When you decide to bake something, where do you start? Most of us google around, then pick one of the first recipes that pops up. But experienced home bakers often turn to Dorie Greenspan, author of Everyday Dorie and a dozen other cookbooks. "Dorie does rock solid recipes," says Chandra Ram, who judges the prestigious IACP Cookbook Awards. So what's Dorie doing that makes her recipes better than others? This week, in a show taped pre-quarantine, we travel to her home in Connecticut to find out. We watch her test a recipe, and get a look at her butter fridge. This episode is a companion piece to our recent show, "The Art — And Joy — Of Recipe Writing." So check that one out if you want to hear more about how great recipes are written, as well as the story of the woman who created Joy of Cooking, despite finding no joy in cooking.
In the 1990s, Dorie began working with Julia Child. The two bonded over Dorie's Fifteen-Minute Magic Cake, where the entire cake is made in the food processor. Julia and Dorie formed a deep connection, and would talk on the phone every morning. And in terms of their approach to recipe writing, they were a perfect match. They were both very detailed and wanted to make sure that their recipes worked for home cooks. "We are so lucky because we work in food," Julia told Dorie. "We will always be learning."
Here's the recipe for the nubbly nugget cookies that Dorie made in the episode.
A push-button cookie that manages to be both unassuming and seductive. It’s very much like an old-fashioned macaroon, but with more flavors and a more interesting texture, and just a little like a truffle. The cookies are made in a food processor and include almonds – I usually start with whole, skin-on almonds – unsweetened coconut, chopped dark chocolate, a bit of cinnamon (if you’d like) and some sugar. When the mixture is sandy, you pulse in egg whites – they’re what give the cookies a slight crust – and scoop the dough out onto a baking sheet. You get a lot of pleasure for what amounts to about 5 minutes of work.
Makes about 30 cookies
4 1/2 ounces (125 grams; about 1 cup whole and about 1 1/4 cups slivered or sliced) almonds, whole
1 1/4 cups (100 grams) shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup (60 grams) coarsely chopped semi- or bittersweet chocolate
3 large egg whites, stirred just enough to break them up
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Put all of the ingredients except the chocolate and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is sandy – it’s okay if you’ve got a few larger bits. Drop in the chocolate and pulse a few times to chop. Add the egg whites in three additions, pulsing after each, until the dough, which will look like a paste, holds together.
Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls or use a small cookie scoop, one with a capacity of about 2 teaspoons (my preferred method), leaving an inch between each mound of dough.
Bake the cookies for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they feel just firm when gently pressed and, most important, can be peeled away from the paper or mat. Place the baking sheet on a rack and let the cookies come to room temperature before serving or storing them.
Storing: The cookies will keep for up to 4 days in a covered container at room temperature.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music: (order TK)
- "Birthday Party" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "The Huxtables" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Summer Getaway" by Stephen Clinton Sullivan
- "Cracker Jack" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Trip With You" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
Photos courtesy of Dan Pashman.
Dan Pashman: Can you show me the butters that you have available in your house right now?
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, you have to come downstairs for that.
Dan Pashman: Okay, yeah. Let's go.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay, come on down.
Dan Pashman: Okay. You have a separate butter fridge?
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, yes. Doesn't everyone?
Dan Pashman: This is Dorie Greenspan, I’m at her house in Westbrook, Connecticut. Dorie’s written 13 cookbooks, with a fourteenth on the way. Most of them are about dessert, and she’s especially known for her cookies. Hence: the butter fridge, which she was so excited to show me, she was skipping down the stairs.
Dan Pashman: So this is your downstairs...breads are falling out of our extra fridge.
Dorie Greenspan: I've got...
Dan Pashman: Oh my god.
Dorie Greenspan: It's really kind of undimmed. So I buy butter in boxes of 36 pounds of butter.
Dan Pashman: Dorie has a full-size fridge in her basement and I’d say a quarter of it is stacked with bricks of butter. When she says she buys 36 pounds at a time -- that’s 144 sticks of butter.
Dorie Greenspan: This is Cabot’s, which is local for us here. The other day, butter was on sale and I can't resist a sale. So I bought 10 pounds of on sale butter.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Dorie Greenspan: And then there's Kerry Gold, for putting on the sesame bread and a baguette.
Dan Pashman: That's like your bread and butter butter.
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Dorie Greenspan: Um....butter. I live for it.
Dan Pashman: What do you love about it?
