Baking for Kindness, and Fighting Kids’ Cancer

Continued From Part I: How to Start a Kindness Revolution — With Cookies

Earlier, Greenspan had provided me with some background on her connection with the non-profit that raises funds for research into cures for pediatric cancer. She has known co-founder Gretchen Witt for years, before Witt was married and had a son Liam, and before Liam was diagnosed at age 2 with neuroblastoma. Greenspan has been engaged with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer) since the very beginning, doing what she does best: baking and creating community.

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She told the crowd at the 92nd Street Y about a generous challenge grant given to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: An anonymous donor will match contributions up to $250,000 in the months of November and December. And Greenspan has sweetened the pot. Donors of $1,000 will receive a signed copy of her latest book and those of $2,500 will be entered into a raffle to spend a day baking with her in her home. I’ve had this opportunity and I can personally tell you that it is not one to be missed.

You can also lend support with your own oven and a little social media: Bake something from “Dorie’s Cookies,” post a picture on Instagram, hashtag it with #DoriesCookies and tag @cookies4kids (see example here) to automatically trigger a $5 contribution to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. And then of course, don’t forget to share what you bake as part of #cookiesandkindness. If it seems like a lot of symbols and words and strung-together phrases, it is. But, hey, let’s call it a good excuse to join the funfetti generation and its successors without having to download Snapchat or catch Pokémon.

Greenspan and I considered which cookies might be particularly meaningful for Forward readers to bake and share. For the High holidays that have passed, there are apple bars and a half-dozen nibbles with honey in them. For Purim, hamantashen. For Passover, coco-almond thumbprints, pistachio-berry slims and matzo morsels. For Thanksgiving, think: sweet potato pie bars (complete with broiled marshmallow topping), spiced pumpkin jammers and cranberry-studded breakfast biscotti. And for this year’s true Christmukkah, when the first night of Hanukkah coincides with Christmas Eve, you can make your own fortune cookies.

As we scrolled through the index and flipped through the pages over the phone, Greenspan gasped, and I could hear her nearly leap out of her chair on the other end. “Kasha! Kasha to the rescue!”

She explained: “My friend Kerrin sent me this fabulous recipe from Switzerland — a multigrain chocolate chip cookie. And she included a note saying that she uses rye grits in it — she gets rye berries from the market and then they grind them for her to order. Well, I don’t have a market that sells rye grits, and I certainly don’t have anyone who would grind them for me. I was going to leave them out, but I knew that I’d be missing their great texture. I can’t remember why kasha came to mind. I think maybe because there was buckwheat flour in the recipe as well, or maybe I was wandering the kosher aisle of my grocery store.

“Once I added kasha though, I was like a little kid jumping up and down. I was so excited to find this perfect substitute for rye grits – the kasha nubbins give such a nutty crunch - that I wanted to use it in other recipes! So kasha’s also in the breakfast biscotti and the double chocolate double buckwheat cookie.”

Greenspan’s husband was also elated: “My husband Michael adores kasha and has always complained that I can’t prepare kasha varnishkes like his mother’s. With these cookies, I was vindicated. I said to Michael, ‘I haven’t learned to make a brisket as good as your mother’s, and I can’t bake your mother’s kasha, but there’s a new way of eating kasha, and it happens to be in cookie form.’”

I doubt Michael complained again.

Inspired by this story, I baked a batch of Kerrin’s multigrain chocolate chip cookies on a moody gloomy day, made sure to shower the scooped dough with a good dose of flakey salt, and then shared. I shared them with my doorman, with some colleagues, with a neighbor. I shared them on Instagram. I tagged away. And the photo convinced a friend to make the recipe herself.

If my grandmother were still alive, she would have shared the cookies too — perhaps her mailman, the crossing guard, a bank teller. And if she had known Greenspan, I think she would have called her “such a doll” and said that she tickles her heart. I can’t agree more.

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Gayle Squires is a food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Her path to the culinary world is paved with tap shoes, a medical degree, business consulting and travel. She has a knack for convincing chefs to give up their secret recipes. Her blog is KosherCamembert

Baking for Kindness, and Fighting Kids’ Cancer

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