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Dorie Greenspan

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  1. I had lots of baked treats that I loved as I was growing up, just none that were baked in our home. There were two good bakeries within walking distance of our house and, in addition to daily fresh bread from the bakery closest to us, we always had something sweet from one of the shops. I would always be happy with butter cookies – just the smell of them could make me giddy. My favorites were rugelach and Linzer cookies, lightly spiced cookies sandwiched with raspberry jam, and, yes, you’re right, I have versions of them in my new book. One of the great treats of childhood was to go to this funny corner bakery/sandwich take-out joint – it was more a stand than a store, as I remember it – and get a Charlotte Russe, a whipped cream and fruit extravaganza. While it’s structurally very different, the Berry Surprise Cake in my book was inspired by this rich, creamy, swirly sweet. While you’ve got me thinking, I remember that my Aunt Bertie would make some kind of a puffy turnover usually filled with jam – I think the dough was made with cottage cheese or sour cream (when I had them, baking wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye, so I never asked about ingredients or recipes) – and I think that the Flakey Apple Turnovers in my book are like them, at least they are to me. (Those are the turnovers that Patrick S. made and photographed so beautifully on the Baking with … thread in the Pastry & Baking forum.) Finally, and I know you’ll laugh, my Fluff-filled Chocolate Madeleines remind me of the packaged cakes called Devil Dogs that were an occasional treat when I was little.
  2. First of all, BRAVO! How terrific that you had a dream and made it come true. I empathize with the difficulty you had finding certain ingredients in Paris – why don’t they have canned pumpkin puree or, more basically, baking powder as we know it? – but I’ve never considered publishing a guide to conversions, although it’s a good idea. If you decide to do it – sign me up for a copy. In the meantime, the glossary of French food terms with their American translations and equivalents that Patricia Wells developed for her Food Lovers Guide to Paris, is available on her website, www.patriciawells.com (I don't know how to make this a hot link -- sorry)
  3. I bake even when I'm not developing or testing recipes and I bake for exactly the same reasons that you do, Jean: I find it very relaxing. I also love the way I feel when I've baked something -- that enormous sense of satisfaction that you get when you've made something completely by yourself, by hand, is a real high. That it's something that can be shared makes it even better.
  4. I'm sorry I didn't get to your question earlier, Lori. As I'm sure would be true for everyone, it's hard to describe a "typical" day, particularly because, as you mention later in your post, I live in three places and life is pretty different in each place. What most days always include is work -- writing (I write pretty much every day), either recipes or headnotes or articles; baking -- either developing or testing recipes for books or articles or baking for fun (although I do less baking and more cooking in Paris); cooking -- for my husband and me during the week and for friends on the weekends (and very often on weekday nights in Paris, where everyone stays up late, even on "school nights"); walking, for exercise, or strolling, for fun; and time with family and friends. I spend Monday through Thursday in New York City in that small kitchen, which you so adorably called "cozy"; weekends in Connecticut, where I have a large kitchen with plenty of spread-out space and where my desk and computer are right near the oven; and about 3 months a year in Paris, but in small chunks of time, where I've got a compact kitchen that works surprisingly well for the lots of entertaining that I do there. My New York kitchen is narrow enough for me to be able to stretch out my arms and touch both walls, but I've got that loooooooooong butcherblock counter and lots of storage space. I've got drawers under the counter for pots, pans, baking gear and gadgets, the hanging pot rack and, above the counter, lots of storage space behind sliding doors -- that's what I'm reaching for in the picture. And, as you pointed out, I've got light -- which makes any space a pleasure to be in. If I were a more organized person, the kitchen would work even better than it does. But I'm not organized, so that when I'm baking lots of things, I'm glad to have the dining room table nearby. The easiest kitchen for me to work in is the big one in Connecticut -- not a surprise. It's also fun because it leads out to a deck, so I can cool things outdoors. In addition to outdoor cooling being fast and efficient, I love walking outside and seeing a pie. The kitchen in Paris has the least counterspace and the teensiest sink. But, hey -- it's Paris, so I never complain. However, I do growl and when I do it's usually because I've been sloppy and not cleaned up as I've gone along, so that when I'm finished, I'm left with a sinkful of dishes and crumbs everywhere. I always tell myself to work neatly, and then I get carried away on a project, and then ...
