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One Smart Cookie

We put baking legend Dorie Greenspan to the ultimate challenge

"Just remind me to tell you about Julia Child," humble yet awe-inspiring baking legend Dorie Greenspan says, as she adds butter and sugar to a stand mixer. She's just begun making chocolate sandwich cookies for a tough panel of taste testers: 8-year-olds.

This riff on Oreo cookies—Dorie-os, if you will—is featured in her latest cookbook, Dorie's Cookies, which contains 170 recipes, all begging to be made. Sure, there are chocolate chip cookies aplenty, but she also puts Triscuits in rugelach dough and Old Bay into slice-and-bakes. Once you've written 12 cookbooks and won four James Beard Awards, you do what you want.

It's shocking, given her impressive pedigree, that Greenspan didn't grow up with a spatula in her hand. She picked up cooking later in life, and though she now splits her time between the U.S. and France, her first lessons in baking started in Brooklyn.

Decades and dozens of batches later, this woman is a bona fide machine. Her favorite type of cookie to bake? The roll-and-cut variety, like the ones she’s busy making today (get the recipe). "You don't need to be neat to make a beautiful cookie," Greenspan says, explaining her motto for what's often misconceived as a high-maintenance cookie.

So much is clear as she gathers stray pieces of dough into a pliable mound. "I'm having too much fun!" she exclaims, more than once. It's as if we have Child herself in the kitchen, iconic chicken in hand, though in this case replaced by a ball of chocolate dough.

Like Child, Greenspan’s happiness is contagious, and it makes its way into her treats. She even started her own social media initiative, #cookiesandkindness, which encourages people to post photos of cookie's they've baked and shared, based on the simple principle of "give a cookie and you get joy."

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Greenspan, who's authored books with Child and won a James Beard award for Baking with Julia, tells us about the time they were on set and Child caught someone neglecting to use the last bit of dough. "She wouldn't let them leave anything in the mixer or in a bowl." Lesson learned: no dough (or butter, or flour) left behind.

Another trick Greenspan imparts? Don’t be afraid to break the rules when it comes to baking. "This is sacrilege," she says as she rolls a Play-Doh-like mass between two sheets of parchment. "You're supposed to chill dough before you roll it, but I was so happy when I gave up doing that." Not only does rolling the dough out first before chilling mean you won’t have to muscle through cold dough later, but more surface area means shorter chilling time—and thus cookies sooner.

Baking wisdom aside, it all boils down to one question: What’s the right way to eat an Oreo?  When it comes to the world's best-selling cookie, which has just as many ways to eat it as it has flavor variations, Greenspan goes with the cookie-twist method. "I used to squiggle them so they would separate, and then use my teeth to scrape off the filling. That could explain my dental bills."

Dorie Greenspan with our panel of taste testers

Oreo methodology settled, it's time to bring in a panel of the ultimate taste-testers: children. Of our four pint-sized stars, one eats her cookie in a concentric circle. Another pulls his apart for careful inspection. And all four happily finish their cookies with crumb-dotted smiles, so we think it's safe to label these as kid-approved.

As Greenspan, who has filled our kitchen with joy and warm chocolate-laced air, begins to leave, a wide-eyed four-year-old stops her and presents her with a drawing: It's a picture of the purple apron-clad Greenspan surrounded by smiley faces and giant sandwich cookies. Oreos may be milk's favorite cookie, but it’s clear Greenspan is everyone’s favorite cookie baker.

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