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Long-known for her excellent baking books, Dorie Greenspan now runs the new cookie boutique Beurre & Sel in New York City. Here, her favorite holiday gifts and tips, plus a surprising, easy technique for home bakers.
What are your favorite holiday food gifts?
Even before I opened Beurre & Sel, my cookie boutique, I always gave cookies to friends when the holidays rolled around. The way I see it, no one can have too many cookies at holiday time. I make sweet cookies—I love giving my vanilla sablés because they’re beautiful, delicious, and perfect with tea or coffee or even a little wine—and I make savory cocktail cookies because they’re grown-up, sophisticated and more fun to have than the usual cocktail bites.
What’s your favorite holiday cocktail?
I love Champagne any time of year, but it’s my absolute favorite at holiday time. Whether it’s real Champagne or a good sparkling wine, nothing’s more festive than a drink with bubbles.
Can you share a great entertaining tip?
Think room temperature. When I’ve invited lots and lots of people for dinner—as I often do (and, because I’m always inviting whoever’s in town for the holidays to come to dinner, dinners often end up reaching big-party numbers)—I make what I call an indoor picnic. I forget about first courses and main courses and just fill up the table with great food, all at room temperature, and let everyone pass the dishes around and take whatever they want in the order that they want it. It’s always fun and it’s great if you’ve got people who might not know everyone around the table. It doesn’t take more than a few dish-passings for everyone to put their elbows on the table and start talking to one another like old friends.
What are 5 top places not to miss on a holiday trip to Paris?
- Have oysters and a glass of crispy, dry, very cold Sancerre at Régis Huîtrerie, near the covered Saint Germain market.
- Have a real bistro meal at le Bistrot Paul Bert—I love it because it’s a traditional, bustling, happy French bistro with wonderful food and service, and a wine list that could make any fancy restaurant weep.
- Have a glass of wine and a ham croquette standing at the counter of the always busy and always fun L’Avant Comptoir.
- Visit the organic farmers’ market on the Boulevard Raspail and don’t miss the leek and potato galettes at the end of the market. (You can’t miss them: Their aroma will pull you their way.)
- And have as many pastries as you possibly can from Pierre Hermé.
What recipe or dish of yours is most requested by your fans?
People often ask for the recipe for World Peace Cookies (the recipe is in my book Baking: From My Home to Yours) or Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake (from Around My French Table). And on the savory side, it’s often the recipe for my gougères (also from Around My French Table). They’re my standard welcome when friends come to my home in Paris.
What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?
I have so many cookbooks I love, but I have the softest spot for Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. She has the most wonderful way of writing recipes, she’s incredibly clear and obsessively precise and I’ve baked my way through the entire book and never had a clunker.
What’s one technique everyone should know?
Whenever you’re baking something that calls for grated citrus zest, grate the zest onto the sugar that you’re using for the recipe and then reach in and use your fingers to rub the zest and sugar together. Rub until the sugar is moist and wildly aromatic. It’s fun, it’s great aromatherapy and, best of all, you get much, much more flavor from the zest.