Dorie’s Cookies – Crash-O Cookies

Oatmeal raisin milk chocolate Crash-O cookies

This month’s Cookies and Kindness selection from Dorie Greenspan is the very last one of the series, though Dorie hopes that everyone who bakes her recipes will continue making sharing and goodwill part of the mix.

This is a cookie that will be welcomed by just about anyone – even those of us who are usually fussy about raisins (like me) and those who really only care for milk chocolate, like my niece and reportedly, the entire Republic of Ireland.

Which is fitting, in a week when kindness is the very least of what should be expected of us. My suggestion is to take some cookies to one of the anti-racist marches and rallies that are being held all over this weekend, or eat some with your kids while you answer their questions about nuclear proliferation, or bring them to your grandparents (or great-grandparents) who remember the fight against 20th Century fascism.

There is power in sharing food, just as there is power in standing up together, talking about what’s important, and learning how to make a world that truly does move toward justice and love.

August’s Dorie’s Cookies goodness can be found here and here at Tuesdays with Dorie.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – Dorie’s Cookies

Chocolate Wafers with Almond-Cardamom Meringue

I received a review copy of Dorie’s Cookies from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

If you were lucky, when you were young there was a parent or family member, a caregiver or teacher, who instilled in you a love of tasting and experimenting in the kitchen. If you were especially lucky, you had people in your life that didn’t just like to cook, but baked, too. The measuring and stirring done by young hands can become a rhythm in later life, a refuge in hard times and an expression of joy in good ones.

This sort of passing on of knowledge fell out of fashion for a generation or two in large swaths of North America, so you might find you’re one of the many who must teach themselves the skills they need in the kitchen, or at least find some good teachers.

The good news is that you’re not alone. Dorie Greenspan taught herself to bake when she was a young woman and she found many good teachers along the way. I suspect that’s why she’s become such a good teacher herself. When you read the instructions in her recipes, it’s as though she’s standing beside you, pointing out the change in the feel of a dough that indicates it’s ready, or showing you a trick to help you make the perfect roll of cookie dough. This steadiness in her instructions makes it possible to accomplish complicated feats in the kitchen, but it also helps to make staple recipes part of the rhythm of your own kitchen style.

I was first introduced to Dorie’s cookbooks when I joined French Fridays with Dorie, which cooked and baked through her book, Around My French Table. I can make staples like her tart dough without reference to a recipe, and I apply many of her techniques to the recipes I encounter elsewhere. Just today I was making citrus scones and, unbidden by the recipe, took the time to rub the orange zest into the sugar before proceeding. I’ve done so since Dorie introduced me to the trick – it helps to distribute citrus oil evenly and deliciously through the baked good. Even though I was lucky enough to have fantastic bakers and cooks who guided me in my childhood, I’ve been very glad to find a talented teacher like Dorie through her books. My cooking and baking are all the better and more pleasurable for it.

None of this might seem relevant to cookies, which are often seen as the simplest of baked goods. But, simple recipes benefit from good technique and helpful tricks, while more complicated cookies like macarons need a sure guide to keep the novice from disaster.

And her instructions might not be the first thing on your mind when you page through Dorie’s Cookies. There are more than 160 recipes in the book – many more if you include the variations. There are cookie jar cookies and holiday tray cookies, high tea cookies and savoury cocktail cookies, bake sale snack bars and indulgent squares. Some of her recipes are the very best version she’s found of a classic, others are beautifully realized experiments in flavour or form. There are classically American cookies and unabashedly French ones, just as you’d expect from a baker who splits her time between the two countries, but other recipes reflect the global flavours that run through the contemporary cultures of both places.

Her cookie recipes are complemented by the recipes in her “go-alongs and basics” chapter. Along with fillings, toppings, and accompaniments, this chapter includes the two recipes that I think I’ll be baking from memory before long – Dorie’s Do-Almost-Anything Vanilla and Chocolate cookie doughs. Each of the doughs has four associated recipes in the book, but Dorie encourages bakers to take them in any direction they’d like. One baker I’ve seen on Instagram has even combined them for a lovely two-toned effect, using cookie cutter cut outs.

