Dorie Greenspan is a something of a legend, especially among food bloggers. I never heard of her until I started reading blogs and then I found references to her all over the place. Greenspan knows baking. She wrote the Julia Child book, Baking with Julia and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.

Now I truly believe when you are cooking you can fake it, but when you are baking no such luck. Just recently I tried several cookie recipes for upcoming cookie exchanges with miserable results. Frankly the ingredients are too expensive to waste on a recipe that doesn’t work well, which is why you need some solid baking books and they don’t come much more solid than Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. The recipes are meticulous and the notes with each recipe are filled with stories and tips to savor. In the book you’ll find breakfast sweets, cookies. cakes, pies and tarts, and spoon desserts such as Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler and Lemon Cup Custard.

This year for Thanksgiving I chose to forgo the pumpkin pie and instead made the All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake. Imagine a delicious pumpkin bundt cake studded with nuts, apples and cranberries, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It was fantastic and easy to make. I’ve also gotten a chance to try her World Peace Cookies. You’ve got to appreciate a recipe that inspired the name “World Peace” due to a fan believing a daily dose of these cookies could ensure peace and happiness. The original recipe is from Pierre Herme and the secret ingredient is a 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel. For the committed home baker, this book is a treasure.

Classic Brownies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional, but really good)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (according to taste)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the butter in the bowl, top with the chopped chocolates and stir occasionally until the ingredients are just melted-you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

With a whisk, stir in the sugar. Don’t be concerned when your smooth mixture turns grainy. One by one, whisk in the eggs. Add the vanilla and give the ingredients a vigorous whisking before gently stirring in the espresso, if you’re using it, salt and flour; stir only until incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the chopped walnuts.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula.

Bake the brownies for 30 to 33 minutes, or until the top is dull and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the brownies to room temperature.

When the brownies are completely cool, turn out onto a rack, peel away the foil and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, each a scant 2 inches on a side.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook – Baking From My Home to Yours, Houghton Mifflin 2006.

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