Dorie Greenspan: What I can do with it. Yeah, I'm a baker. A baker without butter isn't much of a baker.
Dan Pashman: Right, like a painter without paint.
Dorie Greenspan: Like a painter without paint.
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful. It's not for foodies, it's for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. This week’s show is a companion piece to an episode we did last month called "The Art and Joy of Recipe Writing". That one was a deep dive into what makes a great recipe. You know, there are infinite recipes online. So why do some peoples’ recipes work better than others? In that episode I talked with Chandra Ram, she judges cookbooks for the prestigious IACP Awards. And I asked her, who out there writes consistently excellent recipes?
CLIP (CHANDRA RAM): I would say Dorie Greenspan does just absolutely rock solid recipes, and I've experienced that with her baking and savory recipes.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): What makes her recipes so good?
CLIP (CHANDRA RAM): First of all, they're incredibly well tested. There's a lot of instruction to them. She's eliminated unnecessary steps. And it's—I think that there's a certain amount of comfort that comes from knowing, "Oh, okay. It's a Dorie Greenspan recipe, so it will work."
Dan Pashman: Dorie’s been writing about food for 40 years. Mention her name to serious home bakers and they gasp with delight. She has a near cult following. There’s even a blog called Tuesdays with Dorie, where people all over bake one of her recipes and share the results. So a little while back, before coronavirus, before social distancing, I took a ferry across Long Island Sound, from where I live to Connecticut. I wanted to see Dorie in action in her kitchen. I wanted to know: Why are her recipes so good?
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, I love this. When I worked with Julia Child…Allow me to just drop this in as early as possible.
Dan Pashman: Back in the ‘90s, Julia Child handpicked Dorie to write a companion cookbook for her PBS series Baking With Julia.
Dorie Greenspan: When I worked with Julia Child, one afternoon Julia said to me, "Let's play hooky." I said, "Ohh, what do you want to do?" She said, "Go to a supermarket." This was Julia's idea of good time. And so I had a little Miyata, which is like the size of a jellybean. So I completed folded origami Julia in the car and we went to the supermarket. We're walking to the car and Julia puts her arm around me and she says, "We're so lucky because we work in food." She said, "We will always be learning." This is such a vast wonderful field and it has so many parts and there are so many possible ways of entering it, that it's always interesting. It will always be interesting and she's right. We're lucky. We'll always learn something.
Dan Pashman: And I take it you still have that passion.
Dorie Greenspan: I do. The other day I made a cake with saffron. I've never made a cake with saffron before. Well, that's not true. I made one and it wasn't good.
Dan Pashman: You never made a good cake with saffron.
Dorie Greenspan: I never made a good....and I was just as excited as if I had just made my first cake. This work for me doesn't get old.
Dan Pashman: Dorie grew up in Brooklyn, where her father owned a grocery store. Now, a lot of people who work in food have some special memories of the food from their childhood, some experience that inspired them to get into this line of work. That’s not Dorie. Her mother hated cooking. And the one time Dorie tried to cook, well…she was in 7th grade, hanging out with friends at her house. Her parents were out and she’s not sure what got into her, but she decided she’d try to make frozen french fries, by deep frying them in a pot of oil. When she took the lid off of the pot, it exploded. The fire department showed up. The kitchen didn’t quite burn to the ground but it would require an expensive renovation. When Dorie’s parents got home, her mother first confirmed everyone was okay. Then, took one look at her kitchen and burst into tears. Dorie did not cook again, not until she got married to her husband Michael.
Dorie Greenspan: So as soon as we got married, I just couldn't wait to cook. I wanted to cook. I wanted to have friends come for dinner and so I taught myself to cook. And then to bake. And then it just became what I loved. So I'd go to work and I'd come home and cook and bake.
Dan Pashman: This love of cooking and baking continued to grow through the early years of Dorie’s marriage. But it always was always a hobby. As her day job, she was getting a PhD in gerontology, the study of old age. When Dorie and Michael had their son, Joshua, Dorie took some time away from grad school. When it was time to go back to her dissertation, she found she just couldn’t get into it. She knew she wanted something else.
Dorie Greenspan: And Michael said, "Why don’t you get a job as a baker?", forgetting that I had no training, no experience, so skills. But yeah, sure. Get a job as a baker.
Dan Pashman: And you did.
Dorie Greenspan: And I did. And I got fired a month later for creative insubordination. How great is that?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dorie Greenspan: Right.
