“I guess I’m a baking nerd,” says Dorie Greenspan with a sly smile. The award-winning cookbook author is standing in the middle of Food Network Kitchen, whisk in hand and talking about her latest book, Baking Chez Moi. “I’ve come to think of myself as a baking evangelist. I want people to have the satisfaction of making something themselves. So when I write, I try to imagine I’m talking to a newbie.” Dedicated to the home cooking she delights in during the four months a year she spends in Paris, Greenspan’s newest book is friendly and approachable, straddling both the high (Bubble Éclairs) and humble (Chocolate Chip Cookies). Her Custardy Apple Squares are an ideal mix of the two, and Greenspan happily demonstrated how to whip them up during her visit. “I love this recipe,” she says. “It’s so easy, so unfussy, so French.” Follow Dorie’s step-by-step how-to to make them at home.
For many sweets lovers, Greenspan’s name is synonymous with one thing above all: amazing cookies. So we couldn’t let her go without asking her to share a few of her best cookie tips, too. Here’s what we learned.
Skip the Chips
“I never use store-bought chips,” says Greenspan. “I like real chocolate — for the way it melts and the better flavor and quality.” She makes her own by cutting up chocolate bars with a serrated knife (an offset knife makes it even easier). And irregularity is the point: “You get all different size pieces, so you get all different surprises in the cookie,” says Greenspan. Use the “chocolate dust” too. “It makes the dough kind of tweedy, which I like.”
Your grandma may crack her eggs on the side of a bowl, but many pros prefer hitting the shell against the flat surface of the counter. It creates a (surprisingly) even break that’s easy to pull apart, reducing the risk of getting pieces of shell in your whites. If you open the eggs one at a time over a small bowl and then transfer them to a large bowl with your other eggs, you’ll further cut down any chance of mishaps or contamination (right).
Make Even Scoops
It doesn’t matter when mix-ins like nuts and chips are different sizes, but when you are portioning out drop cookie dough, regularity is best. “When all the cookies are the same size, they will bake evenly,” Greenspan explains. She recommends using a cookie scoop, which works just like an ice cream scoop but is available in a number of sizes. And don’t forget to level off your scoop of dough. “I’m a flat scooper,” Greenspan says, pulling a filled scoop across the surface of a cutting board. “But everyone has a different flourish for getting the excess dough off.”
Roll with It
When you make a log of dough for slice-and-bake cookies, you “want it to be compact so you don’t get a hole or air pocket in the center of the cookie,” says Greenspan. She likes to roll hers as soon as it’s made and still soft (“although it was long considered a no-no,” Greenspan says). To get a nice tight roll without stickiness, Greenspan places the rough log on a piece of parchment, draping one end over the top. She then puts a bench scraper or ruler along the bottom seam, pushing it under the roll while pulling the bottom end of the parchment toward her. The pressure tightens the log into a solid, evenly shaped roll. “If you’re really thrifty, you can use the parchment wrapper on the baking sheet,” she says.
Cradle Your Dough
Most slice-and-bake cookie recipes call for chilling the dough before cutting it into rounds. But left on a refrigerator shelf, that perfectly rolled log can quickly develop a flat side. To keep her rolls rounded, Greenspan purposes paper towel tubes. She slices them open lengthwise and slips the cookie dough inside. “It holds the dough like a little cradle and the round shape is preserved,” she explains.
Recipe images by Alan Richardson; all other photos by Heather Ramsdell