To say that success has been sweet for cookbook author Dorie Greenspan is not just a turn of phrase. Cakes and tarts are daily bread for Greenspan, who has penned eight collections, including "Baking with Julia" — co-authored by America’s reigning queen of the kitchen, Julia Child — and "Desserts by Pierre Hermé," with Paris’ superstar pastry chef. In her newest book, "Paris Sweets" (Broadway Books), Greenspan coaxes family recipes and trade secrets from Hermé and other elite French pastry chefs. And bakers have very precise secrets. Fauchon’s tea tart, for example, asks specifically for Volvic water, not another. And with Lionel Poilâine, butter was a sticking point. "When I asked for the recipe for his Punition butter cookies, he refused to give it to me," Greenspan recalls. "He said it wouldn’t work with American butter." So she met him with sticks of Land o’ Lakes and challenged Poilâine to a bake-off. In the end, Greenspan got the recipe — a poignant tribute, as the French baker was killed Oct. 31 in a helicopter crash.
"Paris Sweets" also covers the "canon" of traditional recipes, including the 200-year-old recipe for financiers, as well as meringues and three kinds of madeleines. The only thing missing is macaroons — although Greenspan will discuss Paris’ ongoing "macaroon wars" during a talk at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. tonight.
"No macaroons in the book," Greenspan admits. "They are really hard to do at home. They are one thing that is better bought."