12/5/12

Interview with Anna Ginsberg of The Daily Cookie

I just love those times when I get to interview a dear friend.
And this is one of those times--a good friend of mine Anna Ginsberg of the famous cookie blog cookie madness has just released her first cookbook: The Daily Cookie.
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The Daily Cookie
Some of you may remember Anna as the $1 million dollar winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Her original recipe for savory baked chicken and spinach stuffing beat out 98 other finalists from all over the country for the grand prize.
The winning dish consisted of baked chicken stuffed with spinach and frozen home-style waffle sticks, fresh sage and pecans. Topped it with waffle syrup in the peach glaze. 
She is also the creative genius behind her famous cookie and baking blog “Cookie Madness”.  Anna started her blog back in 2005 as a way to display her creative passion for creative cookies, but since then she’s added other baking recipes and a few food product reviews.
Anna is a self-taught baker, lives in Austin, Texas with her family, has appeared on the Today Show and even got the chance to cook with Oprah.
I was thrilled that Anna’s first cookbook: The Daily Cookie finally appeared last month and I was one of the lucky ones to receive first dibs on a copy.  
Not only is Anna a good friend, but she’s also one of my go-to people when I have a question about a baking dilemma. I can't tell you how many times I've emailed her at the last minute about some crazy baking problem I've created for myself and she calmly has the answer. 
Her cookbook: The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life is all about a reason to celebrate a different cookie recipe for each day of the year.  365 recipes for cookies that celebrate historic and pop culture events for every day of the year.  The holidays range from quirky to classic: Day of the Ninja (chocolate “Ninjabread” cookies), Squirrel Appreciation Day (caramel nut bars), Christmas (almond ginger toasts), and Valentine’s Day (mocha chocolate brownies). 
And as a bonus: each recipe includes full-color photographs of cookie as well as anecdotes, fun facts/trivia, and tips.
Recipes include chewy, crispy, no bake, sweet, salty, savory, gluten free—literally something for everyone.  I mean I wish I could tell you everything that is in here because there are some very creative cookie recipes.  And you get a historical fact about a cookie, how it came about, when, and more importantly why.  Excellent idea for a book!
Some of my favorites are:
Scottish oat cookies pg. 79
Macadamia white chocolate pineapple cookies pg. 183
Speculoos pg. 374
Spicy chocolate ginger guys pg. 342
chocolate-rum-crinkles
chocolate rum crinkles pg. 382
Cookie-Brittle_1003-(2)
cranberry, white chip and ginger cookie bark pg. 358

I made one of her recipes: Island Cookies, look for recipe after the interview AND a chance to win one of her cookbooks!

Questions:

Being the grand winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off back in 2006 must have felt amazing.  
Curious to know was that the first time you entered the Pillsbury Bake-Off?   
Had you entered before?  What were some of the other recipes you entered?

2006 was my second time.  The first time, in 2004, I entered a recipe for Barbecued Chicken Triangles with Raita, an Indian dish made with crescent rolls, Lloyds shredded chicken in barbecue sauce, Indian spices, and raita made with Yoplait yogurt.  The recipe made it to the finals, but didn’t place. 

Before that I’d entered multiple contests to the point where it was becoming quite lucrative.  It was a super fun hobby and a great creative outlet. 

Are you still active in cooking contests? 

No.  Most of today’s contests involve voting, and I prefer the old way where recipes are developed at home and tested by judges.  I have a hard time asking people to vote for me if they haven’t actually tried the recipe.  

I would imagine you are now a judge in some of them? Which ones?  Any favorites? 

My favorite was probably judging a holiday cookie contest at a local Austin cookware shop.

Congrats on your first cookbook!  What an accomplishment.
And what a great idea to make a cookbook based on a different cookie for each day of the year.  Was this in the back of your mind for a while? 

Yes, but I wasn’t sure how I’d execute it.  My agent suggested The Daily Cookie, so I mulled that over, wrote a sample chapter, and realized it was fun trying to match a cookie with every day of the year.  It was a bit of a creative stretch and some days were easier to “cookie match” than others.  Now that I’ve written the book, I keep finding more quirky holidays and coming up with more cookies!

What kind of research did you do to line up a cookie with an historical event or fun fact of the day? 

Loads of reading books, library of congress website, Google, Wikipedia, and looking at calendars.  I actually found a lot more information on each day, but we had to edit a lot out.  In the end, that was probably a good thing.  The focus should be the cookies.

How long did it take you to finish the cookbook?

It was a blur!  I couldn’t even tell you.

Which cookie recipes are your favorites?

Because I was eating so many cookies during testing, I found myself craving the lighter cookies such as the various biscotti and “toasts”.  I also really like the Birdseed Bars and Ten at a Time Chocolate Chip Cookies (mini cookies).  But really, it depends on my mood.   House Chocolate Chip is still my favorite.  I also like the Milky Way Brownies.