You can see my first try with her chocolate version at the top of this post. I made a half-batch of the recipe and topped the rounds with the almond meringue from her Chocolate-Cranberry and Almond Cookies. I was out of cranberries, so I added a little cardamom to the meringue. The dough is easy to work with and bakes into a perfect wafer.

Chocolate Crème Sandwiches

Almost as perfect a wafer as the one I baked for her Chocolate Crème Sandwiches, now dubbed the “Dorieo” on social media. I like them better than the commercial cookie and this dough is another that is easy to put together and work with. I made a slightly more adult version of the filling, using Irish Cream in place of the vanilla and do not regret it at all.

Swedish Visiting Cake Bars

Nor do I regret revisiting Dorie’s almond meringue topping when I made her Swedish Visiting Cake Bars. This meringue is usually seen on fruit tarts, but I love the way Dorie has adapted it to cookies. The chewy almond cake base is thin, to maximize the cake-meringue ratio. The contrast in texture and the double-almond flavour made this a hit. They didn’t last long.

The book is full of clever flavour mash ups like this one or the Honey-Blue Cheese Madeleines in the savoury “cocktail cookies” chapter. There are also techniques that you’ll be surprised you lived without. My favourite in this book is her substitution of muffin tins for baking rings. Many of the cookies from Dorie’s famed beurre & sel cookie collection can be baked using this method. It gives the cookies a very slightly slanted edge (at least in my muffin tins), a surprisingly sophisticated finish from such a humble kitchen tool.

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies

It worked beautifully for me when I made Dorie’s Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies. They looked like tiny, perfect bakery bites. This dough doesn’t even have to be rolled out. It’s formed into balls, as a typical ginger snap would be, rolled in sugar, then pressed into muffin cups with the bottom of a glass. It’s an extra step that doesn’t take much time, but creates a lovely effect.

I’ve received permission to share this recipe with you, so you can try this technique for yourself. You’ll be rewarded with a cookie that is much richer than a ginger snap. The addition of crystallized ginger, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and instant espresso intensify its spiciness, without creating competing flavours. They’ll be showing up again in my home before the holiday season is through.

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies

Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies
Image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

I have my friend Christine Beck, who is, like me, a Paris part-timer, to thank for this recipe. The cookies belong to the chewy-molasses-cookie family, but they have so much flavor and so many surprises that they transcend the familiar. For starters, there’s both crystallized ginger and powdered ginger, lots of chopped dark chocolate and an optional bit of instant espresso too, which I tacked onto the recipe because I’m an incorrigible tinkerer. I also tinkered with the way these are baked. Classic molasses cookies are scooped, molded into balls, rolled in sugar and then pressed with a fork before baking, and you can make these cookies that way. Or you can do what I do: Mold them in muffin tins, which turn out more uniformly shaped cookies that teeter on the brink of becoming gingerbread cakes.
A word on crystallized ginger: Crystallized, or candied, ginger is sliced fresh ginger that is cooked in syrup, dredged in sugar and dried. You can usually find it in the supermarket alongside other dried fruits or in the spice section. If the ginger isn’t moist and pliable, steam it before using: Put it in a strainer over a saucepan of simmering water, cover and let warm and soften for about 5 minutes; pat dry, chop and use. If you can’t find crystallized ginger, you can omit it or mix 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger with 2 teaspoons sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes, until the ginger is syrupy.

Makes about 36 cookies

  • 2¼ cups (306 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons instant espresso, to taste (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces; 170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
  • 1⁄3 cup (67 grams) sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup (67 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (120 ml) unsulfured molasses
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1⁄3 cup (55 grams) chopped crystallized ginger or 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger mixed with 2 teaspoons sugar (see headnote)
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped chip-size
  • Sugar, for rolling

Whisk the flour, cocoa, espresso (if using), spices, baking soda and salt together. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until fully blended. Add the yolk and beat for 1 minute, then add the molasses and vanilla, beating until smooth. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse the mixer until the risk of flying flour passes. Working on low speed, mix the dough until the flour is almost but not completely incorporated. Add the crystallized ginger (or the sugared fresh ginger) and chocolate and mix until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough and the ginger and chocolate are evenly distributed. If you’ve got bits of dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl, mix them in with a flexible spatula.

Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Getting ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray regular muffin tins or, if making free-form cookies, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Have a medium cookie scoop at hand. Alternatively, you can use a rounded tablespoonful of dough for each cookie. If you’re using tins, find a jar or glass that fits into them and can be used to flatten the dough; cover the bottom in plastic wrap. Spoon some sugar into a wide shallow bowl.

For each cookie, mold a scoop or spoonful of dough into a ball between your palms, then turn it in the sugar to coat and put in a muffin cup or on a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each ball of dough. If using tins, use the jar or glass to flatten each ball until it almost reaches the sides of the cup. If it’s free- form, press to flatten to about 1⁄2 inch thick.

Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, rotating the tins or sheets top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be lightly set around the edges and softer in the center. Transfer the tins or sheets to racks and let the cookies rest for 15 minutes before unmolding them and/or placing them on racks to cool completely.

If you’re baking in batches, make certain to start with cool tins or baking sheets.

Playing Around Ginger-Chocolate Ganache: To make a ganache that you can use to finish the cookies, bring 2⁄3 cup heavy cream and four 1⁄4-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the cream to infuse for 20 minutes. Return the cream to the boil, then remove the ginger and pour half of the cream over 6 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. Wait for 30 seconds, stir gently and then stir in the remainder of the cream. Dip the top or one side of each cookie in the chocolate and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 20 minutes to set the chocolate. Bring the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Storing You can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days. You can also scoop out the dough, shape into balls and freeze the balls on baking sheets; when they’re firm, pack them airtight and keep frozen for up to 2 months. Remove the dough from the freezer and let the balls sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then roll in sugar and bake. The baked cookies can be kept in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days. They’ll get a little drier and a little less chewy, but that will make them even better for dunking.

The Dorie Greenspan cookbooks on my shelf are all a little worse for wear. It’s a badge of honour on my cookbook shelf. This one will be battered and stained before long, too. There are recipes for any occasion or mood and the technical advice in the “techniques” chapter and throughout the book is invaluable (and not just for cookie-baking). And there’s one more thing that I haven’t mentioned. Dorie is a wonderful writer, with a warm and engaging voice. I spent my first few days with this book simply reading her stories in the headnotes to the recipes. I’m looking forward to working through this book.

When you pick up your copy, I encourage you to bake along with Dorie’s Cookies & Kindness campaign and if you’re really keen, to join the bakers working through the entire book over at Tuesdays with Dorie

Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Dorie’s Cookies to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of Dorie’s Cookies*

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the cookie monster, the small bite seeker, the flavour adventurer, and the gracious gifter.

Come back next week for a review of a book that is as virtuous as it is indulgent.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 26 X 15 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.

Baking Chez Moi – Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake

  
Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! Here’s to continuing the march toward equality for all women, across the world and at home.

Baking may not seem like a good fit on a day that’s dedicated to women’s equality, but all the activist and community groups I’ve been part of have fuelled change with agile minds and satisfied stomachs. Even cookbooks have been wielded as tools for change by feminists – suffragists used them to spread their message, filling them with recipes and resistance.

So in this spirit, I think it’s fitting that I’m writing about a cake that begs to be shared. Any group of people who were lucky enough to find this orange cake on their meeting room table might find the fortitude to change the world.

I have a special fondness for orange cake – my grandmother used to make it and it was a favourite for everyone in the family. Unfortunately her recipe is lost to us, so I’ve tried any that I’ve encountered in an attempt to find one that measures up to my memory of hers.

That’s the problem, of course – what can measure up to a treasured memory? So, I just enjoy the orange cakes as they come along, noting down the ones that come close, along with those I appreciate just for themselves.

Odile’s Orange Cake falls into the second category. Though I think my grandmother would have appreciated the orange-y, buttery flavour very much, it’s a cake that’s different in kind than the one she used to make. Hers was moist, with a fine crumb, but also sturdier than this cake. That’s no surprise, since this one is soaked in the syrup used to poach the oranges that decorate it. It’s not just moist, it’s suffused with moisture in the best possible way.

