Baking With Dorie Greenspan: Breakfast casseroles, pasta salad, brownies and more

Dorie Greenspan's Warm Fusilli French Riviera Style.
Mar 09, 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: This pasta salad will transport you to the French Riviera
This week's recipe: Dorie Greenspan's Warm Fusilli French Riviera Style

Hello and welcome.  

I hope you've all had a delicious couple of weeks.  What have you been up to?

Stew?  Pasta?  Still cooking for winter?  Leaning toward spring?

Tell us!

Elizabeth David has a lemon ice recipe that calls for "soft sugar". What is she referring to? Is it caster sugar? Thank you so much.

This is the first time I've heard of 'soft sugar'.  I searched for the recipe and couldn't find it.  I'm curious - is it recipe for something like sorbet? 


Does anyone know what soft sugar is?

Is it a product? Maybe something that has glucose  or corn syrup or something that 'softens' it and makes it less like for the dessert to freeze rock-hard?

Do you have a favorite sweet or savory breakfast casserole that can be prepped the night before and baked in the morning?

I think what you're looking for is a strata, a cross between bread pudding and baked French toast that you put together at night, chill and then bake in the morning.  Here's a recipe from Ellie Krieger, who writes the Nourish column for the paper.

Breakfast Strata Primavera

RECIPE: Breakfast Strata Primavera

I wonder if the OP was referring to a baguette viennoise? It has a brioche texture studded with choco chips throughout, and has no cream filling. It's one of my favorites. Here's a pic.

Thank you so much for sending this in.

I've seen that at Mulot for years.  OP, is this what you were thinking of?

What is your advice for someone looking to break into the food industry and food writing?

Blog, blog, blog.  Instagram, Instagram, Instagram.

In the 'old days', breaking into the food industry was a Catch-22:  You couldn't get a writing assignment unless you had clips of previous writing assignments.  Now an aspiring writer with a blog has a portfolio.

The food world is more crowded these days, but I think that there are more opportunities.

We don't eat beef; is there any way to make a chicken and beer stew?

Dorie Greenspan's Belgian Beef and Beer Stew

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Belgian Beef and Beer Stew

I haven't tried it with chicken, but I bet it would be good.  Follow the directions as they're written for beef and I think you'll be fine, although you may have more fat than you get with beef, so skim, if needed.  

If you need to skip the bacon, do.

What is one traditional baking or cooking method that you hope to see younger people bring back?

I don't know if there's a method that I'd like to see younger people bring back, I just want to see everyone of every age in the kitchen.  

There are so many reasons to cook and bake.  Yes, good food is certainly one of them, but so is the sense of satisfaction you get when you make something with your own hands, when you know that you can take care of yourself and feed yourself well and when you know that you can take care of and feed others.

Cooking and baking are pleasures and I want everyone to be able to experience and share them.

I recently purchased a 6" pan that's 3" tall. Since I just got one, I've been baking taller cakes and torting them (either baking all at once and cutting into three layers, or in two batches and torting each half to make a four layer cake). My problem is that the cakes take forever to bake and still seem raw in the middle. A recipe that indicated 25-30 minutes for a nine inch cake baked in single layers took well over 40 for double layer and was still undercooked. What can I do? Should I bake at a different temperature? Would cake strips help? My 8 inch cakes with the layers baked individually always come out done and fairly flat without strips.

Changing pan sizes is always tricky.  I'd try lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees and baking longer.  You might even have to go down 50 degrees - you'll have to experiment.

When you get it - and I'm sure you will - come back, please, and tell us what you learned.

Today’s recipe for warm fusilli French Riviera style calls for flat anchovies (which to me suggests canned anchovies packed in oil) but also mentions desalination (a process I associate to dry salt-cured anchovies). Since it seems unlikely that washing an oil cured anchovy would do much to change its salt content, are dry salt-cured anchovies the ones intended?

Dorie Greenspan's Warm Fusilli French Riviera Style

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Warm Fusilli French Riviera Style

I use flat canned anchovies for the recipe.  I always rinse them to lessen the salt just a tad.  You're right that they're not covered with salt the way the dried anchovies are (and you could certainly use those in the recipe), but a quick rinse seems to do them good.  Btw, I also rinse capers before I use them.

Hello. In one of your recipes - possibly the yogurt cake - you say to beat the eggs until they are lemon colored. What does that color mean to my eggs? Thanks. Love your recipes!