  5. It's funny, you raise an issue that I really haven't thought about in the terms you use, at least not since my first interview for a job as a pastry assistant in a French kitchen. I mention this briefly in the introduction to Baking, but I went for an interview at a respected French restaurant in New York, having been sent there by the restaurant owner, who told me that the pastry chef was desperate for an assistant. When I got to the kitchen, the chef spoke to me only in French -- never asking me if I understood or spoke the language -- and repeatedly told me that he was looking for "a boy". When I pointed out to him that I wasn't a boy, he told me that that was the reason I wasn't going to get a job with him. That was in 1981 and, thankfully, a lot has changed since then. I did get jobs that year, but they were in American kitchens -- and kitchens run by women! I hadn't really thought about it until you asked the question, but, although I've been lucky enough to work with many of the very best French chefs here, in America, and in France, I've never thought of myself as having "asserted" myself in the world of French cooking. And now, considering your question, I realize why -- I never had to, because, by the time I was really involved with French food, I wasn't cooking/baking in French kitchens as an employee. Although I've worked in many French kitchens, it was always as a writer -- I was either working on a newspaper or magazine piece or a book. Or, if I was spending longer periods in a kitchen, it was understood that I was there for a reason other than a job. I think that made a huge difference. (Of course, as I think most of you know, working in a French kitchen is very demanding and very difficult -- whether you're a man or a woman.) The closest I've come to having to assert myself as a woman and an American in a French kitchen was when I went to Ecole Lenotre in Plaisir, France. I was the only woman in the class and the only non-French person and the only person who wasn't a real-and-true-and-in-a-professional-kitchen-full-time pastry chef. For all of these reasons, I was a nervous wreck when I entered the classroom kitchen, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. The guys turned out to be great and very helpful. Were they patronizing me? I don't know. But I learned so much from them that it didn't make any difference to me why they treated me so well. Of course, once I worked with Pierre Herme, I never had to "prove" myself again in a kitchen in France. It was assumed that if I was good enough to work with Pierre, I'd be good enough to be in any other kitchen.
  6. I can't imagine anyone who has cooked or baked and not made mistakes -- and mistakes, as you said, are all part of the learning process. But it took me a long time to learn that I could learn from mistakes. Instead, when something went wrong, and it did so often, especially because I taught myself to bake and knew zip, zero, nothing when I started, I'd be frustrated, I'd blame myself and I'd be very, very discouraged. Ridiculous, I know -- but true. (Writing this, I realize that when I was frustrated, I was just being me -- it was exactly the same with me and high-school algebra!) The most spectacular mistake I made was burning down my parents kitchen when I was 13. The second most spectacular mistake was trying to make pumpernickel bread and producing a regulation-size hockey puck instead! And the time I tried to get a bunch of dishes ready at the same time and ended up with a tough steak that has since been referred to as "London bake' ... And then there was the knish dough. I had seen my mother-in-law make knishes and I wanted to make a batch myself. She gave me the recipe and told me that, if the dough was stiff, I should add more oil; if it was loose, I should add more flour. At 2 am that morning, I was still in the kitchen, adding more oil, then adding more flour, and watching the dough reach proportions rivaling Mt. Everest. I never made knishes -- that night or ever. Nor did I learn the lesson that night that I should have: there comes a moment when it's best to give up and start from scratch again. I'm a born tinkerer and I never want to toss things out, but sometimes it's all that can be done. I can remember my husband, Michael, coming into the kitchen one night, seeing me trying to ressurect a batter that had clearly gone very wrong, and saying to me, "Ditch it! Just chalk it up to the cost of learning." I guess if I had been a poker player I would have known this -- it must be the same as the learn-when-to-fold-them rule. Of course, there are also the joys. In Baking, there's a recipe for Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake, and in the headnote I relate how everything might have gone wrong with the recipe -- but didn't. I had found a recipe in a booklet that came with a French magazine and I wanted to try it, but as I was reading it through, it looked like it was doomed. There was no flour, no eggs and what looked like way too much polenta to me, so I started re-working it and ended up with a success. More often than not, restructuring on such a grand scale leads to disaster or, at best, an incremental improvement. I got lucky that day.
