In the age of Cronuts and cotton-candy cake shakes, it's a relief to know there's still someone out there championing the thoroughbreds of the dessert world. For decades, home cooks and professionals alike have turned to one pint-sized authority, Dorie Greenspan, for wisdom related to cookies, cakes, crumbles, tarts, and more, all of which are hard-wired into the sweets-inspired narrative of her life. An anecdote about a candied walnuts research trip in Paris, for example, quickly turns into a memory about tasting the world’s most perfect canelé, which in turn morphs into the origin story of her famed chocolate sable, “World Peace Cookies.” This is just how talking to Dorie goes—the Brooklyn native has a mind for detail and a reputation over the past 40 years as a living, breathing Encyclopedia Britannica for all things baking.
Through her rich career as a food writer, cookbook author, and occasional cookie peddler, Greenspan has evolved into a sort of spiritual advisor to those looking for guidance in the baked-goods department. She's earned that through unimpeachable recipes, of course, but that's only part of the equation. In a climate where Food Network stars continue to breed a cult of personality, and of-the-moment chefs draw hordes of fans waiting to send off a 'gram, Greenspan's loveable, home-grown sensibility commands respect for embodying the exact combination of qualities you'd want from a teacher.
Greenspan's skills, however, were not honed in the austere halls of culinary school, which perhaps explains her charm—or in some cases, even sheepishness, when she meets idols like Julia Child. For someone who today is considered nothing short of a baking guru, Greenspan is entirely self-taught, poring through cookbooks and apprenticing under some of the world’s finest pastry chefs. During her early twenties, while working toward a graduate degree in gerontology (yes, that would be the study of aging), the Brooklyn native started making cakes and cookies for a restaurant (which she was quickly fired from—“the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says), and eventually turned her attention to baking full-time. In this sense, Greenspan is one of the last vestiges of an era of cookbook writers who actually put hard time in in the kitchen as opposed to brainstorming endless 30-second kitchen hacks with SEO potential.
Greenspan’s 12 cookbooks have earned their dog-ears for many a home cook, and the same audience will soon have another one to wear in come October when she releases “Dorie’s Cookies." For dedicated fans, this is big news—cookies have become something of a calling card for Greenspan, whose now-defunct cookie pop-up with her son, Beurre and Sel, caused a minor sensation when it launched in 2012. Her new book includes recipes for fan favorites like the Jammers (more on them below), entire chapters on new inventions like cocktail cookies (cookies meant to be eaten with wine or cocktails), and all of the recipes from Beurre and Sel.
Here we tripped down memory lane with Greenspan from her home in Connecticut, covering her ten most formative dishes in near-perfect chronological order, starting with her teenage years through her first kitchen jobs, to Paris and Laos and beyond, with cameos from some of the most important food figures of the past half-century. Through it all, Greenspan displayed the sense of humor, humility, and wonderment at the world that has made her such a treasured and trusted figure in the food world today.