Baking With Dorie Greenspan: Holiday cookies and more

Dec 08, 2016

Beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan ("Baking Chez Moi," "Baking: From My Home To Yours," "Around My French Table" and more) answers your questions about baking, her "Everyday Dorie" column and everything else she's cooking.
This week's column: Holiday cookie bakers, here’s your secret weapon: 1 dough, 5 fabulous results
This week's recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Cookie Dough

Greetings from Chicago, where I’m on the penultimate leg of my book tour for Dorie’s Cookies. It’s been great to meet so many enthusiastic bakers across the country.  IMHO bakers are the best!
 
And speaking of best, how fabulous was this week’s Cookie Edition!  I can’t wait to get home to an oven and start baking from the collection.
 
What have you been up to?  Let’s chat.

Hello dear Dorie, I am bemused by the unpopularity of mincemeat, it was hard to find a jar of the stuff this year. I keep thinking it should be a winner with the craft cocktail/infusion/canning crowd. So, for Christmas, I thought I'd take a swing at making my own. If it turns out well I will can it and share it with friends. Do you have suggestions? Do you think it could work with Chinese five spice? Thanks!

Funny, I bet if it were called mincefruit it would have a better reputation.  I wonder if the addition of suet has something to do with the mixture not being wildly popular.  I love mincemeat without suet or minced meat – it’s a great dried-fruit filling or spread. 
 
Traditionally, the mix included raisins, currants, apples and a lot of candied peeled.  I wonder if it wouldn’t be good with soft, candied ginger? Maybe dried cherries?  I think you’re onto something with Chinese five-spice powder or, if you like it, why not try star anise?
 
If you make it, come back and tell us what you did and what you liked.

I recently discovered the convenience of freezing cookie dough, scones, and fudge, and now I'm hooked. What other candies and pastries freeze well? Could caramels be frozen?

Cookies and pastries with lots of butter freeze really well – think Bundt cakes and pound cakes, slice-and-bake cookies, cream puffs, brownies, shortbread, cookie dough that’s rolled out and dough that’s scooped.  Pie crusts and tart shells are also take to freezing.

 

I don’t know much about candymaking.  I do know that chocolates freeze very well.  Wrap them airtight and bring them to room temperature in stages – leave them overnight in the refrigerate (in their wrapping) and then on the counter.

 

I’m not sure that caramels freeze.  Does anyone know?  But caramels keep almost endlessly, so freezing them might not be necessary.

I plan on making a gingerbread house for Christmas, but one guest is gluten free. Do you know a recipe that would work? I was thinking of this one from the Minimalist Baker - minimalistbaker.com/vegan-gluten-free-gingerbread-men Between your cookies and Dorie's new book I'm going to have a tough time narrowing my cookie selections!

So many cookies - 'tis the season

I don't have a gluten-free gingerbread recipe for you.  Does anyone out there?

I looked at the recipe you're thinking about and I'm wondering if it won't be too tender/too soft to hold up as a gingerbread house.

But not the cookies from the food section. Rather, cookies from the Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria. They make these cookies called "fruit pockets," which come filled with either raspberry (the best) or apricot (quite good). I can't find a recipe for these. Have you ever had them? Any thoughts on how to make them? Thanks!

I’m sorry, but I don’t know the cookies.  Does anyone know them?  Know how they’re made?

 

You might try writing to the Food Section (food@washpost.com) to see if they can beg the recipe out of the bakery.

Have leftover cans of pumpkin and was wondering if the custard-y consistency would make good cookies (trying to think out of the "pie" box). Saw vegan molasses pumpkin streusel and figgy bars, but was thinking about mixing with coconut somehow or mini chocolate chips. Any ideas? Thanks much!

Pumpkin puree adds a lot of moisture to whatever you bake with it, so I'd look for a recipe that calls for it specifically.

It blends well with molasses, cranberries (I've got a recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies that includes fresh cranberries), spices, brown sugar, and yes, chocolate and coconut. 

Dorie, I'm loving the new cookie book and look forward to baking my way through most of it. I'm wondering if you've ever run across or used the SideSwipe paddle for a KitchenAid mixer? I've been using one for a while, and I think it works great. It was recommended by Cooks Illustrated, but I'm wondering if it tends to over-beat things. I've got a large KitchenAid stand mixer, and it definitely clears the sides of the mixing bowl better than the standard paddle.