Hmmm, what did I mean????  It's not in the yogurt cake.  I often say that eggs and sugar should be beaten until they thicken and pale and sometimes, when there are lots of yolks, that's lemon colored.

Glad you're liking the recipes (even if I'm failing to remember when that expression was used or why - sorry).

The rival newspaper that I get in addition to the Post has a recipe for Guinness Stout brownies that looked heavenly until I saw that it called for two cups of sugar to one cup of flour. Isn't that pretty much backward? Sweets seem to me to have gotten much sweeter over the past decade. Should I start by cutting the sugar down?

That's a bunch of sugar, but many brownies have very little flour - some are like almost-flourless chocolate cakes.  And stout is bitter.  

What kind of chocolate does it call for?

I agree with you that recipes have gotten sweeter, but this one just might need the sugar. 

I just did a quick search and found a recipe that uses 3/4 cup flour and 1 1/2 cups sugar - similar proportions to the 'rival' recipe.


Hi Dorie! I recently burnt the bottoms of a tray of cookies AND a batch of scones. Hadn't ever happened to me before! It got me wondering if there's a pre-baking analysis of where you put your oven racks. I typically just use the middle one, but now maybe I should move my baked goods up in the top 3rd? Also, do you double-sheet your scones and cookies to avoid this? I saw that mentioned in one recipe. Thank you!

Ouch!  If this has never happened to you before and you haven't changed anything, I'd check your oven temperature.

I don't use insulated baking sheets or double baking pans for cookies or scones because I don't think they allow enough heat to get to the bottom.  The sheets don't burn anything, but they don't really brown either. (Although that's certainly not your problem today).

I use insulated or double pans when I'm baking pound cakes or dense loaf cakes that are going to be in the oven for a long time.

I've got a few pounds of apples in my CSA this week, and they're not the greatest for eating out of hand unfortunately. Do you have a favorite cake/bread/muffin/etc recipe that would use up at least a few of them? Thanks!

First make the Custardy Apple Squares - they're great with just about any apples.

Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

I'm a fan of baked apples - so old-fashioned, I know. 

Jacques Pepin's Baked Apples

RECIPE: Jacques Pepin's Baked Apples

And you could, of course, use up all your apples and then some by making applesauce.  When I make sauce, I put the apples in with their skins - nice for color - and then, when the apples can be mashed with the back of a spoon, I put them through a food mill.  I freeze the sauce in zip-lock bags and use it for baking or for serving with cake.

Here's another good idea:

Maggie Austin's Apple Bread

RECIPE: Maggie Austin's Apple Bread

I think she hated it because most of them in her day were just awful; repositories for mismatched chopped leftovers. Plus she may not have liked the texture of cold pasta. I note your recipe is for WARM pasta. Plus she liked having a few things to be cranky about. Cilantro was another if I recall.


Yes, I made the pasta dish WARM so that I could kinda-sorta skirt the salad issue :)

Isn't Spaghetti Carbonara the classic Italian coal miners' breakfast dish?

I've never heard that.  Thanks.

This is probably heresy in a baking chat, but last Saturday I attempted to make a pie from a can of peach pie filling (which came from my mother's pantry when she had to move to assisted living). Apparently I am the only person in America who did not know that TWO cans of pie filling are required for one pie; there were no instructions on the label. I preheated the oven, spread out the pie crust, dumped in the filling... and had to make another trip to the grocery store, where they had no peach pie filling. Rather than drive to another store, I bought a can of apple pie filling and dumped it in the same pie. It tasted okay, but awfully sweet and gooey, so I won't be buying any more canned pie filling.

Well, you get points for not wanting to waste the can of filling and for having the get-up-and-go to shop for a second can. (I, too, would have thought that a can would have sufficed.)  It's too bad that your efforts resulted in a sweet and gooey pie.

Sadly, I'm not surprised.  Those fillings have far more sugar than any of us would probably put in a homemade pie.  Ditto thickeners.


We found a very elderly bag of dark brown sugar in one of our cabinets -- so hard it was a solid brick that couldn't be crumbled. We couldn't bear to throw it out, so were able to salvage it by heating it with some water until it dissolved, but now don't know what to do with the resulting liquid (thinner than a syrup). Suggestions?

Use it as you'd use a simple syrup to sweeten drinks?

Mix it with yogurt?  Mix it with yogurt and use it as topping for pancakes and waffles.

Use it to poach pears?

Other suggestions?  Let's hear them.

