It was pure heaven to sample the contents when Greenspan appeared for a signing and demo at Melissa's Produce. Imagine taking your pick from platter after platter of fantastic cookies, not just gooey treats but also savory rounds to go with drinks, which some would not regard as cookies.
"Because it is my book, I could call anything a cookie," she countered, adding that supermarkets in France sell savory cookies, labeling them crackers.
Looking at the finished cookies (above), you can't see the hard work that went into them--the testing and retesting, the figuring out why a recipe worked or failed, the overthrowing of time-honored baking traditions to get a better result. "The great thing about writing a book is you always learn something new," Greenspan said.
You probably know those old saws about refrigerating dough before rolling it out, adding flour in two or three steps and mixing salt with dry ingredients. Follow Greenspan, and you'll throw those rules away. Flour should go in all at once at the end so you don't overwork it, she said. Salt should be added with the butter, because then it will blend into the dough more evenly.
As rigorous as a laboratory scientist, Greenspan not only tests recipes repeatedly, but in two countries, in Paris, where she spends half the year and then in the United States with American ingredients.
What she has found is that differences in ovens, measures and weights, even cooking times, don't make as much difference as she had thought. This is "my brand new revelation," she said. "And it just made me so happy."
This drive for perfection has made her a baking superstar, an award-winning author (she's racked up four James Beard Awards) and food media celebrity. This is her 12th cookbook. Read more about her by clicking here.
Now take a look at some of her cookies, as served at Melissa's.
World Peace Cookies are on the cover of the book and in a section devoted to cookies that were sold at Beurre & Sel, the shop that Greenspan and her son Joshua opened in New York. The color looks like a dark view of the world, but when you bite into the cookies, they're as sweet as peace.
And so did Classic Jammers.
I had thought about ending with one of the recipes, but it didn't seem fair. Greenspan writes at length about each cookie, and a recipe wouldn't be complete without her comments and the baking tips and suggestions for variations that she provides.
Instead, I will evaluate the book using Greenspan's own words, although she did not say them about herself. "Baking is the easiest thing," she told her audience at Melissa's (above). If you have a good recipe all you have to do is follow it."