  7. Some time after my first cookbook was published, a reporter found my mom in Florida and called her. She asked, "How did Dorie learn to bake?" and my mom said, "Darned if I know -- she certainly didn't get it from me!" It's true. My dear, wonderful, adorable mother rarely (read, almost never) cooked and certainly never baked a thing in her life. Her idea of a dressy dessert was to shove a can of fruit cocktail into the freezer and, at the appointed moment, pull it out, open both ends of the can, push out the frozen concoction, cut it and serve it -- maybe with a few maraschino cherries as decoration, if the occasion was really special. And my father didn't cook either. That said, both of my parents knew and loved good food -- they just didn't want to be responsible for making it. (My mother's mother was a wonderful cook and a terrific baker. I was lucky enough to taste a lot of her food when I was very young, but I never had the chance to work with her in the kitchen.) For sure, I didn't follow in my parents' footsteps, but I didn't rebel against them either. I started to cook and bake because I had to -- I got married when I was a 19-year-old college student, my husband had his first job and we couldn't afford to go out to eat or buy anything that was prepared. I was really lucky -- it turned out I loved to be in the kitchen. My mother was really surprised -- and still is.
  8. When I'm working on a new cookbook, I'm likely to be making new things most of the time, but when I'm just baking for the pleasure of baking, I often make old favorites or recipes that I just like to make, like to eat or like to give away. When it's time for old favorites, it's usually time for cookies or Bundt cakes. Ever since I got the recipe for World Peace Cookies, I've made them just about weekly. I usually make a double batch, bake some, then pack a couple of logs of dough in the freezer, so I can bake them when we want them. I often make My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies and the cookies my husband really likes, Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters. I'll also make Bundt cakes, like the Double Apple Bundt Cake or the Nutty, Chocolaty, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake, eat some and freeze the rest in two-person-size pieces. I don't know how others feel about baking -- I'd love to know -- but I find the process of baking as pleasurable as the results. When I've had a frustrating day, I'll bake "to work it through". When I'm nervous, I'll bake to relax. I find everything about baking -- from the prep and the mixing, to the baking (when the house smells so good) and the sharing -- satisfying and pleasurable, so, even when I don't need to develop recipes, and even when we don't need another dessert in the house, I bake.
  9. I think I can best describe the difference between home baking in America and France by telling you a story. When I was working on Paris Sweets, I was so excited to get a cake recipe from Laduree that I went back to our Paris apartment and made it right away for a dinner party I was having that night. The dessert was a chocolate cake layered with a fresh raspberry and chocolate ganache and finished with a pure chocolate ganache. I brought the cake out and all my very polite French guests oohed and aaahed and when I finally mentioned that I'd made the cake myself, I was surprised by their reaction. Instead of a round of applause, I got a bunch of questioning looks. Finally, someone said, "You made the cake?" And when I nodded, she asked, "Why??" No French people I know would make a cake like that. Like your Austrian family members, they'd buy it. There are wonderful pastry shops everywhere in Paris and French home cooks usually go to the patisseries to buy dessert. There are French desserts that are made at home, but they are very simple -- creme caramel, chocolate mousse (often made from the recipe on the back of the Nestle's dessert chocolate bar), floating islands, clafoutis, far Breton, yogurt cake and fruit tarts made using all-butter crusts bought, already rolled out and cut to size, in the supermarket. (I have recipes for many of these French homemade desserts in my new book.) I don't know if things have changed over the years -- it's only 10 years that I've been living in France and eating often in French people's homes -- but judging by the kinds of desserts that I see made at home, my guess would be that not much has changed. In answer to your question about any of my books being published in French -- the two Pierre Herme books have been translated into French.
