The Washington Post

Baking With Dorie Greenspan: Caramel corn, cookies and more.

Sep 07, 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: How to make caramel popcorn that will one-up Cracker Jack
This week's recipe: Dorie Greenspan's Caramel-Honey Popcorn

Bonjour from moi in Paris!

I arrived yesterday and am still a little jetlagged ... but not so jetlagged that I couldn't get a couple of sweet goodies today.

I hope you all had a good holiday weekend and that this fall-is-coming is a good moment for you.

Here, in Paris, it's about 80 degrees F and brilliantly sunny (in other words, gorgeous), but you can tell that fall is around the proverbial corner: the chestnut trees' leaves are starting to turn brown; there are plums, apples and kuri squash in the markets; and there are sweaters in the shop windows.

What's up chez you?

Dorie, I used to sometimes make a graham cracker pie crust with store bought crackers, but I no longer like to use such processed ingredients in my baking. Is there a recipe for a from-scratch pie crust I can make that tastes a bit like graham crust?

I wish my new book (Dorie's Cookies) was out already - I've got a wonderful recipe for graham crackers in it! (Start by replacing about 1/4 of the regular flour with whole wheat.)

I don't have a recipe for a crust that tastes like the graham crust, although you could try adding whole-wheat flour and some honey to your favorite recipe and see if you like it.

Alternatively, there are more natural graham crackers on the market, so you could try using those.

Does anyone have a good recipe for a 'from scratch graham-esque' crust?  Pipe up, please.

Hi Dorie, I'm looking to start a Sourdough starter and am confused about what kind of container to store it in. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations/advice?

My husband keeps his starters in heavy plastic containers (the brand name is Cambro), but you could keep them in glass jars with non-reactive tops (if your tops are metal, cover the jar with plastic wrap, parchment or wax paper first) or you can use crocks.

Anybody do something different from this?

Dorie, I'd like to make the caramel popcorn for a football party. I'm guessing since you said humidity can be an issue it would be best made day-of; what do you think the best way to transport and serve the popcorn would be so that it's not too mushy? Take it in a paper bag and then dump it into a bowl when we arrive?

You've got the right idea.  Bake the caramel corn until it is shiny and crisp and make sure to cool it well before you pack it.  A sturdy paper bag or even a plastic bag should be just fine for transport and then, yes, just dump it in a bowl.  Or, put it in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and head over to the party.

Have fun and I hope your team wins!

Dorie Greenspan's Caramel-Honey Popcorn

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Caramel-Honey Popcorn

Hello! I am making cupcakes for my 4 year old's birthday party this Saturday. I'm just using a box mix and making my own frosting - a lemon buttercream. What's the best timeline to use when making them? I'll need to make them Friday evening as the party is Saturday morning. Should I make both the cake and the frosting Friday and then frost on Saturday? Could I cool the cake completely and frost them Friday and then store them in the fridge? Thanks.

You sound like you've got this all under control.  You could bake the cupcakes and make the frosting Friday and then put them together on Saturday, but you've probably got lots of other things to do Saturday morning.  

I think you should follow your very good Plan B: bake and cool the cupcakes Friday, frost them and then refrigerate them overnight.  Actually, as I wrote this, I thought: it's good to frost the cupcakes ahead rather than leave them 'naked' - the frosting will help seal the cakes.

Have fun making them and Happy 4th birthday to you and your child!

I notice the addition of baking soda to the caramel sauce. i have a similarly different cracker jax recipe i've been tweaking for a few years which also includes baking soda and i'm not sure why it's in there. my best guess: it fluffs up the sauce which aids in spreadability. 

Food science is my weak spot, but ... Baking soda does help things spread, it's one reason it's used in many cookie recipes.  It also reacts with acidic ingredients in recipes, as it does here with the brown sugar.  But in caramel corn, I think it's more important to the texture of the caramel, aerating it so that it isn't too hard.

