Feb 17, 2009

Being Dorie Greenspan

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It used to be that I couldn’t understand why so many people find baking a daunting task. I mean, I knew that the need for precision and attention to detail in order to get a great result does make baking projects a little more complicated than cooking, and perhaps it is my Type A-ness that makes the lack of willy-nilly in baking so appealing to me. But really, people, I would think, at the end of the day, if you can read and have an adequate short-term memory you can bake. Well, I have discovered that the latter is very important, because there have been many days in recent months where I have found myself standing in the kitchen, shuffling through the cupboards, saying out loud to no one in particular, “Now where on earth have I put my short-term memory?!”. I am hoping it has to do with the fact that my last full night of sleep was August 25, 2008. To those who do not have children and think I’m exaggerating–I am not making this up.

Anyway, I have botched many a recipe since Baby C came along by adding whole eggs instead of just yolks (my punishment for forgoing mise) or setting the oven to ‘broil’ instead of ‘bake’ (because everyone loves a crunchy brown crust with a raw shortbread center!) orrrrr using the wrong measuring spoon (my sleek stainless steel spoons with their nearly invisible engraved measurements were so handsome until exhaustion started making my vision go wonky on occasion). My point is that I feel you now, baking phobics. And I would like to embrace you all with my trembling arms, caked with tears and flour, and say that there is hope. And her name is Dorie Greenspan and she offers you her protection in the form of her absolutely lovely Baking: From My Home to Yours.


Now, everyone in the food world loves Dorie Greenspan, and I’ve written about some of her recipes on this blog before and have a few in the pipeline here at Piece of Cake. Her book has been out forever at this point, but I’ve always loved it so much that it’s high time I raved about it on this site and urged you to pick it up if you don’t have a dog-eared, butter-shmeared copy of it already. I’ve always loved her conversational writing style, her can-do attitude and approach to baking.
Dorie reminds me of the whip-smart, artsy woman who worked in my high school’s library who always had a twinkle in her eye and managed to be warm and delighted to help even the most clueless teenager, making you feel like you were part of a special club just for asking for her help and earning extra points when you asked for a title she found particularly interesting.

Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours evokes the same feeling–even the most fantastical of her confections is doable and you feel empowered by her recipes. Of course, you have to measure your ingredients properly and know how to set your oven, there’s no getting around that (too bad for me), but once that’s done, you sail through her recipes with her voice in your ear, and the whole process a real pleasure. Plus, she is completely adorable, with the kind of Peter Pan haircut that I’ve always wished I could pull off but know I never could because I’ve always felt my head is a wee bit too small for my body. In fact, just the other day I saw a woman at a bus stop sporting a Dorie Greenspan with her black turtleneck and chunky colored glass necklace and coveted the whole look. But that’s not the point.

Follow Dorie’s recipes to the letter and you, too, will think you’re a baking phenom. Try some of her “Playing Around” tips in the sidebar and feel liberated. Come up with one of your own variations, and well, you can practically feel the glow of Dorie cheering on your genius and giving you that afterforementioned “special club” feeling. Except it’s not for checking out A Separate Peace, it’s for scoring PEANUT BUTTER WHOPPERS to add to Dorie’s Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops. But that’s another post. There are a lot of great baking books out there, but start your collection around this cookbook, and you’ll always have a go-to source for fool-proof recipes. Even if you suddenly find yourself highly distractible and have a hard time protecting yourself from yourself when it comes to baking. Promise.

2 Comments

  • Hi Shauna, I got here via the smittenkitchen. I don't know if you'll see a comment on an old entry. But I hear you on the sleep deprivation giving the world a slight blur. And I will assure you that you will sleep again, some day. I think if the measuring spoons were mine that I might mark on them with a Sharpie to make the numbers readable. Crude but effective. It sounds like you are baking everything in the whole world, good on you!

  • Nimble – Ha! My vision is much better these days–the babe is now (mostly) sleeping through the night, finally. Good idea about the Sharpie!

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