Dan Pashman: Right. And what does that mean exactly?
Dorie Greenspan: It meant that I got bored doing their signature cake and so I changed it and didn't tell anybody. And that got brought up to the dining room and served to people who were accustomed to a chocolate cake with—I think that one had..I know it had raisins and whiskey. And I think it had almonds or walnuts. And I sent up a cake that had prunes. Everybody's favorite—prunes, pecan and armagnac.
Dan Pashman: And that didn't go over?
Dorie Greenspan: Well, when I was called up to the owner's office. She said, "That was some cake." And I said, "Did you like it?" And she said, "That has nothing to do with it. You're fired."
Dan Pashman: So clearly baking in a restaurant kitchen wasn’t for her. But a friend suggested that Dorie try writing about food. In 1983 she pitched an article to Food and Wine magazine. Along with the pitch, she sent a basket of the baked goods she wanted to write about and they said, yes. Her career as a food writer began. She worked for Elle magazine, the James Beard Foundation, and Food Network. She published a cookbook on simple desserts. Then, nearly a decade into her writing career she got her big break.
Dan Pashman: Tell me about making Fifteen-Minute Magic.
Dorie Greenspan: Fifteen-Minute Magic was a cake that I came up with where the whole cake could be made in the food processor. And it was almonds and amaretti cookies and butter and sugar and eggs and chocolate. And so the whole cake took 15 minutes to put together. My book came out, 1991, and I was invited to do a demo. I was the last person to demo. Before me, had been Julia Child and Jacque Pepin. So it was like Jacque Pepin, Julia Child...Dorie Greenspan.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dorie Greenspan: And I chose to do Fifteen-Minute Magic because I was so nervous and I thought that if I didn't slice my finger off in the processor, this would all go well.
Dan Pashman: You thought that it was the one thing you were sure you wouldn't screw up, despite how nervous you were.
Dorie Greenspan: Exactly.
Dan Pashman: Because it's so simple.
Dorie Greenspan: Because it's so simple. Julia Child tasted it and came up to me and she said, "You know, we're all having dinner after this? Would you sit with me?" She liked my cake.
Dan Pashman: And that was sort of your entire into working with her, which was a huge break in your career.
Dorie Greenspan: And it was also personally—it was extraordinary to work with her. She was so encouraging, so supportive, so smart, so curious about the world. She used to call me every morning. And so for years, my 8:30 a.m. call was with Julia. She asked me if I had ever used a bread machine. If I had one. And I said, "No." She said, "You sound disdainful." I said, "Well, it just doesn't interest me. She said, "That's the wrong attitude." She said, "I'm buying one today and you should too."
Dan Pashman: Why?
Dorie Greenspan: Because it was something new. It might’ve had possibilities. What could we do with it? Would it be helpful to us in any way? In the end, I gave mine away. And Julia kept hers and she used to knead bread and to let it rise. But then she shaped it by hand. But that was Julia. She just wanted to know everything that was going on.
Dan Pashman: Dorie published Baking with Julia in 1996. Dorie said she and Julia had a similar approach. They both wrote very detailed recipes. And they both cared a lot about making sure the recipes would work for home cooks. After writing a cookbook with Julia Child, Dorie wrote cookbooks with two iconic french chefs. Pastry chef Pierre Hermé, who Vogue called the “Picasso of Pastry.” And Daniel Boulud, who now owns restaurants and cafes around the world.
Dan Pashman: What do you think these chefs saw in you?
Dorie Greenspan: I mean, I think during that time what I was doing was translating. Was really to be able to take what they were doing and to figure out how to explain it to a home cooks. I mean, when Daniel Boulud did the pig's foot recipe and we came to the instructions where you manicure the pig's nails—actually, pull them out. I said, "I don't think that's what most home cooks are gonna do."
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dorie Greenspan: It stayed until the end. It was the editor, who pulled it out.
Dan Pashman: Right. Meanwhile, there's like one guy at home who didn't bother doing that and was like, "These things are chewy."
Dorie Greenspan: Right, exactly.
Dan Pashman: But that makes sense. I think you have a knack as a communicator.
Dorie Greenspan: Thank you.
Dan Pashman: Because you had enough of a foot in the world of cooking and chefery to understand what they were talking about and ask the right questions. But enough of a foot in the "regular person world", and that you were able to be a good translator. That must be, I think, what they responded to.
Dorie Greenspan: Thank you. I don't know but now so many years later when I think about the work that I'm doing, I think that as a cookbook author you're a teacher.