 

Hi Dorie. All of a sudden it seems I can't bake a cake. Keeps turning out crumbly. First happened with a recipe I've made a number of time and then with a different recipe (your chocolate buttermilk cake) over the weekend. Still tastes good but isn't right. I think I'm either doing something wrong with the flour or overbaking? Can't seem to find my oven thermometer to see if that might be part of the problem....

Another case of kitchen witches! They seem to be working overtime recently. I hate when things that have always worked go wonky ... and they do from time to time.

I can't imagine what you're doing differently with the flour.  Could you be measuring differently?  Are you doing something where you might be getting more flour per cup than you normally do?

Did both recipes have buttermilk?  Did you shake the container?

Did you leave out baking powder or soda by accident?  Probably not - you wouldn't make that same mistake twice.

It might be an oven problem. I think you've got to hunt down that thermometer of yours!

Let me know if all of the sudden things get better.  It's got to work both ways, right?

Hi Dorie! Just wanted to thank you for your DELICIOUS World Peace cookies. I baked them and submitted them to the local county fair (crediting you for the recipe, of course) and won a ribbon!

HOORAY! and CONGRATULATIONS!

This makes me so happy.  I love this recipe so much.  In fact, I love it so much that it's on the cover of my new book.  I'm convinced that, just as the name says, if everyone baked and shared these cookies, there would be World Peace.

SO excited to see the caramel popcorn recipe Dorie. I recently found one using freeze dried strawberries with a little powdered sugar ground and sprinkled over buttered popcorn. Do you have any other easy recipes for popcorn?

That sounds like such an interesting recipe.

Last week in Providence, Rhode Island, at a wonderful restaurant called Persimmon, I had a dessert of corn ice cream topped with popped corn and charred fresh corn.  And ABC Kitchen in NYC makes a fabulous sundae with ice cream, caramel sauce and caramel popcorn.

 

It kills me, but my family seems to prefer store-bought pie crust. Any recommendations for a simple pie crust that might bring them over to the brighter side?

It's funny, I always think that when we like lower-quality store-bought things it's because that's what we grew up with.

There's a recipe for an all-butter crust that was part of a blueberry pie that I had in my column last summer.  I love the crust.  Fingers crossed that your family will too.

Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

Where can we find the recipe?

I have the recipe up on my site now

I tend to set my oven to 350 as a matter of standard practice but get caught out when some cakes call for higher temperatures. I can see a pineapple upside down cake at 400 to get that gooey topping. But what does a higher temp do for other cakes? For example I have a ricotta cake from Food52 that calls for 400. Does it make a crisper shell on the outside? Just give a shorter baking time?

350 is the most common temperature for cakes and cookies, although you see 375 for cookies a far amount, and I see 400 degrees fairly often for cakes in France, which have a tendency to be lower than most American cakes.

I think that when you've got a slim cake with rich ingredients, you want to bake them faster to help keep their moistness.  A longer, slower, lower-temp bake would have a tendency to dry out the innards.

Tall cakes, like bundt cakes, and thick cakes, like loaves, need slow bakes so that they set all the way through without browning too much.

Make them because nephews love them, but my tried and true recipe called for 400 degrees. Worked before, but recently got a new gas stove, and burnt first test cookie. Any ideas - I bake a lot - not so much recently, but fall is here, so will be baking more.

You're not the only person I've heard from with new-oven differences.  

First of all, I'd put a thermometer in the oven to see what's going on.  I might also toast a baking sheet of flake coconut - don't rotate the sheet pan - to see where the oven's hot spots are.

Until you get to know your oven, check your cookies a few minutes earlier.  You'll probably do better relying on sight and smell than the usual time.

Don't forget to note what you find in your cookbooks, so you'll be ready to go the next time.

Hi Dorie! I'm a frequent baker but have almost never made a good ol' basic American fruit pie. (Pumpkin and pecan pies I have made frequently, though.) I'd like to cap off the end of summer with a blueberry and peach pie. Any wisdom, tips, and encouragement, especially with regards to soggy crusts and ending up with too much moisture?