  10. Ruth, I was really glad to meet you and your mom in Philadelphia. I thought the tea at The Four Seasons Hotel was wonderful -- what a civilized way to begin my book tour. And, yes, I did make it to Chicago in one piece, although I didn't stop sniffling for another day or so. Aaarrrgh. You're right, there is a big difference between the work I do when I'm collaborating with chefs and the work that is "my own". When I wrote my first three books, Sweet Times, Waffles from Morning to Midnight and Pancakes From Morning to Midnight (all out of print), I started pretty much from scratch. I had perhaps 30 of the 100 recipes that were in Sweet Times in my kitchen notebook, and I had scribbles in that notebook about recipes I wanted to create, flavor combinations that I thought would be interesting and desserts I'd eaten and liked. I also had a few sketches of cakes and pastries I thought were beautiful. But I had nothing for either Waffles or Pancakes; for these books, I was developing only new recipes. When it came to the recipes for Baking From My Home to Yours, I was able to go back to those kitchen notebooks, which were now much fuller, and pick out my favorite recipes, the recipes I'd been making for family and friends over the years. All of the recipes had to be retested, of course; many had to be tweaked; and some I more than tweaked because I discovered that my tastes had changed. I did create some new recipes. For the most part, the new recipes were for desserts that were inspired by chefs I'd recently worked with or sweets I'd recently had and loved. And as always, inspiration came (and comes) from ingredients. And from cravings -- mine, of course, but also those of my family and friends. I just had this thought -- perhaps I am inspired to create recipes in the same way that someone is inspired to make something that sounds good to them when they flip through a cookbook. In the cook or baker's situation, they are inspired by what they see or read; in my case, I am inspired by what I want, but I just go that extra step and create it.
  11. Elie, I haven't kept up with the thread or the writings about chefs copyrighting their recipes, but I always thought that wasn't doable. What I had been told by editors and others, was that "formulas", that is a recipe's ingredient list, couldn't be copyrighted, but that the instructions, that is the "words", in a recipe were copyrightable. It seems completely odd to me to think about copyrighting a recipe, since it would take so little for anyone who wanted to copy it to just make a minor change. I like to think about what many chefs, Pierre Herme and Jean-Georges Vongerichten included, said to me when I asked them if they were upset when they saw other chefs copying their recipes. Both of them said essentially the same thing: No, I'm not upset -- I know I'll always have a new idea. I agree with you that there really are not many totally new food creations. Perhaps you could say that what the chefs involved with molecular gastronomy are doing is new. It's hard to say what else is new. Much of what we enjoy is more variation than novelty. And for sure, there is nothing wrong with variation and really nothing wrong with improvement. I don't know how to answer your query about when a recipe is truly mine as opposed to that of other professionals. I have so many recipes that I've played with over the years that I feel are mine, but are they absolutely original? Probably not. But each of them has something -- a technique, a little trick, an unusual ingredient, an unusual blend of ingredients -- that sets them apart and makes them personal. I'd be very interested in hearing what others have to say on the quesiton of originality.
  12. I am thin -- and, for that, I think I can thank my mom. But I do try to watch what I eat. I eat everything -- and I always eat what I bake -- but I do try, as Julia Child always said, to eat everything in moderation. In my case, that means I have to give away most of what I bake, so that one temptation doesn't pile up on top of another. Here are the things that I think help when you've got, what you called, "a fattening habit": Eat the best of whatever you want -- which means, eat your homemade cookies, but don't eat Oreos. Eat slowly and savor every bite -- I'm the world's slowest eater -- it makes good food taste even better and, of course, it makes the pleasure of good food last longer. Eat what you want -- I find that if I want a taste of chocolate cake, but don't think I should have it and decide to substitute a rice cracker, let's say, for the cake, I'll eat a dozen rice crackers, because they just don't satisfy me. It's better to have a small taste of the thing you want, than a big hunk of the substitute. In the end, it will cost you less in calories and frustration. If anybody has a magic answer to your question I'd LOVE to know it. I keep waiting for The New York Times article that proclaims chocolate cake the newest diet food!
