at NYC’s The Greene Space for a discussion of cookies and baking, and it’s available for everyone to watch free of charge. We’ll provide a few highlights below, but there’s a lot more in the entire discussion. 

Dorie Greenspan and Melissa Clark

While Dorie says she strives to be very precise in her recipe writing, she notes that after writing 1,500 recipes, she’s come to the conclusion that recipes are very forgiving. (As an aside, the reason she knew how many recipes she has written is because of EYB – and now our complete author index for Dorie is 3,140 recipes!) After seeing the greaqt results that people were having with her recipes even though they made changes, Dorie became convinced that there is “wiggle room” in baking recipes. As Clark says, “people should worry less, and bake more.”

When Clark asked Dorie about the aesthetic of her former NYC cookie store, where all of the cookies were the same size and very neatly stacked, Dorie explained how it came about. She says she used to make “the most baroque” desserts like croquembouche, “with all the cream puffs and the caramel and the burnt fingers,” but after a while she grew tired of making such fancy desserts. “In cooking and in baking the ingredients themselves can be so beautiful that I’d rather change the shape of something” than try to construct elaborate desserts, she explained.

You may have noticed that in Dorie’s Cookies, many of the recipes call for making the cookies in a ring or a muffin tin. Using a muffin tin changes the texture of the cookie, she explained. She enjoyed the textural change so Greenspan modified the recipes to accommodate the physical constraints placed on them. Dorie also talked about the challenges of baking gluten-free cookies. Any of the recipes in Dorie’s Cookies that are gluten-free are naturally so, not because she designed them to be that way. She tends to send people to different authors if they are looking to have a particular kind of cookie made into a gluten-free version.

Clark asked a question of Dorie that many of us have wondered about, “Why the cookie passion?” It goes back to Dorie’s childhood. Her mother didn’t bake, but as Dorie said “boy did she know how to buy a cookie.” Since there were always high quality bakery cookies in house, and she came to really appreciate and enjoy them. She also baked cookies for her son, Joshua. She was immersed in cookie baking for years, but when it came time to write her cookie book, Dorie was initially worried about writing a single-subject volume. She feared that that she would run out of ideas. Her concerns were unfounded, because she discovered that “the more you think about one thing, the more creative you are.” Because you are so focused on cookies, for example, everything becomes a cookie. She related the story of tasting a friend’s cocktail (a Bee’s knees), and thought “that could be a cookie!”

There are many tips sprinkled throughout the discussion and the Q&A session after the talk. For example, Dorie explained the reasons she uses unsalted butter. The obvious reason is that you have greater control over the salt, but that’s not the only issue. Unsalted butter generally has more butterfat than salted butter (ranging from 1-2% more), resulting in a richer flavor in your baked goods. Dorie and Clark demonstrated a technique for making sure you don’t get any air trapped in your slice and bake cookies (about the 53 minute-mark). Dorie also provided a great tip for a hostess gift – make two rolls of a slice-and-bake cookies, bake one to eat now and provide a wrapped, frozen unbaked roll and a pretty tray for the hostess to bake and serve later. 

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