Dan Pashman: One of the things that so many people say about your recipes, over and over again, is they say, "Dorie's recipes' just work. Her recipes always work."
Dorie Greenspan: And I'm touching wood on my—holding on....
Dan Pashman: There's so many recipes out there. What are you doing that not everyone else is doing that allowed your recipes to work so well?
Dorie Greenspan: You know, you pose questions in such a way that I have to say nice things about myself.
Dan Pashman: You know what? Instead of telling me how you do it, why don't you show me how you do it?
Dorie Greenspan: Come to my kitchen!
Dan Pashman: At the time I visited, Dorie was putting the finishing touches on her next cookbook. And there was one recipe that was giving her trouble. It’s for cookies she calls "Nubbly Nuggets."
Dorie Greenspan: This is a recipe that I made a couple of times and I then sent it off to Mary Dodd, my recipe tester. And she wrote back and she said, "Everything worked, except..", she said, "you're cookies in the picture and in my notes had a shine on them. And mine were dull." And I can't figure out why. And it's a small thing. I could just take the word shine out the headnote and no one would know. And if they were shiny, the shiny people happy and the dull people would be...but I just—it bothers me that it wasn't consistent. And so I'm retesting it.
Dan Pashman: Dorie pulls out her food processor and the recipe. It's a word doc on printer paper.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay, so I’m following the author’s direction.
Dan Pashman: Which are your directions.
Dorie Greenspan: Yes. It says to put all of the ingredients except the chocolate and the egg whites in the food processor. So, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon. These are actually like macaroons. They have coconut and they have almonds. And now I'm gonna make some noise—wait does she say, make noise? Yes, she says, "Pulse until the mixture is pebbly."
Dan Pashman: When you say "she", you're talking about yourself.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay, yes....I'm sorry.
Dan Pashman: No, but that's interesting. Do you always think of it that way when you're doing it?
Dorie Greenspan: No.
Dan Pashman: No, okay.
Dorie Greenspan: No, except when there's something wrong and then I say, "Oh, the author made a mistake.”
[food processor running]
Dan Pashman: Dorie pulses the ingredients a few times, then opens up the food processor and peers inside.
Dorie Greenspan: There it is. It's pebbly-ish. It's more sandy than pebbly, isn't it? Yeah. One second, I just want to change that. Pulse until the mixture is sandy.
Dan Pashman: Let the record reflect that Dorie has crossed out "pebbly" and written "sandy".
Dorie Greenspan: So now—wait. The chocolate does go in.
[food processor running]
Dan Pashman: Dorie adds the chocolate, pulses a few more times…
Dorie Greenspan: I feel as though I’m at one with my food processor. I can hear the change.
Dan Pashman: I would imagine with you it's almost like the way an auto mechanic can listen to a car and be like, "Oh, it's the flux capacitor. That's what's wrong with that thing."
Dorie Greenspan: I am not writing down, flux capacitor.
Dan Pashman: Flux capacitor is from Back to the Future, it's not a real thing.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay.
Dan Pashman: I know nothing about cars.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay, so….
Dan Pashman: Dorie adds the egg whites and pulses until the mixture is like a paste. Time for one final check before the oven...
Dan Pashman: How does it taste?
Dorie Greenspan: Pebbly.
Dan Pashman: You're sure it doesn't taste sandy? Should we cross out sandy and go back to pebbly.
Dorie Greenspan: I'm tempted. No, because at that moment it was sandy.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Dorie Greenspan: But it's pebbly now.
Dan Pashman: It looks very fudgy. It looks like moist chocolate-y with little bits of nuts inside. Mmm. You know what this reminds me of? And this is gonna—at the beginning it's gonna sound like an insult but then...
Dorie Greenspan: Wait, wait wait. Okay, I'm gonna...
Dan Pashman: But then it's gonna be a compliment in the end.
Dorie Greenspan: I'm curbing myself.
Dan Pashman: There are all these new fangled protein bars they sell at convenience stores. They all have names like, "Double chocolate fudge chunk", but then it's like it's made with dates. And you're like, "That's not chocolate." This is like what’s that supposed to be.
Dorie Greenspan: Okay, we can't finish this off to start a new business. I don't have time for this. I see my future in...
Dan Pashman: If you turn this into bars—if you can find a way to package this in and sell it at 711...
Dorie Greenspan: I'll make you a partner. Wait, I have to get my baking sheet.