  13. Chihiran, I'm glad you're enjoying my books and happy that you really like Paris Sweets -- I have a special place in my heart for that book because working on it gave me the chance to meet all the pastry chefs' whose work I admired. As I mentioned someplace else, I fell in love with Paris the moment I got there in 1971. In fact, I often say that I think my mother made a mistake -- she had me in Brooklyn, NY, but I'm sure she really meant to have me in Paris. From that first visit, I knew I wanted to visit as often as I could, although I never really thought I'd be able to live there as I do now. While my husband and I made friends in Paris over the years, it really was when I began to work with Pierre Herme in 1996 that I began to meet people within the food community and to start to develop my own circle of friends. In part, I was able to develop friends then because I was traveling to Paris more frequently. When, in 1997, we got our apartment in Paris, my friendships grew and deepened. With an apartment, I was able to visit more often, stay longer and, most important, cook and invite people home for dinner -- there's nothing like sitting around a table sharing food to create friendships, something we all know. As for learning French -- I really believe that speaking French changed my life. I had taken French classes in high school and college, but couldn't speak a word, in large part because I was too afraid to speak. Sometime after that first trip to Paris, I started taking French classes because I really wanted to speak -- I knew that speaking would make visiting France so much more interesting. When I found out that I was pregnant, I asked a French friend of ours, a woman we had met on our 1971 trip and with whom we are still very, very close, if she might be able to help us find a French-speaking au pair, so that our child could be brought up bilingually. She suggested her youngest sister, whom we had met years before. Ten months after our son, Joshua, was born, Marie-Cecile arrived. When Marie-Cecile came to us, she spoke no English. And, while she learned English quickly, she never spoke English to our son -- who is, thanks to her, bilingual -- and tried not to speak it to me. It was really during the five years that Marie-Cecile lived with us that I learned French. Speaking French changed my professional life because it allowed me to work with many extraordinary chefs who did not speak English. When I was working on pieces for Elle magazine, I worked with chefs, like Alain Ducasse and Paul Bocuse, who didn't speak English. Of course, when Pierre Herme and I started working together, we worked exclusively in French. And the majority of pastry chefs I interviewed for Paris Sweets were interviewed in French. While I dreamed of having "a French life", I could never have had it if I didn't speak French.
  14. Jean, I was completely surprised and so delighted to see you yesterday in Chicago. It was terrific to meet you and your friends and it meant a lot to me that you were there. Thank you. Your question about how the dining scene has changed in Paris over the past 30 years is a huge one and one that I may not be so qualified to answer, since for many of those early years that we were going to Paris, we could only afford to set our dining sights on simple neighborhood bistros, which, actually, remain my favorite kinds of dining places. If I look back to the foods of restaurants in Paris in the 70s and compare them to the foods of today, I'd say that the changes are very much like those we've seen in America: the food is lighter, less bound to tradition and more globally influenced. In addition, the restaurants are more casual and the style of eating is less formal. While home cooking seems to continue to stick close to the classics, in restaurants, exquisite French technique remains the backbone of everything, as do the regional dishes of the country, but food is more playful. Classics get lightened and there's lots of improvisations, so today you might just as readily find a pot-au-feu made with Chinese vegetables and flavored with soy and star anise as you would find one with the traditional assortment of meats and root vegetables. Perhaps the greatest change is the way people eat in restaurants. While menus at the grand restaurants are still classic -- appetizer, fish course, meat or poultry course, cheese and dessert -- at bistros and more casual restaurants, it is acceptable to order a couple of appetizers rather than an app and a main course, to share dishes, to skip the apps and go directly to the main course, or -- and this is sad -- to skip dessert. And there are restaurants, like l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, where making a meal of small plates, dining in tapas mode, is encouraged. This may not seem like such a huge change because it's what we are so accustomed to doing in America, but it represents a tremendous change in France, where a meal with a minimum of three course was a standard. There's so much more -- the rise of gastrobistros -- bistros opened by chefs who had "fancy" Michelin starred restaurants; the new popularity of "foreign" cuisines -- sushi is huge, Italian restaurants are on the rise and Asian influences are everywhere; and the concern with how individual products are grown, raised and produced -- the 'bio' movement, which corresponds to our interest in 'organic' products. This is just one observer's quick overview. As I said, you've posed a question that could be the basis of a book.