  
There’s something else that’s different about this cake. I used goat butter to make it. It’s a delicious butter that has a different character than that made from cow’s milk. If you’re interested, Chowhound made a short video on the subject.

This recipe was well worth using my tiny stash of goat butter. And I think that if I bring it to my committee meeting tomorrow night, it might be the perfect way to celebrate solidarity amongst a group of women working to benefit our community.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Odile’s Fresh Orange Cake.

A Piquant Tomato Tart

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I received a jar of Maille’s Honey and Modena Balsamic Vinegar mustard from Maille Canada, but received no other consideration. All opinions are my own.

I keep two kinds of mustard in my refrigerator – a Dijon mustard and a grainy mustard. I’ve tried many different grainy mustards, but the Dijon is always Maille. I use these mustards in salad dressings, slather them over lamb and other meats for roasting, and sneak them in as my secret weapon for pan sauces, dips, casseroles, or savoury pies. These dishes are all improved by mustard’s piquancy, but the very best application for quality mustard is in Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for Gérard’s Mustard Tart. I do not come from a mustard-loving family, but they all ask for seconds when I make this dish.

Since I focus on mustard as an ingredient rather than as a condiment, I haven’t really explored flavoured mustards. So, when Maille Canada offered me the opportunity to try their Honey and Modena Balsamic Vinegar mustard, my mind turned to cooking. The first thing on my agenda was the tomato variation of Dorie’s tart. I swapped out grainy mustard for the balsamic and studded the custard with juicy grape tomatoes. I also added a touch of sage along with the rosemary called for in the recipe.

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Since I had the pastry in the freezer, already fitted into my tart pan, this dish took about 30 minutes from cracking the eggs to pulling it from the oven. This is a weeknight supper that looks like it belongs in an upscale buffet. Pair it with a winter salad and you don’t really need anything else. Since it keeps very well, this one will be making a brunch appearance tomorrow, too.

You can find the recipe here for the original version of the tart – to make the balsamic tomato version, swap out the two tablespoons of grainy mustard for balsamic mustard and use sliced tomatoes in place of the carrots and leeks.

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The balsamic mustard is mellow, with a sweetness that’s balanced by heat. It’s terrific in this tart, playing against the Dijon mustard, the herbs, and tomatoes. I might just change my mind about mustard as a condiment, if this is on offer. I can imagine putting a layer of this mustard on a bresaola tartine or, even better, a goat cheese and strawberry tartine. It’s mild enough that it’s perfect for all sorts of dishes that straddle the line between savoury and sweet. It’s also going to become a favourite for dressings and marinades.

Maille was kind enough to send along a jar of their Malossol cornichons with the balsamic mustard, but I’m unable to review them. The jar opened in transit and I reluctantly had to compost them. My partner was heartbroken – good cornichons are one of his favourite indulgences.

Luckily, Maille’s gourmet lines can be found at a number of food purveyors, including Urban Fare, which hosted a Maille pop up shop over the holidays. I hope they bring back their mustard on tap to British Columbia soon – I’ve decided that my mustard collection is in need of expansion.

FFWD – Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

Our assignment this week:

For the improvisers among us, share an original recipe that was inspired by an AMFT recipe or do a recipe that you would like to Make-Up or just make again. We also suggest that you say whatever you wish to say in this Post. We intend to have boxes of tissues on hand when we read everyone’s posts.. Do your best with this one.

Salted Butter Break Ups

Cooking together. It’s one of the simplest expressions of caring that I know. Cooking for friends and family is nurturing, but cooking with someone develops camaraderie and involves more than a little synergy. It’s easy to see this at work as you move through a kitchen, working with a person or a group.

It’s not something I knew was possible to create by cooking through a book with a group of bloggers scattered across the world.

Each week, as the French Fridays crew worked on another selection from Around My French Table, we began by sharing our questions and concerns with one another, then ended by reading about each other’s experiences with the dish. That alone created solidarity, as we identified with difficulties, helped each other problem-solve, and congratulated each other on successes.

