Despite cancer treatment, baking was therapy for this cookie contest finalist

Anna Núñez has had an incredibly difficult year. Earlier this year, the single mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent various treatments for breast cancer.

The day we emailed her in November to let her know her white chocolate cranberry cookies were a finalist for our Austin360 Holiday Cookie Contest, she was in Houston, recovering from a mastectomy.

She couldn’t make it to Austin to drop off her cookies, but she was able to bake a batch to send to the Statesman with two women from her office. Those same women had already donated sick days so that Núñez didn’t have to miss a paycheck and cooked her food while she was in treatment.

Anna Núñez made these white chocolate cranberry cookies. Mark Matson for American-Statesman

Anna Núñez made these white chocolate cranberry cookies. Mark Matson for American-Statesman

Núñez’s story was a powerful reminder of not only the joy in giving but the necessity of generosity. Baking and sharing holiday cookies might simply brighten someone’s day, but for someone else, it could provide an even greater lesson about the deep goodness in humanity.

“At church and school, I have always shared my baked love, and in an incredible twist of fate, I was blessed for the gifts of food in return during my cancer battle,” she wrote after finding out she was a finalist. “To me, food is love, which is why I love to bake and share my cookies, breads and cakes with everyone. Even throughout my chemotherapy, I have continued to bake cookies for daughter’s school monthly Teacher Appreciation Lunches because I wanted to do my part as a parent. I cannot volunteer or donate money, but I can show my love and gratitude through my baking.”

This cookie bakes at a low temperature, allowing it to spread more slowly as it bakes. Her trick to making soft cookies is moving them from the hot cookie sheet to a clean, cooled one, not a wire rack. The combination of white chocolate and cranberry is a delicate one that kept me coming back for seconds even though I usually don’t like white chocolate.

Anna’s White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground Saigon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 Tbsp. Mexican vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 bag (11 oz.) white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. By hand, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Combine dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, being very careful not to overmix. Carefully spoon dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

— From Anna Núñez


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