  15. Ling, I'm delighted to talk to you and the other avid – and incredibly talented – eG bakers. Like everyone else, I've got many, many food memories that I treasure, some are cherished because of the moment, some because of the people who shared the food with me, some because of the effect they had on me and some because what I ate was just so delicious. One food memory that is special for all of these reasons involves a tiny tartelette aux fraises de bois – a wild strawberry tartlet. It was teensy, as tartlettes should be, but I shared it with Michael, my husband (read, I just about wrestled him to the ground for half of it). We had it on our first trip to Paris and it was classic – a sweet tart dough filled with vanilla pastry cream, topped with a few wild strawberries and drizzled with a bit of glaze – and it was soooooooo good. You could really taste the fresh, slightly tangy butter in the crust, the vanilla in the cream was pure and strong, and the fruit was deeply, deeply flavorful. It was perfect. And it was also a lesson: in the one little bite I had, I felt as if I immediately understood why French pastry was held in such high regard.
  16. Lori, you're asking big questions. The easiest one to answer is about my living arrangements. Yes, I divide my time -- very unevenly -- between New York City, Westbrook, CT and Paris, France. New York is where I was born and raised and it's always been home; Connecticut is a weekend place we lucked into 24 years ago -- it's also where I now spend summers and do lots of recipe development and testing (I've got a bigger kitchen there than I've got anywhere else); and Paris was a dream. Michael, my husband, and I went to Paris for the first time 35 years ago and, from the moment I got there, I felt like that was where I should have been born. Michael thinks that I arranged my career -- for as much as my career can be considered arranged -- so that I could be in Paris. For sure, being in Paris has helped my career in that it has been a source of infinite inspiration. It's a pretty swell place in general, and the swellest for anyone with a sweet tooth. As for goals -- I never really had a plan. I started baking when Michael and I got married (I was a college student then) and I loved it, but it didn't present itself as a career opportunity and really wasn't -- there were hardly any women in restaurant kitchens then. I went to graduate school, did the course work for a doctorate in gerontology and thought I'd have a career in a university, but baking kept pulling me. I was very lucky -- I met people who encouraged me to bake and I seemed to fall into odd jobs. A friend got me my first baking job and then my first food writing job. I was incredibly lucky to meet -- really by chance -- the food editor of Elle magazine and then to have the opportunity to work with so many famous French chefs who were contributing to the magazine. That was probably the experience that convinced me that I wanted to be in food forever and that French pastry and food was going to be my specialty. When opportunities arose -- I grabbed them. I said "yes" to everything. After deciding not to finish my doctoral dissertation, there really were no forks in the road. The only great opportunity I almost missed was writing Baking with Julia. When I was first asked to do the project, I was working at the Food Network and I turned it down. Luckily for me, the Baking with Julia project was slower to get started than anticipated and I was able to do it. It was a turning point for me and I can't imagine what life would have been like had I missed the chance to work with Julia. A quick story about my family. I've got a husband who eats almost everything and who always says he is happy to be the spouse of a "food person". Our son, is a different matter. While he was always happy to have cookies and stuff to bring to school, he didn't eat very much of anything when he was little -- not even my cookies. Imagine a kid without a sweet tooth! I used to think it was some sign of not-so-passive hostility and then I had a conversation with Nancy Silverton, one of America's best bread bakers. She told me that, for her kids, the greatest treat was going to the supermarket and buying squishy packaged bread! Of course, I felt better immediately. Now, my son not only eats just about everything -- he's in the food biz too.