I just mentioned my Blueberry Pie with the all-butter crust to another chatter, so you might want to take a look at that.

Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

Over the summer, there have been lots of suggestions from chatters for cutting down the moisture in fruit pies, the ones that I like particularly are:

Turn the cut fruit around in some sugar and, when the fruit has given up some of its juice, transfer the fruit to the crust using a slotted spoon, so that you leave the excess syrup in the bowl.

Cook half of the fruit with the sugar and thickeners in the recipe, so that you get a jam, and then fold in the remaining raw fruit.

Line the bottom of the crust with cake or bread crumbs to sop up some of the syrup.

Prebake the bottom crust or, better yet, make an open-face or crumb-topped pie, so that you can easily pre-bake the bottom crust, which will make it crisper.

Finally, give up on a crisp crust and enjoy the softer pastry and sweet fruit juices!

Due to my own carelessness, I have an end half of (bakery-bought) sourdough bread that's nearly a month old and hard as a rock, although there's no green fuzz on it. I'm sure it's no longer sliceable, but I hate throwing it out. Should I break it up with a chisel and hammer, and use the pieces for croutons? How would you salvage the bread? Waste not, want not :-)

I love that your bread is a month old and not fuzzy!  Seriously?

I think your bread is past the crouton stage, but it might still make good crumbs ... or bird food. 

Hi Dorie, We're headed to NYC for the weekend. Can you share a couple of your favorite bakeries for desserts or breads? Since it's warm in Paris, I highly recommend a trip to Une Glace à Paris in the Marais!

Merci - I like Une Glace à Paris and the weather's perfect for it.

In New York, think about visiting Arcade Bakery, Dominique Ansel, Breads Bakery - people go nuts for the babka (the secret ingredient is Nutella) and Lady M, where the crèpe gâteau has been a favorite since it opened. As you might know, Parisians Eric Kayser and Ladurée have both opened NYC outposts.  Have fun in NYC.

Someone gave me a big jar of malted milk powder. I'd like to make cookies with it. Any ideas? I've seen the various chocolate chip plus malted milk powder recipe on the Internet, so I'd like something else if you have it.

I've got a recipe for Coffee-Malted Cookies, but again, it's in my new book (which won't be out until October 25) - aarrgh.

I don't have any other cookie recipes that use malted milk powder although I'm including my recipe for a cocoa cake with a malted milk buttercream ... just in case the cake urge strikes.

Does anyone have a fun cookie recipe that uses malted milk powder? Now's the time to share!

Maybe this won't seem novel to most, but I had never seen it before: went to the Galapagos this spring and had vegetable puree soup at most meals, with a bowl of plain popcorn passed around to put on the soup, like croutons.

What fun!

Now that you mention this, I've had creamy corn soup with popcorn floating in the soup.  Love the idea of passing around a bowl of corn.  Thanks!

Everyone loves pies - so crisp crust. soggy crust, no one complains.Based on my experience, they just seem grateful that someone made a pie. Oh and ice cream - for some - always helps.

Adore this  -thank you!

Microwave it for a few seconds, then chop it up and buzz in the food processor for bread crumbs. Microwaving it keeps it from breaking the motor.

Interesting tip - thanks!

Not baking, but at an ice cream place that makes their own, I've had chocolate chip ice cream where the vanilla ice cream had malted milk in it, so the ice cream tastes like a Chocolate Malted Milk Shake. Yummmm!

Yum, indeed!

Merci - as always - for dropping in and for such good questions and suggestions.

Before I go, I want to tell you about a project that I'm launching tomorrow with a terrific team of bakers, chefs, bloggers and food personalities. It's called #cookiesandkindness and it's going to be wonderful.

If you want to learn more about it, join our merry band of bakers and get the September recipe, stop by my website - doriegreenspan.com - tomorrow.

In the meantime,

bake, cook, share, enjoy - 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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