However, it’s what we wrote alongside the practical details that really created our community. We shared stories, in the same way that cooks in a kitchen together might. We learned about the markets and culinary specialties of the places each of us live, while we shared the challenges we faced in finding ingredients across hemispheres, regions, and seasons. We cheered each other on in trying flavours, foods, and techniques we might have been too intimidated to try on our own. As we got to know one another, the quirks of our palates (and those of our loved ones) became fodder for discussion. And as we moved through the recipes, we shared our selves.

So, yes – camaraderie, synergy, and friendship built along the pathways of the Internet. Offline, a number of us have met in person. And even though this part of the journey has ended, we’ll keep following each other’s adventures online, while taking the opportunity to meet up in real time whenever it arises.

None of this would have been possible without Laurie Woodward, who first created Tuesdays with Dorie, then launched French Fridays with Dorie. Mary Hirsch and Betsy Pollack became the administrators of the group a little later on and their warm, encouraging presence made the group feel like a circle of friends. And Dorie Greenspan herself has been the warmest and most welcoming one of all – her encouragement to us along the way has helped us to become better cooks and bakers. More importantly, her generosity of spirit has been the model for how we’ve approached our connections with one another.

  

Now, I encourage you to go back and discover this wonderful cadre of bloggers for yourself – not only the fabulous stalwarts who’ve made it to the end, but also those who cooked alongside us at various points along the way. And do think about joining Tuesdays with Dorie – many of us are over there, too. Then check back with French Fridays in the fall. Laurie and Trevor Kensey (who coined the term Dorista) have something in the works. Until then, I’ll lift a salted butter break-up in salute to every one of the wonderful Doristas.

As you can see, I’m determined that this is not adieu, but à bientôt.

Grab your tissues and read through the Doristas’ wrap up posts, here: Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

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There’s nothing like the excitement of a new book, is there? Especially one that you’ve been anticipating for a long while. I finally got my hands on such a book on November 2nd, when I headed down to Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to pick up my copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s eleventh cookbook, Baking Chez Moi.

Dorie was in Vancouver for the only Canadian stop on her book tour and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the taping of her interview with CBC’s North by Northwest Cooking Club. (Some even luckier folks got to have dinner with her later that evening.) She told stories about living and baking in Paris and shared tips and tricks while she demonstrated putting together her Pink Grapefruit Tart from the book. CBC has posted the interview now, which you can find here.

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Meanwhile, the audience got to munch on miniature versions of the tart, while sipping Barbara-Jo’s signature tea blend. (If you think my idea of heaven would be listening to one of my culinary heroes, while munching on a delicious tart and sipping a cup of perfect tea, in a bookstore devoted to cookbooks – well, you’d be right.)

Pink Grapefruit Tart

After the interview, she fielded questions from the audience and engaged in some banter with her husband, Michael, who is accompanying her on the tour. His version of the stories she shared were sometimes a little different from hers and he quite charmingly interjected when he thought it was necessary.

Michael and Dorie

At the end, I introduced myself and Dorie gave me a big hug. It was lovely to finally meet her after cooking through Around My French Table with the French Fridays with Dorie group for the past four years.

Dorie

Which brings us to the first entry in Tuesdays with Dorie‘s newest project – baking through Baking Chez Moi. We’ll be posting together twice a month as we work our way through the book and I’m quite excited to be joining in. Just browsing through my copy of this cookbook left it bristling with bookmarked recipes, so I’m glad that TwD is here to provide me with some structure. (I’ve joined in with Tuesdays with Dorie before, along with my nieces, over at The Family That Bakes Together for some Baking with Julia assignments.)

PaletsdeDames

The recipe chosen to kick off the bake-a-long was Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a sweet, cake-y vanilla cookie topped with a shiny lemon glaze. I made these three weeks ago, when the French Fridays crew celebrated Dorie’s Birthday. I thought about making them again this week, but they are far too addictive. I will wait until I’m sure I have plenty of people to share them with.