  17. Inspirations for new recipes come from all over and often at the oddest times. Sometimes, I'll be working on a writing piece and be struck by an idea for a dessert or the urge to bake something and -- on very lucky days -- I'll end up with something great. On normal days, I'll end up with something that will need another testing or two -- or three, or ... When I'm working on a new recipe, I start on paper. I'll have an idea and I'll write out a test recipe -- essentially just the measurements and a very shorthand list of instructions. Then, when I'm in the kitchen, I'll often make changes as I go along. I'll taste a batter and think it needs something else. I'll look at the texture and decide to add another egg or more flour. I'll also take notes on the texture of the batter as it's being mixed, anything unusual about it, the quantity etc. I've never thrown out a batter before putting it in the oven, but I've tossed plenty of things once they've come out. Once I have what I think is a good recipe, I'll write it as a "real" recipe and make it again. I've also got testers who work from my written recipes. By giving testers written recipes they get to test both the formula and the clarity of the instructions. As for what I do with everything that I bake -- you're right -- I have very happy neighbors. I taste everything, of course. And I eat a lot of what I bake. I also keep pieces of whatever I bake so that I can test how they keep and/or freeze. But I give away a lot of stuff -- one of the nice things about being a daily baker.
  18. First, many thanks to you, Elie, and to your colleagues for doing this Spotlight Conversation with me. I'm so looking forward to talking to my fellow food lovers on egullet. To answer your question -- probably with way more information than you wanted: Before I wrote my first book, I was thinking of collaborating with a chef and my agent said, “Collaborations are hell!” She dissuaded me from doing the project and it was only years later that I did my first collaboration – it was in 1995 and it was with Julia Child – and realized how wrong she was. At least, she was wrong for me and wrong for me with the people I ended up collaborating with. (Not such a grammatically correct sentence – but you get the idea.) For me, the greatest challenge in a collaboration is the responsibility you have as a writer to do justice to the chefs’ work. This was the supreme challenge with both Julia and Pierre Herme, but, in each case, the reason it was so challenging was different. I just about lived with Julia in Cambridge during the 8 weeks we shot the Baking with Julia tv series. I was there as each chef prepared his or her dish with Julia and I collected extra recipes from the chefs so I could fill out the book. I had always expected that when the shooting was over and I’d go back to NY to write the book, that I’d be in daily consultation with Julia and that we’d figure everything out together – from the structure of the book to how the recipes would be presented, to the best information to give in the headnotes. But no! On our last night in Cambridge, when I started to lay out how I thought we could work together over the coming months, she stopped me and said, “Go home and write the book. It’s your book. I’ll read it when it’s published.” And, she was true to her word. Julia and I spoke on the phone almost daily, but she wouldn’t work with me on the book and she didn’t read it until she had a bound galley. It was an extraordinary vote of confidence, but it was also a huge burden for me. I was responsible for presenting the recipes of 26 of the country’s best bakers and pastry chefs as well as Julia – and I knew that the world would see the book as Julia’s, making the pressure even greater. For these reasons, I think that Baking with Julia was the most difficult project I’ve ever done. Working with Pierre Herme brought different challenges – but again, the challenges revolved around trust and responsibility. When Pierre and I started working together in 1996, Pierre’s English wasn’t very good and, while he could manage a conversation in English if he had to, it would have been very difficult for him to sit down and read an entire book in English under a publishing deadline, so, once again, I was pretty much on my own to write the book. Pierre and I worked in a very unusual way. Because he was so wildly busy – when we started working together, he was the executive pastry chef at Fauchon – we laid out the book’s contents during his vacation. He and his former wife and my husband and I tucked into a beach house in Arcachon and spent a week, from sun-up to sundown, reviewing hundreds of recipes that Pierre had brought from Paris in milk crates. (Of course, we stopped for fabulous meals three times a day.) During that week, we chose the recipes we wanted from what he had and came up with ideas for new recipes that he would create for the book. At the end of this working vacation, I returned to New York with a sheaf of recipes and my work cut out for me – I was to turn these French recipes into recipes Americans could bake at home. I worked on the recipes in my New York kitchen, called Pierre in Paris every time I had a problem or an urgent question, and froze bits of things so that he could taste them when he came to New York or I went to Paris. Then, every few months, Pierre would come to New York and we’d work together in my narrow NY kitchen (the one in the eG Spotlight picture), so that Pierre could demonstrate specific techniques for me or work out kinks in specific recipes. Those were the best, best cooking lessons I’ve ever had! When all the recipes were written and I had all the headnotes, I spent days with Pierre explaining to him what I’d said about each recipe and asking him for a “quote” for each recipe. With each collaboration, I learned an incredible amount about how to work, about myself and what I was capable of, and about friendship and colleagueship. And I learned a ton about baking – especially from Pierre.
