James Beard Award Winner Dorie Greenspan Dishes on Her Winning Cookbook, Her Favorite Restaurants + More

Dorie Greenspan is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and New York Times “On Dessserts” columnist who has earned legions of fans with her friendly and encouraging voice, eye for detail and meticulous recipe instructions that make even the most complicated recipes seem accessible. She’s a master baker and her latest book, Dorie’s Cookies, just won a James Beard Award.

dorie greenspan

You’ve written other books that include cookies. Why a book devoted to cookies?

Because I love them! I grew up loving them and my whole family loves them. I always knew I would do a cookie book. It was just a question of when. I had written lots of cookie recipes, but I didn’t want this to be a best-of collection. So it was my chance to stretch myself and stretch the meaning of cookies.

Simple cookies or fancy cookies, which do you prefer?

My own personal style is for simper cookies. I like cookies that rely on taste, texture, and aroma more than looks. I think cookies are beautiful in their basic form. But I do have cookies you can dip in chocolate or decorate — though it’s not my style.

I like to think of cookies as being an everyday pleasure. There are moments to fuss over cookies but the majority are meant to be shared and enjoyed and not fussed over. Fuss over the ingredients and making them properly – but not decorating them.

Why do we love cookies as much as we do?

We love them for a million reasons. My son Joshua says, “Cookies are memories.” My mother never baked, but my memory of them is still strong. Their variety — we can have anything we love in sweets, in cookies. I’ve watched people eat cookies. Since they bake in batches, they are shareable. When you’re given a cookie, it feels like a gift.

It’s been a tough year for everyone, and I realized how happy I was making cookies and sharing them. So I’m encouraging people to make and share cookies and use #cookiesandkindness and tag me @doriegreenspan so I can see them. I think it’s a lovely way to make the world a sweeter place.

Do Americans have a particular affinity for cookies?

Americans do love cookies the most. Scandinavians have a strong tradition, but cookies feel very American. In France, the word cookie exists — but the translation is chocolate chip cookie. This can lead to some confusion. When I told a French friend I was writing a book on cookies with hundreds of recipes, he didn’t understand. In Paris, there aren’t all that many cookies— and they are plain.

What are the secrets to baking better cookies?

Making sure you’re oven is preheated because they cook a short time, using room temperature ingredients, lining sheets with Silpat or parchment, using a scoop to be consistent in size and cooking time and letting them cool. Some cookies depend on cooling for their texture or flavor to develop. Baking them properly is important too. Insulated sheets don’t burn but they also don’t allow cookies to brown. Be sure to cook them long enough. Pale cookies are not delicious. Check the cookie before the time is up—everybody’s oven is different, get to know your oven, put an oven thermometer in the oven.

Where have you been eating on your book tour?

This morning I got up early and went to Tartine Manufactory and bought everything that they had, I didn’t get to taste everything, but wow! I haven’t had much time, but I still love Zuni. I want to go to Quince. I am going to Piperade, and my husband has a soft spot for Boulevard. I was hoping we would get to Alta CA, but there just isn’t time.

Where do you eat in New York?

I love Estela, I never get tired of it, I had a fabulous meal at Contra—smart and delicious. If I like a place I go back again and again. I love the lamb burger at The Breslin.

Have you discovered any restaurants with particularly good cookie plates?

Like everyone, I have a favorite restaurant, TBar and it’s always great. They have a cookie plate that is so good with several different kinds—a great oatmeal cookie, a sugar cookie, just the right amount of crackle—and that’s what we always have for dessert. They are really simple nothing fussy about them but — so good.

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Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer, editor, blogger, and cookbook author. She is the publisher of the food blog Cooking with Amy. She currently contributes to numerous online publications including Food Network, Fodor’s and Refinery 29 and never says no to a warm donut. Follow her @cookingwithamy.

Photo credit: David Luciano.