I’m looking forward to reading through everyone’s posts and connecting with old friends and new through this new group. Our next assignment for Baking Chez Moi is in two weeks, when we tackle Dorie’s Cranberry Crackle Tart.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this week’s recipe here: Palets de Dames.

Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

Happy Birthday

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment has been set aside for a celebration. Not only are we wishing Dorie Greenspan the happiest of birthdays, but we’re also baking from her soon-to-be-released cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This celebration has been orchestrated by two of our fabulous French Fridays collaborators, Liz and Susan, who gave us four recipes from the new book to choose from.

I chose two, but the good news is that I’ll be baking through the entire book with Tuesdays with Dorie, starting in November – and you can, too. All the details are in this post on the TwD site.

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

PaletsdeDames

These little cookies manage to be elegant and homey all at once. The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla and have a cake-like quality, while the icing has a few drops of lemon juice and sets in that shiny, smooth, pastry shop way. They can be dressed up with tinted icing or some sanding sugar, but really I think they’re perfect just as they are.

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Peach Tourte

One of the things I love about French baking (well, besides all the butter) is that a good number of the desserts are far less complicated than the results would suggest. This tourte, with its free-standing crust and its sparkling surface, looks like it requires effort and expertise to carry off. The truth is that once you’ve mastered pâte sablée, the rest is easy. And if you have Dorie’s instructions for pâte sablée (or sweet tart dough), that part’s easy, too.

I used some of the last of this year’s peaches to make this tart, but I think it would work equally well with any juicy tree fruit. In fact, I think I might try it again with mango this winter. I think it made an admirable stand in for a birthday cake and might be even more welcome than cake at the height of peach season.

Sliced

It’s been an amazing four years cooking and baking with French Fridays and I’m looking forward to the last six months or so of working through Around My French Table. I’m also starting to get excited about getting my hands on Baking Chez Moi and working through it with the Tuesdays with Dorie brigade.

So, again, happy birthday to you, Dorie. I’ve learned so much more about cooking and baking in these last few years, thanks to your work. I deeply admire your love and enthusiasm for food and the community it creates – you write about it beautifully.

Below you’ll find the full line up of posts for this French Fridays celebration. (Click on the name of the dish to find the recipe, so you can join in on the fun, too.)

Mini Cannelés

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

A shortcake

I was provided with a gift certificate by Driscoll’s to purchase ingredients for this recipe and I received a copy of Baking Chez Moi for participating in the Google+ chat. However, all opinions are my own.

For me, the beginning of summer is marked by the beginning of strawberry season. And the best way to celebrate the start of summer is strawberry shortcake. No wonder June 14th has been declared National Strawberry Shortcake Day. (It might be an American holiday, but I’m choosing to apply it to Canadians, too.)

One of the things I love best about strawberry shortcake is that it can be dressed up or down for any occasion. It’s as at home at a family picnic as it is a formal tea. It’s also a dessert that comes in many incarnations, causing arguments amongst those who champion the sponge cake variety and those who staunchly support the sweet biscuit version. Although I’ll gladly accept a plate of sponge cake smothered in whipped cream and berries, it’s the biscuit version that I think of as the real McCoy.

So, I was excited to be invited to join a Google + Hangout on Air a few weeks ago, to join some fellow bloggers to talk about just that sort of strawberry shortcake with baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of her recipes and have been working through her last cookbook, Around My French Table, with a great group of bloggers for French Fridays with Dorie. I knew the recipe would be stellar, but I was also looking forward to the opportunity to ask Dorie for tips and tricks for making this shortcake as good as could be.

Dorie told us that she invented this recipe after learning that strawberries are closely related to roses. She also enjoys adding an element of surprise to her desserts, so the subtle flavour of rose and the two textures of the strawberries in this recipe add interest, elegance, and a little playfulness to these shortcakes. I also loved the hint of lemon in the biscuits.

My question for her was whether or not the tops of the biscuits, and the less-than-perfect ones, could be used for a trifle-like dessert. She thought that would work well, layered in a jar, with each layer of biscuit soaked in the juices from the compote. I did a little riff on this idea when I made the shortcakes, layering biscuits, berries, compote, and whipped cream into champagne glasses for a pre-dinner parfait. I even added a layer of rhubarb curd to the middle. It was the best cook’s treat ever.