Dan Pashman: Alright.
Dan Pashman: Dorie uses a small scoop, like a mini ice cream scoop, to portion out the cookie dough on the sheet pan. With the cookies ready to go in the oven, she takes a minute to reflect…
Dorie Greenspan: For me, baking is kind of magic. We took those little bowls full of ingredients and we're gonna have cookies soon. I think that when you’re cooking, particularly when you’re baking, the process should be enjoyable.
Dan Pashman: There are times in your life where you just have to cook because you need to get food on the table.
Dorie Greenspan: Absolutely. Oh yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Dan Pashman: And then there are times that you cook for pleasure. Like to me, I find it kind of meditative, like I don't like to listen to anything. I don't like to put on music when I'm cooking. I like it to be quiet and I like that I'm just totally focused on the thing that I'm doing.
Dorie Greenspan: I mean baking was always my refuge. It was what I did when things weren't going well. I'm gonna put them in, set the timer, and we’ll see if they come out shiny.
Dan Pashman: Will the cookies be shiny, or dull? Will Dorie make any other tiny changes that will make a big difference to the final recipe? We’ll find out. Plus Dorie tells us about a cookie she invented that came to her in a dream and another that came to her in a nightmare. Stick around.
+++ BREAK +++
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. What are the all time best Sporkful episodes featuring celebrity chefs? Best episodes with comedians? What are the personal favorites of those of us who make the show? Well if you follow me on Instagram, all this month we are featuring the answers to those questions. And check this out, some of the shows we pick that are normally in our archive, in Stitcher Premium. But right now, we are releasing those shows for free. It’s a little something extra for you during quarantine and a way for us to say thank you for listening. So for instance, for a limited time, right now you can hear my conversation with Samin Nosrat, of Salt Fat Acid Heat. She talks about making her way in the world of food and media and feeling like an outsider.
CLIP (SAMIN NOSRAT): Being in elementary school and just trying to impress and make my parents proud and make the teachers proud. And that if I put my head down and worked hard enough maybe they wouldn't notice that I was different. So it's sort of the same thing, where if I can infiltrate the most elite, white, powerful institution, whether it's a publication or a restaurant or a University and do my best and succeed, then there's no way that anyone can question that I belong.
Dan Pashman: Want to find the links to that show and all those other great episodes? Follow me on Instagram @thesporkful. Thanks.
Dan Pashman: Now, back to Dorie Greenspan. While the cookies were in the oven, we continued chatting. Clearly, Dorie is a very curious person. She’s passionate about baking. She still loves learning new things. But there’s a word I haven’t yet used to describe her, that I think goes a long way in explaining why she’s so good at writing recipes. Dorie is obsessive.
Dan Pashman: So you sometimes dream about cookies?
Dorie Greenspan: Mmmm, yeah. I dream about a lot of foods.
Dan Pashman: When I was in college and I did study abroad and backpacked around Europe. And it was the first time it was pointed out to me, by my friends who were sharing the sleeper car with me, that I chew in my sleep. That I make these sounds when I sleep, like, [smacking lips sound]. Because I'm always dreaming about food.
Dorie Greenspan: That's so much better than grinding your teeth or snoring.
Dan Pashman: So tell me about a recent food dream you had?
Dorie Greenspan: I was thinking about—there's a French coffee extract, called trablit, I think. And I don't know why I was thinking about it but I thought, "I could make that."
Dan Pashman: But when you said you thought about that. Like you dreamt.
Dorie Greenspan: Uh yeah, I was dreaming about it. Yeah .
Dan Pashman: You had a dream that you would make...
Dorie Greenspan: That I could make this coffee extract but I could make it really strong. Like an espresso syrup extract that I could put in chocolate and I could make a marble cheesecake. And I did it in the morning. And yeah, I don't know where, how it became a cheesecake but that's what I did in the morning. And my favorite favorite dream was the "Jammer cookie", that's in Dorie's Cookies. It's a beautiful cookie. So it's a sable French short bread cookie and it has a dab of jam in the center. And it has streusel around it. And I baked it in muffin tins, so the sides are straight and the jam melts and gets that—I love what melted jam looks like after it’s been bubbled up and kind of boils. And then jam becomes gel on top. The streusel is nubbly and golden brown and it's so beautiful. And that came to me in a dream.
Dan Pashman: I mean, I've seen the pictures of those cookies. I haven't made them but they look so good. My mom makes thumbprint cookies.
