In Jewish tradition, after someone dies, the mourning family has a stream of visitors for meals and prayers for a full week – it’s called sitting shiva. I didn’t fully comprehend the value of the tradition until six years ago when my husband lost his father. Although hosting guests every day can get old and you just want some quiet time to think, being surrounded by people helps you to see that you aren’t dealing with your loss alone and it gets you through a very difficult period. There’s always plenty of time to be alone and reflect when the week is over.
Guests at a shiva home are expected to arrive with food – which brings me to the bereavement cookies.
For a few years, there was a run of deaths of family and friends on my husband’s side of the family (why do deaths always seem to come in waves?). For each shiva, a family friend, Christie, would bake what became dubbed “bereavement cookies.” I was always touched by the fact that she took the time to bake them (providing an extra much-needed loving touch among the sea of store-bought platters) and how perfect a choice they were for the occasion. Bereavement cookies – simple sugar cookies – add a splash of sweetness to a sad time without the festive joy of, say, a colorful cupcake with a big happy swirl of frosting.
Christie’s bereavement cookies, however, are too good to only appear when someone dies. They happen to be the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had. These sugar cookies have just the right amount of butter, they’re rich but not oily, they’re sweet (but only slightly so), they have a nice crunch, and they are easy to roll out and cut with cookie cutters. I needed some sugar cookies to decorate an upcoming cupcake (you’ll see it soon), and I went straight to Christie for her bereavement cookie recipe.
If you choose to make these simple and sensational sugar cookies, while you eat them take a moment and remember someone you loved and the sweetness that they brought to your life.
Bereavement Cookie Recipe
When I asked Christie for her bereavement cookie recipe, she told me that it came with a cookie cutter she had purchased from Ann Clark, Ltd. Ann Clark has the sugar cookie recipe and all kinds of adorable cookie cutters on their website. I am reprinting the recipe here in my own words.
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the egg.
- Mix in the vanilla, salt, and flour until well-combined.
- Cover and chill the dough for about four hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Roll out the cold dough on a lightly floured counter to about 1/4" thick (no need to break out your ruler) and cut with cookie cutters or the rim of a glass.
- Transfer cookies to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpats.
- Bake 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
- Cool and eat!
When I posted on Facebook about thinking that cupcakes were too celebratory for a mourner, several of you shared a different perspective. Lorien Leonard suggested that it would be a nice memory of the deceased to bring a cupcake flavor that they had loved. What a wonderful idea! Sarah Irene also brought up that, “Cupcakes help change the tone to celebrating the life of the one that has passed.” Thanks to these comments, I may reconsider my no bereavement cupcakes stance.