By Dorie Greenspan
Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 528 pages, $50
I find it baffling how resistant some North American home cooks are toward the kitchen scale: "You'll have to pry these measuring cups from my cold, dead fingers!" Digital scales are affordable and widely available and their accuracy is vital in baking, especially when measuring powdery dry ingredients such as flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar.
In her new book, Dorie's Cookies, Dorie Greenspan addresses this issue in the chapter on technique. "It's not just that weights are more reliable, it's that weights, particularly metric weights, are easier to use, and faster too." Amen, sister.
The Brooklyn-born baking guru, however, doesn't want to alienate any of her considerable following, so measurements are included in both volume and metric weight. Yet, even in a meticulously researched and tested cookbook such as this one, there is dissent among measurements. In the very first recipe, delightfully chewy and dead-easy brownies, which I've adapted below, I found a discrepancy between the volume and weight measurements for cocoa powder.
When I scaled out 112 grams of cocoa powder it was a fraction under 1 cup instead of 1 1/3 cups. A little digging found that, depending on the brand and fat content, 1 cup of cocoa powder can weigh anywhere from 80 to 118 grams. I used Valrhona, which is on the heavy end; for comparison, I weighed 1 cup of ubiquitous Fry's, which came to 92 grams. Moral of the story: Use a scale.
Okay, math lesson over. Cocoa blip aside, this is a terrific book.
Much as her Baking: From My Home To Yours (2006) has become a bible for home bakers, this collection of 300 recipes will be a trusty manual for holiday cookie monsters for decades to come.
From classic chocolate chip to obscure French biscuits to multigrain biscotti, the book leaves no cookie jar unturned. I was most enamoured with the chapter on savoury "cocktail cookies," which includes a shortbread spicy with Old Bay seasoning, punchy with sharp cheddar and crunchy with crushed pretzels.
Greenspan assumes the reader is a novice, so the instructions are scrupulous. For the excellent Princeton gingersnaps, which filled my house with the heady scent of Christmas, there are baking times for three levels of chewiness.
Dorie's Cookies is an ideal gift for the amateur baker in your life. And while you're at it, buy them a kitchen scale.