Dorie Greenspan: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: Similar to a shortbread cookie with the jam in the middle.
Dorie Greenspan: Exactly. Yup.
Dan Pashman: A little more simple but classic. She always makes them around Thanksgiving. She has a clothespin that she uses to put the thumb prints in. But the streusel...
Dorie Greenspan: It's another texture.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dorie Greenspan: It's another flavor, also because the streusel has little brown sugar in it and just a couple specks of cinnamon.
Dan Pashman: Do you ever have cookie nightmares?
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, why did you even bring this up? So when Baking Chez Moi...
Dan Pashman: This is one of your cookbooks from a little while ago.
Dorie Greenspan: Right, 2014 I think. So it was at the printer and I had gotten a call to be part of something that Martha Stewart was doing and I had to do a cookie. And I said, "Oh, I'll do the Speculoos cookies.", and I was excited. And I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought, "There's a mistake. That cookie doesn't work." I don't know why that came to me. And I got up, it was 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning and I made the cookie. And it didn't work. And I made it again and it didn't work. This sent me to the doctor for anxiety. Turns out, I had made the worst error you can possibly make in a recipe. I left an ingredient out. I left an egg out in the ingredient list and in the instructions. This was hopeless.
Dan Pashman: That's amazing. It's amazing to me that that came to you in your sleep.
Dorie Greenspan: Isn't it? I can't explain it. It is kind of amazing. And thank goodness....
Dan Pashman: It was tested previously and it worked. It must have been tested for the book—before you put it in the book?
Dorie Greenspan: Yes and then I must have been re-copying something. I must have taken an older version out of my file—I don't know. Fortunately, that may have been my first book that came out in the real internet age. And it was kind of—I mean, it was a horrible mistake and as I said, it sent me to the doctor but it turned out to be an interesting experience. And kind of a nice one because I announced on Twitter and on my website that there was this mistake and I asked people to tell other people that there was this mistake. And people were so kind. They wrote and said, "Oh, don't worry about it. We now know that there's an egg." And it was actually a—it turned out to be a nice experience.
Dan Pashman: And what did you learn from that experience?
Dorie Greenspan: Proofread better.
Dan Pashman: I thought you were gonna say, "It's okay to make mistakes. Even Dorie Greenspan makes mistakes."
Dorie Greenspan: No. No, proofread. Proofread. Gotta do better. Gotta get it right.
Dorie Greenspan: Oh, can you smell the chocolate?
Dan Pashman: Yes, it smells amazing here. Do you want to check on the cookies?
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah, it's starting. I do want to check on them. Mmm.
Dan Pashman: Oh, it smells very chocolatey.
Dan Pashman: We take a quick peek, keeping the oven door closed. Dorie says they’re not quite done, so we wait a few more minutes. Finally, she takes them out…
Dorie Greenspan: So… they are not shiny!? I'm glad that we're re-doing these. I think that I'm gonna ignore the shine word.
Dan Pashman: Just take it out?
Dorie Greenspan: I might. I was just just—I thought the shine was so pretty. That's why I mentioned it. So—let me see.
Dan Pashman: Is it possible that it's just an issue with lighting? Like maybe you had certain lights on or it was a certain time of year—the sun was coming in the window a certain way? And it hit them and it illuminated them?
Dorie Greenspan: No. No, nice try. I like that. Wait...
Dan Pashman: In the end Dorie’s best guess is that when she made these cookies earlier they had a slight sheen to them and she got overly excited and wrote the word “shiny”, which turns out to be an exaggeration. So Dorie decides to delete "shiny, because for her, every word of a recipe matters.
Dan Pashman: See like if we can dissect some of the writing in this recipe that we're focusing on here today. I mean, you changed from "pebbly" to "sandy" but you have these lines like, "Bake for 22-25 minutes. Or until they feel just firm when gently pressed. And most important can be peeled away from the paper and mat."
Dorie Greenspan: And they can be.
Dan Pashman: And that's the kind of thing that is very clear and precise and detailed that, I think, that even an average person can understand.
Dorie Greenspan: I think it's important to have the time to give somebody visual clues because often ovens are not perfectly calibrated. It's another way of helping people be successful by giving enough clues so that if you're not sure that it was 20 minutes or 25 minutes, you can say, "Okay, they feel firm. They peel." It's anything that helps a home baker get it right.