Parfaits

Here is some more of the advice she shared with us:

  • Rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar releases its oils and helps to distribute the zest’s flavour and aroma throughout the dough.
  • Buttermilk acts with baking soda to make lighter biscuits.
  • Never be forceful with biscuit dough until you begin cutting it. Gently using your hands to mix the ingredients can keep you from overworking the dough, but forceful cutting of the biscuits maintains the layers of butter in the dough that help them rise – use a straight down motion, then twist.
  • Other flavours that complement strawberries are vanilla, black pepper, citrus, or crushed pink peppercorns. Any of these could be used in place of the rose extract.
  • Add a bit of sour cream to whipped cream for an extra layer of flavour and some added stability for piping.

 

Driscoll’s, the sponsor for our Google + Hangout, kindly provided us with gift certificates to purchase the ingredients for this recipe. Their berries were large, ripe, and incredibly sweet, which sets them apart from most supermarket berries. I would happily buy them again.

Driscolls

I was quite pleased with how this recipe turned out for me, with Dorie’s tips in hand. My shortcakes rose beautifully. I followed the recipe exactly, though my shortcakes were without the candied roses. My roses are only now starting to bloom, so I will be trying my hand at the candied roses soon. Because, of course, I will be making this recipe again. Dorie’s shortcakes were a huge hit with my family.

Plateful of shortcakes

You can find the recipe on the Driscoll’s website. They’ve also been kind enough to allow me to share it here.

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

Shared with permission from Driscoll’s Berries and Dorie Greenspan

INGREDIENTS

Rose petal decoration
3 unsprayed roses
1-2 very fresh organic egg whites
granulated sugar
(or store-bought candied rose petals)
Strawberry compote
3/4 pound (about 3 cups) Driscoll’s Strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure rose extract

Lemon-buttermilk biscuits
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
small cubes
3/4 cup cold buttermilk

Whipped Cream
1 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon pure rose extract
1 tablespoon cold sour cream, optional
red or pink food coloring

Topping
1/2 – 3/4 pound (about 2 to 3 cups) Driscoll’s Strawberries,
hulled

DIRECTIONS

Rose Petal Decoration
Several hours ahead or the day before, separate the rose petals, rinse them quickly in cold water and pat them dry. Put one egg white in a small bowl and whisk until it’s foamy. (You may or may not need the second white.) Put the sugar in another small bowl and place a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on the counter. One at a time, dip a petal into the white and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Drag the petal through the sugar to coat both sides very lightly. Dry the petals on the paper or mat in a cool, non-humid place for at least 6 hours or for as long as overnight.

Strawberry Compote
Coarsely chop the berries and toss them into a small saucepan with the sugar. Put the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the juices are slightly thickened and syrupy. Scrape the berries and syrup into a bowl, stir in the rose extract and cool to room temperature. (You can make the compote up to 3 days ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator.)

Lemon-Buttermilk Biscuits
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and, working with your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine. Drop in the pieces of cold butter and, again using your fingertips, crush, rub and blend the butter in. You’ll have flakes of butter and small pieces and this is just right. Pour the cold buttermilk over the mixture, switch to a fork and toss and stir everything together until the milk is absorbed – your dough might look like curds, but that’s fine. Don’t stir too much, too vigorously or for too long and if there are a few dry spots in the bottom of the bowl, ignore them. Reach into the bowl and knead the dough gently, folding it over on itself and turning it over 6 to 8 times.

Dust a work surface lightly with flour, turn out the dough and, still using your hands, pat the dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick. (The thickness is what’s important here.) Using a high-sided 2 inch cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. Pat the scraps together until they’re 1/2 inch thick and cut out as many more biscuits as you can. (The leftover dough can be cut into biscuits, but they won’t rise as high or as evenly as the others – you can keep them as your baker’s treat). Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen gloriously and their tops and bottoms are golden brown. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the biscuits to cool until they reach room temperature. (The biscuits can be made up to 6 hours ahead; keep them uncovered at room temperature.)