Did you have any taste-testers help you? 

Yes, my husband’s co-workers were tasters.  I also had various people help test the recipes, which was enlightening!  It’s interesting to see how people approach directions.

Any recipes you had a hard time with? 

Yes, it took me forever to find just the right crust for the Millionaire Bars.  I wanted it to be very light and sandy – kind of like a Twix bar.  I must have made those 10 times, and finally settled on a cake flour based crust.  I also spent a lot of time trying to perfect the Bakewell Bars, which are modeled after an English tart called a Bakewell Tart.

It’s fairly obvious you’re a foodie, is your husband a foodie too? 

Actually, we’re terrible foodies because we are extremely picky.  We like really basic foods without sauces, and neither of us eat any seafood. We’re like first graders.  However, we LOVED going to Italy because everything is so simply prepared and tastes so fresh.  Neither of us are proud of our rejection of certain foods, so we go to great lengths to introduce our daughter to different things.  She prides herself on liking everything, and I’m hoping one day she’ll become a chef.

Does he make a great taste-tester? 

He’s really good at judging textures, so in that sense he is. 

What was it like being on Oprah? Were you nervous?

I was nervous until Oprah came out, and then it was easy.  She has a magical way of making you feel comfortable on stage. 

Are there any tips or tricks you learned unexpectedly while making all these cookies for the cookbook? 

Not so much “learned” as was “reminded of”.  For instance, some cookies bake up so much higher on an ungreased cookie sheet as opposed to one that’s been greased or line with slick foil.  I knew that, but doing all that testing really drove the point home. 

For your food blog cookiemadness.net when looking at recipes to try or create next, what sparks your interest most?

I like it when a recipe has an unusual or unexpected ingredient.  For instance, sugar cookies with vanilla pudding mix or cookies made with cornstarch or some unusual type of sugar like coconut palm.  It’s fun to see whether or not certain recipes with unusual ingredients catch on.  For instance, the Hard Boiled Egg Cookies and Frito Candy became quite popular.

And with your food blog, you do a lot of cookie posting, almost a new cookie recipe 3-5 times a week; where do you get the inspiration for all this?

Everywhere!  But mostly I just go for what I’m craving, which is why I have tons of variations on chocolate chip, brownie and peanut butter. 

Do you have any future plans to open a “cookie shop”?

I kind of like the idea of it, but running a store is completely different than home baking, writing a book or baking for fun, so I’d have to commit to a retail lifestyle.  It’s fun to think about, and I know people how have been very successful at it. 

Any other ‘hidden talents’ we should know?

No, outside of baking and cooking I’m pretty useless. Seriously, I wish I could play the drums, but Todd’s (husband) a drummer and I know I’ll never measure up.

Favorite comfort foods?

Ice cream, pizza, fried chicken, steak, fries, pasta, chocolate, and red wine!

Food(s) you don’t care for?

Not enough room to list, but I’ll start with all game, forest animals, all fish and pretty much anything from the sea except for salt, mushrooms, most squash, and tarragon.

Favorite places to travel for the food?

Italy! 

Will there be a second cookbook?

If there is, it will have fewer than 365 recipes.  That was a lot.

Thank you Anna!  And if you would like a chance to win a copy of this cookbook, please leave ONE comment telling us your favorite cookie recipe.
We'll do the drawing December 12, 2012.
Please have a valid email in your comment and/or signature line.
I can't tell you how many Anonymous comments I get that are useless in contests.


From the The Daily Cookie I made the Island Cookies.
A coconut based cookie with a hint of rum and nuts.
Sadly I did not have dried pineapple on hand so I used butterscotch chips instead--tasted just as good, but I highly suggest using the dried pineapple.

island cookies
island cookies
island cookies
Island Cookies
From the book The Daily Cookie
1 ¼ cups finely grounded quick-cooking oats (use coffee grinder or processor)
1 cup flour
1 ts baking powder
¼ ts salt
8 TB unsalted butter, room temp
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 ts rum extract
½ cup dried pineapple, chopped (I used butterscotch chips)
2 2/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut (I used 1 cup)
2/3 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (I used 1 cup)

Bakers Note:
Containing over 2 ½ cups of coconut, these chewy cookies are for coconut lovers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees., place rack in the center of oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
Mix the ground oats, flour, baking powder, and salt together, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in large mixing bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter and both sugars on medium speed until creamy.  Beat in egg and extract and continue beating for another minute.
By hand or using lowest speed of the mixer, stir in the flour mixture, followed by the dried pineapple, coconut, and pecans.  The dough will be thick. 
Shape into 1-inch balls and arrange 2 inches apart, flattening them slightly on the baking sheet.  Bake one sheet at a time for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.  Let cool a bit before moving to wire rack to cool completely.  


28 comments:

  1. I cannot even imagine churning out 365 recipes - bravo to Anna!

    And those cookies you made look fab!