Dan Pashman: Dorie says her recipe writing idol was Maida Heatter, who’s sort of like the Dorie of a previous generation. She was known for her desserts and her consistently excellent recipes.
Dorie Greenspan: She would always be one step ahead of you. So she would say, "The batter might look curdled but it will all come together when the dry ingredients go in." And I was always so comforted by that, that ohhh the batter looks terrible—ahhhh, it's just as she said. And when I started to write recipes, she was the model that I looked up to. And I actually, when I'm writing the recipes, I think of myself—I hope this isn't a terrible image. I think of myself sitting on your shoulder or just looking over your shoulder...
Dan Pashman: Like a little cookie fairy.
Dorie Greenspan: Like a cookie fairy, yeah. I think of myself as being there with you.
Dan Pashman: Okay, shall we eat some cookies.
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah, have a cookie.
Dan Pashman: Alright.
Dorie Greenspan: It peels right off the paper.
Dan Pashman: Mm-hmm.
Dorie Greenspan: Right?
Dan Pashman: Oh my God.
Dorie Greenspan: Mmm, they're good.
Dan Pashman: They're so good.
Dorie Greenspan: Mmm.
Dan Pashman: You know what I love that I did not anticipate? They're really kind of crispy, crusty on the very outside.
Dorie Greenspan: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: And immediately, you get through this sort of shell into a soft gooey center.
Dorie Greenspan: The shell that's not shiny...into the soft gooey center. And I think there's just a lot of flavor. You get the almond. It's really chocolate but not that heavy—is it okay to say that sometimes too much chocolate is too much?
Dan Pashman: 100%
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah, that it's not so chocolate that's the only flavor you get. When you got nuts in cookies...and coconut, as we have, it really helps make the flavor last longer.
Dan Pashman: It's funny, now it's starting to look a little but shiny.
Dorie Greenspan: But not—I mean, shiny you expect to have to put sunglasses on. I think I went overboard.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dorie Greenspan: Guess who's going home with cookies today?
Dan Pashman: Me?
Dorie Greenspan: Yeah!
Dan Pashman: Oh my God. This is very exciting, thank you.
Dan Pashman: You said in an interview, recently, "Even simple recipes like sugar cookies can evolve. I look at the cookies I made 20 years ago and I'm embarrassed by them. Cinnamon in everything. All that sugar. Hardly any salt."
Dorie Greenspan: I would say it again, I'm not embarrassed. I was being dramatic, I think. But it is true that things have changed. So when I started working with Pierre Hermé, it was in the late 1990s and he gave me a recipe for chocolate cookies. And in that cookie it was chocolate—chopped chocolate, brown sugar, white sugar, flour. There was salt. And you could taste the salt. And it was revolutionary then. Salt that was a real flavor. A real component of a cookie. Now, we don't even think about it. We sprinkle...
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Now, they got salted caramel ice cream at Carvel.
Dorie Greenspan: Great example. And we sprinkle salt on top of cookies and all. Knowing that I look at my earlier cookies and think, "Where's the salt." If I tasted them now, that would be my first question. I'm using less sugar. I think we all are. And I'm looking for more elemental flavors. So I use cinnamon a lot. But I don't use a lot of cinnamon. I use it to highlight something and I think I just depended on it early on.
Dan Pashman: That's sort of like any form of the creative process. It's always changing, always evolving. When you put something out, you think like, "Oh!"—you hope like, "This is pretty good." And then twenty years later, you look back on it and you're like, "Ahh, it's not so good. What I'm doing now is so much better." I'll listen back to this podcast in a few weeks and be like, "That was a great episode with Dorie." And then in a few years I'll be like, "Hmm, the stuff we're doing now is better." And it's not an insult to your cookies or to my podcast, it's just like I think that when you're a creative person who always wants to be improving, that's just what happens.
Dorie Greenspan: But, thank goodness. Because it is just as you said, it's being creative. It's always wanting to progress. It's always wanting to do better. It's back to Julia saying that we'll always be learning.
Dan Pashman: That’s Dorie Greenspan, author of many cookbooks, including her latest, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook. She also writes a column for The New York Times called “On Dessert”. And hey, check this out. Dorie gave us an exclusive. She shared the recipe for those Nubbly Nuggets. They are not gonna be shiny, but they will be delicious. That recipe is at sporkful.com. Please remember to follow me on Instagram to find links to some of our favorite episodes, including ones from our archive that we’re releasing for free for a limited time. So follow me on Instagram @thesporkful. Thanks.