Everybody has that one dish that they say their “Bubbe’s (or Zayde’s) is best.” As part of an ongoing series, we’ll be interviewing Sholom residents and families to discover what those dishes are. (If you have a dish – and a Bubbe or Zayde! – that should be featured in “Bubbe’s is Best,” email [email protected].)
Dr. Harold Berris wears more than one hat (including felt birthday cake hats!). Harold was a neurologist (for 32 years), is a father of three, and a grandpa to five. And at his home at Knollwood Place Apartments, he is known as the “Ginger Cookie Man”.
Harold began cooking and baking at a young age with his mother in the kitchen. He fondly remembers the delicious Passover dinners he helped her create. In the years since, countless rhubarb pies, plates of rugelach and steaming bowls of kreplach have graced his own family dinner table.
Harold, granddaughter, Carly, and his significant other, Joan Jaffee, were happy to sit down and share about Harold’s baking.
What’s one thing that Harold makes that nobody does better?
Carly: I absolutely love his Triple Ginger Cookies.
What makes them “the best”?
Carly: They have a really distinctive taste and look. Someone he knew took them to a bake sale at a different synagogue, and one of my mom’s friends recognized them as “Harold’s cookies.”
What are some family traditions you all share?
Carly: We have a birthday hat and a birthday plate. And every birthday you have to wear the birthday hat.
Does Harold wear the hat?
Joan: Oh, yes.
Harold, do you remember where you got the Triple Ginger Cookie recipe?
Harold: [From] a Jewish lady I met in Fort Myers a long time ago.
Has your grandpa ever taught you how to make the cookies?
Carly: I have made the cookies with him.
Harold, you share your Triple Ginger Cookies with a lot of the other tenants and staff at Sholom. How many cookies have you given away since you moved in?
Harold: I don’t know. A batch makes about fifty. I make it, sometimes, twice a week. I give them to people who want to try them. Others want to share them with someone they know. I don’t care as long as I’m doing what I’m doing.
Joan: Except if he doesn’t like someone, they don’t get cookies.
Harold: If they are not good people, I don’t like to give them extra cookies…especially, no.
Remind me not to get on the “bad list”—your cookies are fantastic! And you make about 100 cookies a week?
Harold: At least.
Carly: And he’s not eating them. He gives most of them away.
How do you make your cookies?
Harold: This morning I made some cookies. They are sitting in the fridge, now. And after they are nice and firm, I’ll bring them out and I use a good knife to cut them into pieces.
Will you be continuing Harold’s legacy of cooking for the next generation, Carly?
Carly: I hope to. I’m not as good of a cook as my grandpa, but I try.
Harold: It’s fun to do.
Can you describe Harold in a few words for us?
Carly: He’s always happy and positive. And he’s really caring.
Harold: That’s me.
Carly: [laughs] And so modest. But he really is so sweet, unless you’re on the “bad list”.
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
½ C. of dark brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
1 TBSP powdered ginger
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 C. Flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ C. crystalized ginger, finely diced
Mix butter and sugar in a bowl with pastry blender or mixer until fairly smooth. Add fresh and powdered ginger, vanilla, flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well and gather into a ball. Make 1” in diameter rolls about 10” long and wrap in plastic wrap. There should be 2 ½ rolls of “logs” wrapped in plastic. Refrigerate overnight or several hours until firm. Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Place oven rack in middle of oven. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper using sharp knife, slice logs thinly. One log at a time while the rest remains refrigerated. Place ½ inch apart above baking sheets. Place 1 cube of crystalized ginger in center of each cookie. Bake one sheet at a time until edge is slightly golden. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool and firm on a wire rack. Cookies freeze well in plastic freezer bags.