So glad you're enjoying Dorie's Cookies - thank you!

I have several different versions of the sideswipe paddle - a paddle with silicone 'sides' that reach the sides of the stand mixer bowl - and like using that style paddle for cookies.

There's no fear that the paddle will overmix the dough.  Just be sure to mix on the speed that's recommended in the recipe.

I have a jar of dulche de Leche that inspires alfajores for this years office cookie exchange. I've never made them but a little research shows the more authentic recipe includes cornstarch. I would love any advice before I begin this endeavor. Bonus if you have a recommended recipe. Thank you!

Here's a recipe that was published in the Food Section - I hope you enjoy it.

RECIPE: Alfajores

I'm looking forward to trying this recipe with all of the variations. I wonder if it can be "chocolatized." Would you use melted chocolate, cocoa powder? Thoughts? Thank you.

Funny - I have a recipe for Do-Almost-Anything Chocolate Dough in my new book.  It's almost the same as the vanilla dough: For 4 cups of flour use 2/3 cup cocoa powder. 

Dorie, what is your experience with mace? I tried a kouign amann recently that I'm fairly certain was flavored with mace (the baker was gone for the day) and it was fantastic. Do you know of any recipes that use it well and what are your thoughts on it, please? Thank you!

I haven't thought about mace in so long - what a wonderful, but almost forgotten spice. I bet it would be great in a kouign amann.

Mace is the lacy 'shell' that encases nutmeg.  I think you can use mace in any recipe that calls for nutmeg. Like nutmeg, mace should be used sparingly - it's got a big flavor.

Just wanted to say I enjoyed your memories of Julia Child in Alex Prud'homme new book "The French Chef in America." As someone who first started to watch Julia with their mom and grandmother in the 1970's, it was a fascinating story. I'm looking for a recipe on how to make torrone durro. I've made the more traditional softer version before but would love to know how to get this harder, crispy texture. Description usually say it is either a slight difference in the balance of honey, sugar and water or to cook it longer, but I cannot find something that tells you exactly what to do. Thanks

Lucky you that you have the memory of watching Julia with your mother and grandmother .

I don't have a recipe for Torrone Durro - does anyone out there?

 

 

 

I was planning to bake some salmon with a homemade teriyaki sauce at 375. What's the best way to tell if it's done texture/appearance wise (I know the temperature)? Is it better to broil it , wrapped in foil so it doesn't dry out?

I like to roast salmon either at a very high temp - 450 F - or a very low temp - like 200 F.

I think the salmon with your homemade teriyaki would be great at a low-temp.  Here are a few recipes that use a different sauce, but check the technique.

RECIPE: Slow-Roasted Salmon With Mustard Parsley Glaze

Foolproof Salmon Baked With Olive Oil and Herbs

RECIPE: Foolproof Salmon Baked With Olive Oil and Herbs

As for knowing when it's done - temperature is a good indicator, but so is just just looking at it: use a paring knife to dip into the salmon and see the color. The salmon should be slightly darker just at the very center.  It should also not be flabby.

Freezing caramels isn't the greatest idea because they usually crystallize, so when you defrost them, they'll have a slightly gritty texture. Even if you add better stabilizers like glucose, you risk changing the texture. Like Dorie said, they do last a long time (especially if they're from a high-quality candy manufacturer), so you may not need to freeze them.

Thanks so much for chiming it with this very good advice.

Those might be Maamoul. Usual stuffed with walnuts,sugar and cinnamon and another version stuffed with date paste. Usually baked in the middle east during Christmas and Ramadan.

Thanks for this.

Does "almost anything" include using the dough in a cookie press? I don't see why not, but I didn't see it mentioned specifically.

I've never tried it with a press, but I bet it would work.  Let me know what you do.

Someone gave me a set of cookie stamps. Got any non-sugar-cookie ideas for what to do with them? I assume they're good only for rollout or sliced cookies. I like unusual flavors in a cookie, so bonus points for something on those lines.

The few times I"ve used stamps, I've used them on roll-out cookies, specifically sugar cookies and speculoos/spice cookies.

