Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Dorie's Cookies

mediocre picture of a great picture in Dorie's Cookies
All cookbooks and cooking this morning. Dad, you don’t need to keep reading.

I want to make every recipe in Dorie’s Cookies and if I were skinny I would do so in an orderly and compulsive fashion starting today. I love this cookbook.

First of all, it’s gorgeous — bright and brash and almost abstract. It really pops in the sea of muted, matte-page books with their scenes of staged rusticity. The close-up shots of cookies depict them not as trivial consumables, but as strange, magnificent objects in and of themselves. It’s a big departure for Dorie whose previous books were somewhat stodgy in their design, as Gabrielle Hamilton pointed out in her unfriendly review of Around My French Table. I wonder if Hamilton’s sharp remarks stuck in the back of Dorie’s head. (I am calling Dorie “Dorie” because she seems to be inviting that with the name of her book and her friendly persona. Calling Gabrielle Hamilton “Gabrielle” would be unthinkable.)



In addition to being lovely to look at, Dorie’s Cookies is a big, heavy book. You can get lost in its 482 pages. Hundreds of recipes, countless variations. Amplitude. Bounty. Generosity. Wonderful qualities in a cookbook.



But is there really anything new left to say about cookies? 

To quote an amazon reviewer:

 “For some reason, I had assumed that it would be more like a "cookie bible"... a source of standard, well loved cookies from all over the world. Not at all! Dorie's Cookies is more like a Senior Thesis on cookies- like Dorie sat around in her kitchen trying out recipes that turn traditional cookie making on it's head.”

Exactly. There are classics here, but there’s a lot of invention too. I usually approach inventive recipes with caution, but I’ve made scores of Dorie’s recipes over the years and can only remember a few duds. She anticipates your questions. She warns you of pitfalls. She tells you that the dough might crack and what to do if it does. She offers alternative ingredients in case you don’t have espresso beans on hand. I would guess that in elementary school, Dorie Greenspan sat in the front row and always did the extra credit. Even though she was the teacher’s pet, everyone loved her because she was truly nice.

She’s not a schoolgirl, though. She’s a total pro. 

I overbaked my coffee malteds (see upper left corner) but they were nonetheless delicious.

That’s a long preamble to a paragraph about a simple recipe, the first I’ve made from the book. The coffee malted is a basic butter cookie flavored with malt powder and coffee. Easy. Unusual. Delicious. I “whipped these up” just before my in-laws arrived for dinner last night. My father-in-law ate about a half dozen, my mother-in-law probably ate three, Mark made an ice cream sandwich with his, I ate two and 2/3 cookies, and Owen, the only underweight member of our party, ate 1/3 of a cookie.

Coffee malteds:  A

The other dish I served my in laws last night wasn’t so awesome. If you’re tempted to try the pork shoulder with pineapple, sesame, and broccoli in this month’s Bon Appetit, I would suggest you don’t. It’s just too tricky. The recipe says to cut a pork shoulder into 1-inch steaks, but doesn’t account for how fatty and ungainly a pork shoulder is. I ended up with these disjointed, floppy, uneven steaks, something Dorie never would have countenanced. I could have really used some advice. The meat required twice as long on the stove as indicated and was still rare in random places. One bite was fatty and tough, the next dismayingly soft and pink. The broccoli and pineapple added little. I was bummed. 

Pork with pineapple and broccoli: C-

But then I brought out the cookies.  


19 comments:

  1. You know, Jennifer, you have hit just the right mark with staying in the political discussion without wearing it out. Brava! I was just looking at Dorie's cookies the other day, so this post was timely. She does seem very approachable, doesn't she? David Lebovitz says she is, and he seems approachable, too, so I guess it's so. I want to try those 3 ingredient cookies of hers. They look pretty good and FAST. Sorry that your dinner wasn't up to your expectations. I had the younger generation over for dinner last night, and I almost didn't cook enough. I forget how much young people eat. I have never tried to carve up a pork shoulder, but that sounds onerous. I have only cooked them whole. BA is uneven in their recipes. I have found ones I love, and then ones like this one which disappoint. Keep us up to date on any cookie recipes you try, and thanks for the post!

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  2. I LOVE Dorie's cookie cookbook. I liked Around My French Table -- especially the dessert section. (I always check out the dessert sections of cookbooks first.) But, this book is amazing. So many different takes on cookies. I'm even excited about trying the savory cookies.

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  3. I wouldn't make that pork recipe, because I don't like savory foods with sweet stuff in there (no Hawaiian pizza, for example). But . . . if you partially froze the pork before slicing it? It'd probably still make for weird-shaped steaks, but they might be more even. I often decide to splash out and experiment with some exotica for company dinner, and have also lived to regret it. I am going to get the Dorie cookbook; I have felt protective about her ever since that Piglet (and unnecessarily mean-spirited and also, just wrong) review.

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  4. I totally agree about feeling protective of her and she is a pro through an through. I have bought every cookbook she has written and love them all.

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  5. I have met Dorie a few times, which was enough for her to generously donate a few signed books to a fundraising auction I was organizing. She is genuinely as delightful and approachable in person as she is on paper.

