The past two weeks have been rough. I shed tears of joy at the polls about the beauty of being able to vote for a female president and then wept at home as I stumbled into bed just before 2 am, unsure of how to make heads or tails of the world. I’m grateful for the privilege of my liberal arts education, where close reading and critical thinking were emphasized and practiced and are helping me make sense of the news swirling around, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough. My sister reminded me recently of the importance of listening to and respecting differing perspectives: “we have two ears and two eyes and one mouth for a reason,” she said.
There’s been a lot of ugliness leading up to the election and now there seems to be even more in its aftermath. I find myself more ornery than usual. I see reminders every day of the need for kindness – and mindfulness and that metta meditation come to me more urgently than in the past.
So my article in the Forward about Dorie Greenspan‘s newest (twelfth!) cookbook, Dorie’s Cookies seems particularly timely. I’ve pasted the entire piece below (it’s long, but filled with lots of great nuggets and references to my grandmother whom I always think of during Thanksgiving), and want to emphasize Dorie’s #cookiesandkindness campaign through which she’s encouraging people to bake cookies and share them.
The sharing is key, and it’s really central to Dorie’s general approach to the kitchen. I’ve written before about Dorie’s philosophy on baking, and here’s what she told me two years ago: “I love baking. I always return to it when I’m stressed out. It’s the process, the ingredients, getting dirty, everything under my nails. I love the magic of it… You cook for yourself and other people, but when you bake, you don’t bake for yourself, you bake to share. You bake for love and for people you love.”
Right now, it feels good to be in the kitchen, to show care for other people, and to also remember to take care of ourselves. We won’t have these cookies at my Thanksgiving table because we made a conscious decision to NOT go overboard this year and already have pies and fruit for dessert. But, no worries, I’ve got two cranberry sauces all packed up and ready to go. Those recipes coming just as soon as I can type them.
Below is my article from The Forward, followed by Dorie’s recipe for Kerrin’s multigrain chocolate chip cookies.
My late grandmother used to keep a package of store-bought cookies in the glove compartment of her car. Whenever she drove through a tollbooth or stopped to fill up her tank, she’d offer the attendant a cookie, or three. I have no doubt that she’d have been friends with four-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan who has been baking cookies for as long as she can remember and who is waging a kindness war with cookies as ammunition.
“I’ve just been caught up in the news and the state of things and thinking that the world is a pretty wobbly place right now,” Greenspan told me over the phone a few weeks before the election – a wobbly time indeed – and about a month before Thanksgiving – a holiday that should give families and communities a chance to cook together and share food and thoughts around the table. “I realized how happy I am when I’m baking, how happy I am when I’m sharing what I bake, and how happy the recipient is. So I thought we need cookies now more than ever. I had this crazy idea to start a sweet revolution to get people to bake and to share what they bake. I call it the cookies and kindness project.”
Here’s how it works: bake cookies, share them with someone or several someones, post to Instagram or twitter or wherever else you’d like, tag with #cookiesandkindness and #doriescookies, and make the world a little sweeter. And it gets even better – read down a few more paragraphs.
Armed with the over 160 recipes in Greenspan’s latest cookbook Dorie’s Cookies, you can’t help but join the revolution. This book stretches the concept of what a cookie can be – there are bar cookies, savory cookies, ones that accompany cocktails, and even one that was inspired by a cocktail – and Greenspan told me she enjoyed figuring out how to “cookie-fy” anything.
If you’ve used any of Greenspan’s other books, you know that you’ll feel like there’s a little Dorie fairy flitting around your kitchen, anticipating any questions you might have and answering them before you even think to ask. This writing style Greenspan shares with the late Julia Child with whom she frequently collaborated.
She joked, “When Julia said, ‘I want you to write my book [Baking with Julia] because you write like me,” I asked, ‘You mean, because I write long recipes?’ and she said, ‘No, I mean detailed, detailed.’” With the repetition of the word “detailed,” Greenspan’s voice rose and warbled.
She recounted this story last month at the 92nd Street Y to Charlotte Druckman, author Sizzle Stir Bake: Recipes for your Cast-Iron Skillet and Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen. In front of a room packed with adoring fans clutching copies of the Greenspan’s purple-cloaked book, the two women, sporting nearly matching pixie haircuts and silk scarves – Druckman’s twisted around her wrist paying homage to Greenspan’s signature foulard – perched on stools and discussed baking, differences between French and American cookies, and general cookbookery.