Whipped Cream
Working with an electric mixer, beat the cream just until it mounds softly. Still beating, add the sugar, followed by the vanilla and rose extracts. When the cream is fully whipped and holds firm peaks, quickly beat in the sour cream, if you’re using it. To tint the cream, beat in just one drop of coloring; continue adding coloring a tiny drop at a time until you get the shade of pink you want. (The whipped cream can be made up to 3 hours ahead and kept tightly covered in the refrigerator; whisk a couple of times before using.)

Topping
Just before you’re ready to put the shortcakes together, stand the berries up and, using a thin-bladed knife, cut each berry into 4 or 5 thin slices.

Assembly
If you’d like to pipe the whipped cream, either spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with an open star or plain tip, or spoon the cream into a zipper-lock plastic bag and snip off a corner. Alternatively, you can simply spoon on the cream.

Slice off the top of the biscuit to create an even surface for piping the cream. Save the tops to nibble on later. Put a teaspoonful of strawberry compote and syrup in the center of each biscuit. Pipe (or spoon) a circle of whipped cream around the compote, leaving a bit of compote uncovered. Finish each shortcake by pressing two or three slices of strawberry together, fanning them out a little and placing them, broad side down, in the center of each cake. Add a rose petal for the finishing touch. (If you have any extra compote and/or cream, cover and keep in the refrigerator to enjoy at another time.)

Arrange the shortcakes on a platter. Scatter the remaining rose petals around the platter and serve immediately.

FFWD: A Big Ol’ Catch Up Post: Seaweed Sablés, Corn Pancakes & Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers

If you’re not careful, your blog can become the cognate of that dusty, cluttered storage closet that you try not to think about too much. Unfinished drafts and unedited photos in jumbled heaps mirror the stacks of old textbooks and piles of unused sports equipment that you keep meaning to sort out. Well, consider this post a sort of virtual garage sale, clearing out a bit of space on my overtaxed hard drive.

Seaweed Sablés

David’s Seaweed Sablés

Sablé cookies are one of Dorie Greenspan’s specialties. Each of her cookbooks have several varieties included, most famously her World Peace Cookies. These ones are a little different – they’re savoury, salty, and sweet and include that jewel of the sushi world, nori. I say jewel because nori is beautifully iridescent, so much so that it seemed almost a shame to chop it into tiny pieces for this cookie. The results are surprisingly tasty and worth sacrificing a sheet or two. Eating them, I imagined myself on a Paris balcony, champagne in hand.

You can find the rest of the gang’s posts on this recipe here: David’s Seaweed Sablés

Corn Pancakes with broccoli in the background

Corn Pancakes

This recipe is like the perfect outfit, that can be dressed up or down as necessary. Canned corn is called for, but fresh or frozen would do just as well, if you’ve an aversion to the canned stuff. These pancakes can serve as finger food at a cocktail party, in the vein of Buckwheat Blini, or they can be the starch at a simple dinner. I opted for the simple route, serving them with steamed broccoli and turkey smokies. They worked well, but I’m looking forward to trying them again when the weather gets cooler – they’d be perfect for soaking up the juices of a braise or stew.

More French Fridays posts on this recipe can be found here: Corn Pancakes

Cucumbers - mmm gingery

Crunchy Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers

Last up is a salad so simple that my brother exclaimed, “Oh look, Teresa chopped up a few cucumbers and called it a salad!” It was my contribution to the barbeque feast in celebration of my nephew’s high school graduation, and I was quick to tell him that there was a little more to the salad than cucumbers. I didn’t bother mentioning how easy it was to put together. After the cucumbers hang out in some sea salt for a while, they’re tossed with fresh ginger, seasoned rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes and left to stew in their juices in the refrigerator. Luckily, they’re delicious, so I didn’t get any more teasing for the (lack of) effort my contribution to dinner entailed.

You can find the link to everyone’s posts on this recipe here: Crunchy Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers

I’m still behind on French Fridays, so another smorgasbord post might show up here soon, but I think I’m well on my way to getting back on track. Now, I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone else’s posts.