Baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan never attended culinary school, yet she has won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award three times for her numerous cookbooks and culinary magazine articles. Her 11th cookbook also hit shelves just in time for planning desserts for Thanksgiving.
“Baking Chez Moi” is a culmination of Greenspan’s delicious dessert discoveries while traveling around Paris. For the past 20 years, Greenspan has been dividing her time between New York, Connecticut and Paris, but she says she feels most at home in Paris.
“Every time I’m getting ready to go, I’m excited as the first time,” says the 67-year-old in her sweet manner. “I love the way of life, the rhythm of life…There seems to be more time to have dinner together, or meet for a drink, or a coffee at a cafe. I love the way people love food in France. You can buy a little tartlet, and it’s wrapped so beautifully.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Greenspan remembers vividly her first trip to the City of Lights 43 years ago.
“I came back and went directly to my parents’ house and told them they made a big mistake – I was meant to be Parisian,” she says.
Her love of the kitchen, however, wasn’t as evident to her in the beginning.
“I made French fries when I was 13 years old and almost burnt my parents house,” remembers Greenspan. “I started cooking from cookbooks when I got married [while I was in college]. It was a good feeling to cook for my husband and friends. I loved the whole process – the preparation – I loved having people around the table. That’s when I fell in love with it – as I was learning.”
But she still didn’t think to pursue the craft as her career at this point. She graduated from college, started working, went to graduate school and had a child.
“I thought I was going to be an academic in gerontology,” says Greenspan. “But my fabulous husband said, ‘You really love baking – why don’t you make that your career?’”
That’s when she finally gave in to her calling. She self-taught herself with books and people who inspired her.
“I was really lucky when I think about it,” recalls Greenspan. “I went to work for Elle magazine when it launched in America. It had a wonderful food section – so I got to read about the fabulous French chefs. Daniel Boulud had a huge influence on me, and then I worked with Julia Child. I wrote ‘Baking with Julia.’ I didn’t go to culinary school, but I learned from the best.”
These days, she likes to get up early and starts working around 8am.
“What I try to do is write in the morning and do recipe development in the afternoon,” says Greenspan, who spends most of her day in the kitchen – with happy music playing in the background – and sometimes forgets to leave her house until 7pm.
She doesn’t love all the dishes she has to wash afterwards, but it’s all worth it to her.
“I love the sense of happiness that you get when you’ve made something,” says Greenspan. “I’m inspired by ingredients…and there’s something wonderful about starting something from scratch, and then sharing it with other people and making them happy. I love what I do, and because I write about it, I get to pass it along.”
Greenspan says what she’s most grateful for, this year and every year, is her husband and son. She’s spending this Thanksgiving in NY.
“I’m such a last-minute person, but I know I’m definitely making my slow-roasted pineapple recipe and the custardy apple squares,” which Greenspan says are two of her favorites from her new book. “I think I’m also going to make the desert roses, which are corn flakes treats.”
Greenspan seems to flow with ideas, which seem to pour effortlessly onto the pages of more books. She’s already working on her next one on cookies.
If she had one piece of advice she could tell her younger self, what would it be?
“What I would tell my younger moi is say ‘yes’ to everything,” says Greenspan, explaining she wishes she started younger doing that herself. “Be fearless, try things.”