Dorie Greenspan, James Beard award-winning cookbook author and baker extraordinaire, dropped by our Union Street store in San Francisco for a very special event. She signed copies of her new book, Baking Chez Moi, demonstrated a recipe, chatted and answered questions about baking, cooking and living her dream life in both the United States and France.
Her recipe was one for canistrelli, a simple, not-too-sweet cookie from Corsica made with Pastis and white wine (recipe follows). It was a perfect example of the types of recipes in her new book, which focuses on what Dorie calls “elbows-on-the-table” food.
“These recipes are the opposite of the fancy pastries and cakes you’ll see in French pastry shops,” she said. “They’re French comfort baking. These are the recipes that real French people make at home for a sweet snack, or for serving to their friends and family anytime.”
“This cookie is very typical of the cuisine of the south of France, since it uses olive oil rather than butter as the fat.”
As she prepared the cookie dough in front of our packed teaching kitchen, she offered a few tips for more successful home baking. Her biggest point was a simple one: use your hands.
“I wouldn’t want to live without my food processor and stand mixer, but I love when you can make a recipe with your hands. Someone asked me yesterday what the one tool in my kitchen that I can’t live without is, and I answered that it was my hands!”
She told a story of once working with legendary French baker Lionel Poilâne and of how he used his hands in an almost magical way to create his foods. (She recommended the video below featuring the two of them making sugar cookies as the perfect way to understand how touch can improve baking results.)
“Also, I really don’t like pale baked goods,” she noted. “If you don’t bake something to color — to that really deep, golden brown — then you’re not going to get the full flavor out of your recipe. So I urge you to bake your foods well!”
She mentioned that the cookie she was preparing comes with almost no rules, suggesting that you could make a savory version of it with herbes de Provence and parmesan, or that it might be incredible with orange zest.
“You know the trick to working with citrus zest and sugar, right?” she asked the crowded room. “Grate the zest directly into the sugar in a small dish and then use your fingers to really mix and massage the zest and sugar together. You’ll really be able to permeate the sugar with the citrus oils and double the flavor in your recipe.”
Once the cookies were finished baking, large trays were passed around and all you could hear was happy crunching and mmmm-ing for the next few minutes, before Dorie started signing books, posing for photos and answering more and more questions. Questions like, do you need fancy copper molds to make canneles? (Those are great, but she prefers simple silicone ones). And, what is her writing process like? (She doesn’t have one, though she does keep a writing desk in each of her three kitchens so she can bounce between writing and doing.)
Are you a fan of Dorie Greenspan’s books and tips like these? If so, be sure to
check back in a few days for an read our in-depth interview with Dorie here on A Sharp Knife & Salt. Also, let us know in the comments which of her recipes and books are your favorites!