Dorie's Cookies

Image of Dorie's Cookies
Release Date: 
October 24, 2016
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reviewed by: 

“bakers can find months of inspiration and experimentation, from cocktails to dessert, in this cookie collection.”

Dorie’s Cookies announces itself boldly. The purple cover with one enormous chocolate cookie—her popular “World Peace” cookie—opens to photos of row upon row of cookies, and eventually to a “perfect cookie handbook” of tips and techniques, before diving into hundreds of pages of recipes. Greenspan’s baking tomes and popular website and Washington Post columns have given her a large and frequently fervent audience. With Dorie’s Cookies, she’s likely made those fans very happy.

Greenspan uses a familiar organization for the first half of the book—bar cookies, biscotti, everyday cookies, and cookies for special occasions. Then the book detours to a chapter on the cookies she sold at her former shop, Beurre & Sel, and on into a solid collection of savory cookies for cocktails. Greenspan respects her readers by providing measurements in cups and grams, a sidebar for each recipe on how to store the cookies, and “playing around” options where possible.

First, though, some readers may have to get past one thing: the love-it-or-hate-it layout of the book. Each cookie gets its own full-page photo, set against a stark, super-saturated background (think hot pink, aqua, and others that will remind readers of a certain age of their mothers’ old Betty Crocker cookbooks). Extensive white space plus those photos mean recipes nearly always spill over, requiring the baker to turn the page mid-recipe.

That aside, the recipes offer a pleasing mix of familiar and inventive, and cover a wide range of flavors. Chocolate, nuts, caramel, vanilla, and spices form a backbone. But have you thought to mix chocolate, cranberries, and raspberries in a bumpy bar cookie? Greenspan blends them with a chocolate-walnut shortbread crust encasing a cranberry jam filling and layer of raspberries. It’s not a quick recipe, but neither is it complicated, despite the final appearance.

If speed matters most, paging through this book for something to make may be frustrating, although the everyday chapter does offer a nice selection of quick mix-and-drop recipes. More often, cookies require multiple parts or delays—bar cookies combine a base and separate topping, or need a prebaked crust; many doughs need hours of chilling—and often a second round of chilling for the scraps from cut-out cookies.

Greenspan’s method of rolling dough between parchment paper sheets before chilling does make life easier—less cleanup, more tender cookies because no extra flour is needed for rolling. Tests of the rich chocolate “Melody” cookies and sablé variations—mint chocolate, lavender and white chocolate, and espresso chocolate—all proved the wisdom of rolling first, then chilling, plus the joy of having cookie dough in the freezer to cut and bake later.

For the sablés and other Buerre & Sel cookies, Greenspan takes shaping a step further. To get perfectly round cookies at the bakery, she relies on metal rings for each cookie; at home, rather than buying pricey rings, she says, bakers can cut out the cookies with a round cutter, then place each in a muffin tin. It’s an interesting method that works, but just baking sablés on a parchment-lined sheet also worked fine, with the cookies keeping their shape. Either method doesn’t produce a cookie to match that in the photos—all of Greenspan’s cookies pose well for their super-close-ups—but they are still attractive.

And how did they taste? These were solidly good cookies—not mind-blowing, but worth the effort. The lavender were especially good even to those who usually scorn white chocolate, with spots of creamy richness. 

Greenspan uses an interesting technique for her version of coconut macaroons; “coconut patties” call for unsweetened coconut that gets cooked on the stovetop with sugar and egg whites before chilling, scooping and baking. Absent the sickly goo that often comes from sweetened coconut, these cookies are hard to stop eating. Note, though, that it’s worth using lemon oil, not the suggested substitution of lemon extract, which, at a full teaspoon, overpowered the coconut with a slightly fake flavor.

Possibly the most fun in this book comes in the savory recipes, far beyond now-standard Parmesan shortbread crackers or Southern cheese wafers. Such as: honey-blue cheese madeleines; Old Bay, crushed pretzel and cheese crackers; fennel-orange shortbread; goat cheese and chive crackers; rugelach made with crushed Triscuits and Major Grey’s chutney; cocoa-cayenne cookies; fried potato crackers make with instant potato flakes; and heart-shaped wafers with cocoa, smoked almonds, and smoked paprika.

Greenspan closes with an extensive chapter of basics and cookie complements, such as ice creams, citrus curd, cookie sandwich fillings, glazes and frostings, and several basic cookie doughs. Many are fairly standard, but some to note include her recipe for homemade Nutella (with hazelnuts or almonds or pecans), homemade Biscoff spread, a cream cheese macaron filling, and an espresso filling of cream, espresso beans and white chocolate.

With so many recipes, guided by Greenspan’s warm, confident guidance, bakers can find months of inspiration and experimentation, from cocktails to dessert, in this cookie collection.