Part I of II
The support and endless encouragement of accomplished women in the culinary industry is in a word or two, profoundly inspiring. Whenever I am lost, down on myself, confused, pity party for 1 please, I know I can zip an email off to Jerry DiVecchio (Sunset Magazine), Linda Carucci (Cooking School Secret for Real World Cooks), Emily Luchetti (Farallon) or Dorie Greenspan (Bon Appetit, Baking with Julia and now Baking from My Home to Yours), confident they will respond with kindness and encouragement or a kick in derriere to get out and get going. It's more meaningful, more touching, more inspiring than I can describe.
What does the Dalai Lama say - it's not the destination that's important, it's the journey - or something like that? If not for these generous, funny, thoughtful trailblazers, the journey of discouraged, searching cooks like me would resemble a pinball bouncing back and forth across this culinary world, eyes skyward pleading for direction. They are beyond generous with their time, their knowledge, their experiences and profoundly excited to see other women coming up the ranks succeeding, happy to share the stage and pass the torch.
Some of my most treasured memories in Paris are of time spent over a chocolate chaud or a vin chaud or an impromptu walk around the 6th with Dorie Greenspan. She knows everyone. Really. Everyone. It's amazing. And very fun. I try to stay in her wake, hoping some of her magical fairy dust will float back onto me. She tells me stories after stories after stories of the richest, most delightful experiences, experiences with some of the industry luminaries. Over a delicious lunch at Le Comptoir this week, Dorie shared more of her fascinating life with me. I can't begin to convey them with the humor and joy that she did but I hope they at least bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart as they did to mine...
I first talked with Dorie about her new, just-launched, uber-cool blog aptly named "In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorie". Dorie was so inspired after her most recent book tour for Baking From My Home To Yours that she decided to create a blog to stay in touch and continue the dialogue with all these people that she'd met along the many stops criss-crossing the country last year as well as to connect with new people who shared her passion for baking and continue the culinary conversation.
What was your funniest cooking moment?
"Oh! The cake that got me fired!" Dorie describes it in more detail in her book (page 278) but she was fired from her very first job as a pastry chef. Dorie was cooking at a tres chic restaurant in New York City and daily she made a version of Simone Beck's (Julia Child's co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) cake with whiskey-soaked raisins, almonds and chocolate. Bored of cooking the same thing every day, Dorie decided to get creative. She swapped almonds for pecans, prunes for raisins and whisky to armagnac. Sounds reasonable. Unbeknownst to Dorie, this was the restaurant's signature cake and changing it caused a small revolution upstairs in the dining room. She was fired that afternoon for "creative insubordination".
What was your biggest cooking disaster?
"When I burned my parents kitchen down...their just-renovated kitchen!" I remembered reading about the fire in the introduction of Dorie's new book (page xii) but I thought she couldn't possibly mean the entire kitchen. Maybe just a little grease fire? No. According to Dorie, her parents came home from an evening fundraiser, so very dressed up, to find Dorie and her friends sitting on the front step, heads in their hands, with firemen coming in and out of the house behind her. Dorie didn't cook again until she was married. Thankfully for us she was soon married!
What is your favorite recipe? Or is it even possible to choose a favorite recipe?
World Peace Cookies
-Reprinted from Baking from My Home to Yours (page 138) with permission from the author
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick + 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bits, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachmenet, ot with a handy mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter in medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugards, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 more minutes.
Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from the flying flour and pulse the mixer at a low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek-if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more.; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at a low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough-for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don't be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for up to 2 months. If you've frozen the dough, you needn't defrost it before baking-just slice the logs into cookies and bake for 1 minute longer.
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you are cutting them-don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes-they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.
Please check back next week for Part II where Dorie shares the most heart-warming stories of life in Paris and working with Pierre Herme, Daniel Boulud and Julia Child.