  19. Just to let you know that I'll be posting for the next week on the eG Spotlight Conversation. I'm very excited about the opportunity to do this and hope we'll get a chance to talk there.
  20. "Crumbs and happy memories" -- wouldn't that me a nice title for a book or a sweet short story or vignette. Thank you Pat W. About the vanilla bean -- I've had thready, stringy pieces of vanilla bean that have been hard to break up. Does that sound similar to what you're describing as bound in "goo", sugarsugar? It might come from the podish part of the bean -- maybe we're scraping overzealously -- but I've always left it in on the theory that seeing a bit of vanilla is not a bad thing. Were your pieces just too big to be left in? Sondra, I'm glad you were a success with the Good-for-Everything-Pie Dough. I tinkered and tinkered with that recipe trying to get it to behave and was finally convinced that it was doable even for people who were not old pie hands. Thank you for trying it. More later --I'm in Chicago and have to rush out.
  21. Once again, Patrick, your pictures are fabulous! Caramel on the turnovers is a terrific idea -- I bet it was really good with the tangy sour-cream dough -- and it's a beautiful looking idea, too.
  22. Becca -- you just made an important discovery about GOOD white chocolate. So much of what we see sold as white chocolate is really confectionery chocolate -- something that contains no cocoa solids at all. But white chocolates like those from El Rey, Valrhona, Guittard and others, are "real" chocolate -- they don't have the high cocoa percentages of dark chocolates (and they shouldn't), but they are made with cacao and you can taste it. Really glad you liked the quintuples.
  23. Choux, you've got me stumped. There are way too many other goodies in the cookies for the butter to be the dominant flavor. It sounds like whoever you quoted who said you might not have measured the butter correctly could be right. If you measure your butter and your flour correctly, you should end up with cookies that are thinnish around the edges, thicker in the center and generally delicious. I wouldn't add more flour -- I'd check that everything is properly measured. Let us know how the next batch turns out.
  24. Lori's right -- a biscuit cutter gives you nice clean cuts, but a can or glass will do the trick, too. Unlike Lori's grandmother, mine never made biscuits, but she was an ace cookie-maker and her cookie-cutter was a glass. In fact, the glass she used to cut cookies was also the glass she used to measure everything. When I got my aunt's kitchen notebook, it included some recipes from my grandmother and they were all measured by the glass.
  25. It's only been a few days since I posted and you've all done so much I don't know where to begin. First off has to be a big BRAVO to juliachildish -- what a spread! And, I repeat the question: How did you do this in a dorm kitchen??? When I was first married -- which is the first time I baked -- our kitchen was a converted linen closet. It was awfully tight, but I was so excited about learning to bake that I just went ahead and baked, but I don't think I ever did more than two things in a day! You must be the world's most organized person. Becca, I'm not sure why your glaze thickened up so -- I would have said cold corn syrup, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Patrick's solution sounds like the right one -- gently melting the chocolate should have thinned it again. I think it was probably the opposite situation with the topping on Sugar Plum's cinnamon squares. If the chocolate seemed more like a glaze, perhaps you should have waited a bit for it thicken. From the picture, it looked pretty good to me. To members of the newly formed OGCWBFC -- the flat-cookie bakers. I'm a little confused because I wouldn't call the chocolate chip cookies puffy. In fact, mine are usually pretty flat and I think they look flatish in the book. My chocolate chip cookies are usually flat around the edges and have a little more thickness in the center. Unless you're getting wafers, I think you're ok and should just join your kids and have another cookie. About butter -- butter shouldn't be so soft that it's like mayonnaise when you start to beat it. Kathy, don't kill me -- there's nothing I like more than knowing that I've created a sweet-loving monster like your husband. Patrick -- I wish had that Far Breton now. I made a batch of World Peace Cookies to bring to a friend's for dinner tonight, but now I'm wanting that Far. Welcome Palladion. I've got to go pack those cookies up and start out for dinner -- I'll be back.
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