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  6. I just took this out of the library for the second time. The only ones I've made so far are the breakfast biscotti--and even though I'm a Maida Heatter biscotti acolyte (meaning, Maida has convinced me that real biscotti do not contain butter), I am thinking about making another batch of Dorie's biscotti which do, in fact, have a stick of butter in them. I thought that having Maida Heatter's cookie book and Alice Medrich's cookie book would be more than enough cookbooks focusing only on cookies, but now I'm not so sure.

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  7. I met Dorie once when she and her son did a pop up cookie store in NYC. She is painfully thin!!! So unfair.

    My friends and I go to a big folk dance festival in upstate NY each February, and I always expend way too much energy thinking about what cookies to bake for after hours treats. This year it's Dorie's World Peace Cookies.

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  8. I am so glad to read this post. I don't really know how to bake cookies and decided that in 2017 I will learn how to one new cookie each month so that next Christmas I can bake twelve different cookies - and also so I can have something fun to take my mind off how miserable I am these days. So far I have made Milk & Cookies Bakery Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Milk & Cookies cookbook (fabulous) and (maybe even better) the Classic Ginger Cookies from Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours. I am going to get Dorie's Cookies today. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. If you are a cookie novice, I also highly recommend the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. It's initial chapters walk you through all the basic cookie types with variations (do you like your sugar cookies crispy or chewy? They'll explain how to get them either way), and then has a ton of recipes, from the traditional to the creative. All the recipes I've tried turned out as described.

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  9. I met Dorie briefly at a foodie event. She really is that nice. Gracious and sweet. Another book for the list!

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  10. Please just go ahead and cook them all systematically. Thin is so impossible to chase after a certain age. I let my subscription to Bon Appetit go after they changed the layout and it took on that chaotic, cartoonish look. It just felt frantic to read it. Isn't it awful to make a recipe and have it not turn out? I recently made a dinner, over reached on recipe choices, only to have it all turn out meh.

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    1. Globug, I so agree with you! I miss the old Bon Appetit more than I can say. It has gotten way too cool and trendy and the busy-ness of the layout and cartoons....I thought it was just me. Sometimes I just chalk it up to the fact maybe I'm an oldster (59) and not their target audience any more obviously (even though I am a serious home cook) But between the cartoons, the trendy references, the tattoos and the man buns, honestly, it has really jumped the shark in terms of the "coolness" quotient. I was pretty done with them when they couldn't even correctly spell "macaron" when talking about French macarons calling them "macaroons" which you would think, to a cooking magazine,is pretty basic. Or should be. But I guess coolness and trendiness are far more important than accuracy and good solid recipes anymore which I guess are to retro. Between losing Gourmet and now seeing what Bon Appetit has become...I feel like magazines are gone.

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  11. I like listening to food podcasts and of course when this book came out there were many interviews with Dorie (I agree with you on the name -- I wouldn't type in "Greenspan" here, it just seems strange). She sounds utterly charming and also obsessive about cookies in a wonderful way, excited and wanting to bring everyone on the bandwagon of the delights of cookies, all ways, as opposed to someone like Rose Levy Beranbaum. I feel like I'm being chastised in the Cake Bible. Or, yes, Hamilton or Thomas Keller -- I can't live up to their standards. Dorie won't mind if I didn't shape my cookies exactly the right way or if I used allspice instead of nutmeg!

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  12. Cookies, what's not to love? Definitely checking this one out of the library. Just read the Gabrielle Hamilton review link. Man, I don't get her at all. Me thinks she needs to get laid.

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  13. Have you seen Gabrielle Hamilton interview Nigella Lawson? If not, you can see it on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amalx1eDfLo&t=1814s. I think it's game, set, match Nigella (yes, kind of like "Dorie"), but Hamilton, spiky and full of annoying mannerisms, really digs in with some very interesting questions. Nigella, to her credit, does not often resort to her typical faux intimate deflective interview tropes. It's fascinating--very interesting too on the difference between home and professional cooks.

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    1. Thanks for posting that link. It was lovely distraction.

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  14. What, pray tell, are those pink things? They look otherworldly and I want them.

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  15. Thank you for this review - I've been reading about this book for a while, adding and removing it from my online basket (it's expensive in the UK) and you've explained how and why this cookie compendium is different to the many, many others on the market - and have captured how innovative her recipes are. Consider me convinced

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  16. Thanks so much for the link to Gabrielle Hamilton's Piglet review of Plenty vs. AMFT -- one of the best and best-written of that wildly uneven genre. Regina Schrambling had the same reaction as GH to the photos and production values, if I recall.

    When I checked out AMFT from the library, my strongest reaction was to its giant size and weight -- too big to browse in bed -- and to the many photos showing food bigger than in real life (brrrrr!). Both of those objections dissolved when the Kindle version went on steep sale for a moment last year, and now I've read much more of AMFT than I did when I had the daunting tome in hand. The many cook's notes at Eat Your Books and on chowhound have also helped encourage actual use, too, making it the most cooked-from of a dozen or so e-cookbooks here. Greenspan really does have an excellent "voice". If I were to develop any interest in baking, I'd look to her books first.

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