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  2. my favorite cookie recipe is my recipe for vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies! it keeps the cookies extra soft :)
    bianca.x3@gmail.com

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  3. My favorite cookies are oatmeal chocolate chip - they are on Anna's blog.
    librarian2760@yahoo.com

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  4. Anna won a Pillsbury Bakeoff? What fun....and why didn't I know that? Sometimes I wonder if I live under a rock.
    This is one book I want. Her recipes are fabulous. These look interesting too but I go for her ginger cookies.

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  5. What an interesting interview! So many favorite cookies but I think oatmeal raisin are at the top of my list.

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  6. Love this concept! I collect cookie books. Right now, because it's December, my fave cookie has to be a soft ginger cookie.

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  7. My favorite cookie is a Mexican chocolate cookie from Anna's site, which I have followed since 2007.
    karenreichmann@hotmail.com

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  8. I don't know if i can enter even though i am not a resident of the US, but i will give it a go :)

    I love good old chocolate chip cookies. They never dissapoint :)

    yulary@web.de

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  9. Definitely chocolate chip - beyond that I'm not terribly picky. sbswww at aol.com

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  10. I go for simple. Oatmeal Raisin.

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  11. Asking for a "favorite" cookie is tough. Alfajores and Hermits might tie. Great CC Cookies stuffed with Oreos; Coconut Macaroons dipped in Chocolate. It's all good. I can vouch for Anna being a really picky eater. Fortunately it doesn't affect her cookies, cakes, and pies. lfmelcher at gmail dot com

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  12. This isn't another entry. I forgot to ask if the Island Cookies kept well. At Christmas I send cookies to family and friends, plus provide many boxes of cookies to our local newspaper raising money for our food bank. I bake about 20 varieties probably starting this weekend.

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    Replies
    1. Oh boy you will be busy Louise!
      They do keep well, but we only had them around for 3 days max.
      The coconut keeps em crunchy rather than a soft cookie which might spoil faster.
      Does that help?

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    2. I'll give them a try at the end of the baking marathon. I have everything, including candied pineapple, so I'll find out. Mostly I make double batches which yield about 6 dozen, but overall it totals about 75 pounds of cookies. People say "Oh my, all that butter and sugar", but it's really all the dried fruits and nuts. The baking starts tomorrow with an old Boston Globe recipe for Hermits, Alton Brown's Fruitcake made as mini-muffins (dried fruit is soaking in booze right now), and Italian Abbracci Cookies from Serious Eats.

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    3. I just saw Claudia Rose's response below. I always include a Swedish cookie that looks like a Mexican Wedding, but it's actually a crispy round butter cookie rolled in cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar. Excellent.

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    4. Louise what is your blog? We'd all love to see these cookies. I especially want to see the mini-muffin fruit cakes!!!

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    5. I don't blog, but I'm a retired computer geek. I just looked and don't seem to have a photo of them from prior years but can take some this weekend. If you like, I'll send you a box of cookies in a couple of weeks. I sent Anna some a couple years ago.

      Delete
    6. oh Louise aren't you a love.
      you don't have to send me anything, I was just curious to hear from other bakers and see what creations they've made.
      send me a photo, would love that.
      and where is that recipe for mini fruit cake muffins? I adore alton brown recipes and haven't tried that one yet.

      Delete
  13. I am a big fan of all cookies, its hard to pick a favorite, just depends on my mood. Today I'd say a simple, buttery sugar cookie would hit the spot!

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  14. I, too, love most cookies, but probably snickerdoodles are my favorite.

    This cookbook looks amazing! I bake constantly for coworkers and family. I need some new recipes! Haha! Don't want anyone getting bored!

    tvsoccermom15@gmail.com

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  15. My favorite cookie is a double chocolate chip cookie with toasted hazelnuts! Delish!

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  16. Amanda Thompson12/6/12, 6:32 PM

    I love to bake Snickerdoodles because they are my husband's favorite!

    adb6{at}humboldt{dot}edu

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  17. I love basic homemade chocolate chip cookies :-)

    jnb5045@gmail.com

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  18. A lovely interviw and book! Great cookies and treats. Absolutely irresistible.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  19. Lovely book! My favorite cookie at the moment is a really different one that I made for Indian food night. I made this recipe with nutmeg added in: http://www.food.com/recipe/finnish-cardamom-cookies-369337

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  20. Great interview Dawn. It looks like a great cookbook!

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  21. Great interview! I love cookies. :) My current favorite recipe is Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, but for 6 months before that it was Chocolate Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies! Since I just started following you on Twitter about 1-2 months, I haven't had a chance to explore your recipes yet or make one. So, in late Dec or early Jan, I will make one of your cookies. I'll tweet you how it goes. Love your tweets and blog!

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  22. Show me a cookie I don't love. I'm super excited for this cook book. If I don't win, this is totally going on my christmas wish list.
    kan_o_linsay@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete

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