There was talk of “mother doughs” – akin to the five mother sauces that are the essential building blocks for classic French cooking – and Greenspan pointed to her book’s vanilla and chocolate “do-almost-anything” recipes that she likens to a blank canvas or a dressmaker’s muslin. A description of the meticulous testing that Greenspan does for all her cookies, trying different types of ingredients, ovens (gas, electric, convection), baking times, and any other variables that could impact the outcome. A dialogue on how cookies palates and recipes have changed due to access to better cocoa and chocolate, an appreciation of vanilla as a flavor rather than mere flavoring, and the use of salt – now measured in teaspoons rather than pinches – as a seasoning for sweets. And a tongue-in-cheek exegesis on what a cookie is and can be.
Prompted by a question from the audience, Greenspan turned to a cause that enables her sweet revolution to have tangible and measurable impact on the world. From the back of the room, a woman waved her hand and asked, “Can you talk more about cookies for kindness and your involvement with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer?”
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 she was married, before she 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.
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 holidays that just 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 next week, 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.
Kerrin’s Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies
Reprinted with permission from Dorie’s Cookies.
My friend Kerrin Rousset has a wonderful, quirky way with food, mixing ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to be culinary classmates and always sneaking a smidgen of healthfulness into every tasty thing she makes. Here she found a way to use whole wheat and buckwheat flours, and I found a way to use kasha.
An American, Kerrin lives in Switzerland, and this recipe originally called for rye grits, which she buys in a local market where shopkeepers happily grind it to measure. When I couldn’t find rye grits (sometimes called cracked rye), I hit on the idea of using buckwheat groats, aka kasha. Be sure to use Wolff’s granulated kasha (100 percent buckwheat), which is readily available. (Medium-grain buckwheat from Bob’s Red Mill or the bins in your natural food market can’t be used for cookies; it’s too large and hard.) Wolff’s bakes into the cookies just as nuts would (and you can substitute nuts if you’d like). You get toastiness, full-grain flavor and crunch. And hold on to the leftover kasha to use in the Double-Buckwheat Double-Chocolate Cookies or Fruit and Four-Grain Biscotti.
A word on color and spreadability: Depending on your buckwheat, your cookies might be golden or mocha colored — however, they’ll always be good. And depending on how cold your dough is, your cookies might spread and be like saucers, or they might bake to be like pucks. Again, both are delicious.
Makes 25 cookies
½ cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour
½ cup (68 grams) whole wheat flour
½ cup (60 grams) buckwheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
7 tablespoons (3½ ounces; 99 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
2⁄3 cup (134 grams) packed light brown sugar
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
¼ cup (45 grams) kasha, preferably Wolff’s medium granulation (see headnote), or toasted nuts, finely chopped
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Maldon or other flake sea salt, for sprinkling
Whisk together the three flours, the baking powder and baking soda. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large
bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the butter, both sugars and the salt on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times. Add the egg and beat for about 1 minute, then add the yolk and beat for 1 minute more. Turn the mixer off, add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse the mixer a few times to start blending them in. Working on low speed, mix only until most but not all of the dry ingredients are incorporated — you should still see streaks of flour. Add the kasha, and pulse a couple of times. Add the chocolate, pulse and then, if necessary, mix on low just until everything is blended. Or do this last bit of mixing by hand, with a sturdy flexible spatula. Scrape the dough out of the bowl, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. (You can refrigerate the dough longer; your cookies will not spread as much.)
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Remove the dough from the fridge. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out level portions of dough, or use a tablespoon to get rounded spoonfuls. Place the mounds of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each mound with flake salt, making sure, as Kerrin advises, not to concentrate it only on the very center of the cookie.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midway mark, or just until the edges of the cookies start to brown. The cookies will be underbaked, and that’s the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the cookies rest for about 2 minutes, then, working very carefully with a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool until they are just warm (delicious) or they reach room temperature. The cookies will firm as they cool.
Repeat with the remaining dough, making certain that you always use a cool baking sheet.
The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. If you’d like, you can freeze scooped-out balls of dough. Let them stand at room temperature while you preheat the oven; frozen dough may not spread as much. The baked cookies can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.