Hello out there - anyone got an unusual cookie that takes to stamping?

When preparing the cookies using your recipe, are the cookies on the soft side? My great aunt used to make sugar cookies, which evey one loved, but they were too hard/crunchy for me.

The cookies are not very soft - not hard either.  In general, they're more crisp than chewy.

I decided to freeze my masa flour as it takes me almost a year to use it up. Here is my question/concern. Where I live it is often damp. I noticed that when I pull out the flour it immediately condenses water on the outside of the container. I have heard don't freeze your coffee beans because the repeated condensation issue. Am I filling my flout with water and refreezing it? Or am I just overthinking it?

I've often frozen "specialty" flours, but never in a container.  I usually put the flour in a plastic bag, press all of the air out of the before sealing it, and then I wrap the bag in plastic wrap.  

As long as you get the air out of the bag and wrap the bag really well, moisture shouldn't get into the flour.

As always, I'm drooling over your cookie issue. (We moved out of the area two months ago, so I've seen it only online, but a friend is putting her copy in the mail to me!) I am hoping to make cookies this season, but my plate is rather full (ahem!) -- in addition to trying to unpack and decorate at the same time, I've got three small kids and relatives coming to town. So ... any recos for five or so recipes that are relatively fast and easy? I saw Dorie's vanilla cookie dough and will try a couple of those. I'm generally not a fan of gingerbread or spice cookies (but maybe that's a good thing -- fewer temptations!).

This year's cookie issue is spectacular - I'm glad you're going to get a copy.

The two easiest/fastest cookies to make are drop or scoop cookies and slice-and-bake cookies, and each type has hundreds of options.

You can make the logs for slice-and-bake ahead and keep them in the freezer.  Ditto the scoops of dough.

I think you should put World Peace Cookies on your plate - everyone should (IMHO) - and don't underestimate the joys of a great chocolate chip cookie made with wonderful chocolate that you chop instead of chips.

More recommendations from bakers out there?

Hi, I love the idea of multiple flavors being made out of one base recipe. What is the texture of the recipe from this week's column? I was intrigued by the egg white - does that make them less crumbly? Thanks!

The texture of the dough changes a little depending on the cookie you choose to make with it, but it's primarily a mix of crispy and shorbread-sandy. The egg white adds to the dough's crispness and helps the dough keep its sharp edges when you use it for cut-out cookies

Hello! For someone who is bit new to baking and cookie-making, could you recommend a recipe or two that is approachable and helps develop technique, please? Also, are there any cookbooks that would be useful as well, please? Thank you for the help.

This week's cookie collection in the Food Section has something for you, for sure - it's a great round-up.

I'd love it if you tried the cookies you make from my Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla Dough - I think they're fun and, because you make different cookies from the one dough, you'll learn a few techniques along the way.

I like cookie books by Maida Heatter, Carole Walter, Nancy Baggett and Mindy Segal. I also have a new book that's all cookies, Dorie's Cookies.

My mom makes these amazing sponge cakes for Christmas. But since I'll be overseas this year, I'd like to ATTEMPT to replicate a sponge cake recipe like hers, since she still places her recipe close to the vest. Do you have any sponge cake recipes that use fat-free milk?

Here's a recipe for a sponge cake from the files that doesn't use milk of any kind.  But try searching for a hot-milk sponge cake.  Hot milk (full or nonfat) makes  a great sponge cake. Good luck!

RECIPE: Savoy Sponge Cake

Hi Dorie, I would like to make cranberry pumpkin bread, but I prefer my cranberries be cooked. Do you think I could swirl in a lightly-sweetened, maybe extra thick cranberry sauce? thanks!

I think you might be okay with a thick cranberry sauce.  Also, would you consider dried cranberries, softened in hot water or cider?

I'm sorry I couldn't get to all of your great questions. 

As always, it's been terrific chatting.  

Bake, bake and bake some more and we'll be back to chat together before the holidays - xoDorie

 

In This Chat
Dorie Greenspan
Dorie Greenspan is the award-winning author of 11 cookbooks, the most recent of which is "Baking Chez Moi." Read more on her Web site, doriegreenspan.com, and follow her on Twitter: @doriegreenspan.
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