I found Elizabeth David's recipe for lemon ice and it does call for soft sugar. Several sorts of sugar are defined in that book, but not soft sugar. A Google search on "soft sugar" found this. Here, soft sugar is said to be light brown sugar. Another name for it is "golden brown sugar."

Funny, I feel like a school teacher, but I don't think the Fresh Loaf recipe referred to 'soft sugar' as a kind of sugar, I think the word 'soft' was misplaced in the phrase and that it was used to suggest that the brown sugar should be soft in texture.

When I say 'soft sugar' my first thought was confectioner's/powdered/icing sugar.  But that's not a usual ingredient in ices.

Thanks for coming back with this.

I wish more people would use a double boiler, because it helps control cooking temperatures due to the boiling point of water.

I'm a fan of double boilers too, although I don't have a specific pan that's a double boiler.  I fit a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and always make certain that the bottom of the pan doesn't touch the water.

Baking potatoes in the oven, rather than in a microwave, so that one gets crispier potato skin.


This apple crumble recipe is easy and out of this world. To be truly British, pour cream over it. 

Thanks for this.

For what it's worth, the lemon ice cream in David's Summer Cooking uses icing sugar, which I always assume is confectioner's sugar or something close. No online source permits peeking into Harvest of the Cold Months, alas.

Icing sugar would be confectioner's or powdered sugar and yes, it's soft.  Thanks.

I'm going to see if my copies of David are close enough for me to grab them.

Macaroni and Cheese, or Pasta Carbonara, with cubed ham and peas or diced artichoke hearts added?


Can you share the Guinness brownies reciepe? I usually make car bomb cupcakes for St. Patrick's day but those sound like wayyyyy less work for a Thursday holiday. (and yes I know the name is unfortunate) Or - is it possible to just add Guinness to my very rich brownie recipe to see what happens? What would I swap out?

A chatter has the recipe, but I've seen several online.

And no, I wouldn't just add Guinness to a recipe - you might have trouble adding the stout as an extra liquid.

What's the standard ratio for adding instant coffee powder or crystals (with a bit of liquid to dissolve) to chocolate baked goods recipes? I know that a bit of coffee enhances the chocolate flavor, but I don't want to overwhelm the chocolate.

I don't know that there's a 'standard' for adding coffee to chocolate recipes.  The amount would depend on how much chocolate, how much sugar etc.

You're right not to want to overwhelm the chocolate and you're also right that coffee is nice with chocolate (provided you like the flavor of chocolate).

If you're melting the chocolate, you could add a little of the instant coffee to the chocolate while it's melting.  Start with a pinch, taste and add more.  Just remember that instant coffee is strong and that the heat of the oven will intensify its flavor. 

Not coal miners. Charcoal-sweepers.


Hi Dorie - Do you have any tips for adapting recipes that call for refined sugars to use natural ones, like honey or maple syrup? How do you adjust the liquids in the recipe? Or do you stick with dry unrefined sugars like coconut palm sugar? Any advice is appreciated.

Here's a link that might help you.  It's a review and recipes from the pastry chef Joanne Chang's new book about baking with less sugar.

ARTICLE: Can you make crave-worthy desserts with less (or no) white sugar?

Good quality dark chocolate like Scharffen Berger -- oh, I see. The SB is very dark and bitter (why I love it) so that probably needs more sweetening, too.

Yep.  I would make the Guinness Brownies the way the recipe says to make them and then tinker the second time around.  I think with stout and dark chocolate, you're not going to find them too sweet.  Let us know.

Are Silpats universally useful? (Ie for basically any baking recipe) I've only used parchment paper, and didn't know if it was a necessary purchase for the kitchen.

You can use Silpats (silicone baking mats) and parchment interchangeably.  Silpats have the advantage of being almost endlessly re-usable.

There are just a few times when I've found that Silpats have performed better than parchment, most notably with Parisian macarons, but even then the difference was slight.

Make caramel? Just boil out the water, add vanilla maybe. I melted some sugar with coconut cream until frothy and dark-ish poured on a silpat and enjoyed. You could also candy some nuts in a similar way....add some of the liquid to nuts and heat until the water boils out.

Great suggestions.

A huge pan of Apple Crisp, with a topping that includes oatmeal! À la mode is even better (because of the protein in dairy, right?)

As always, merci for all the good questions and comments.

The puzzle of soft sugar remains.  If someone finds the answer, please don't keep it a secret - let us know.

In the meantime -

Cook, bake, share and enjoy - xoDorie 

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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,, and follow her on Twitter: @doriegreenspan.
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