Please note: Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher food writer. The Orthodox Union makes no endorsements or representations regarding kashrut certification of various products/vendors referred to in her articles, blog or web site.
I had the sad experience of having to make a shiva call (a visit to someone who has recently lost a close relative in the week following their passing) to a close friend whose father had just passed away. I wanted to bring something to the home as a way of helping feed the out-of-town family and guests.
While putting together a fruit tray and a cheese platter, I had a flashback to a time when this friend’s family and mine were together celebrating a bar mitzvah. His father was snarfing down the cookies I’d made. I remember him saying that in his opinion, they were better than a store bought ones–because they were made with that extra ingredient, love.
I knew that when I brought the cookies and relayed the story to my friend, I’d give a gift that would be much more than a way to say: I’m so sorry for your loss. I’d be giving my friend a memory of a time when dad was hale and hearty and full of love for his family.
In my opinion, while bringing food is an important way of showing you care, I’ve also found that when you don’t know what to say, just sharing your favorite memory of their loved ones is the kind of gesture that means the most.
When I’m making a sweet tray to take to a shiva call I try to have three or four different types of cookies and a cake so that there will hopefully be something to tempt those whose appetites are understandably, nonexistent.
I prefer to make the cookies and cake myself, but if timing is an issue there is absolutely nothing wrong with picking up a cake or cookies from a bakery. It’s fundamentally the desire to be there to support your friends and family that counts.
Things can be confusing after returning from a funeral and sometimes no one specific is in charge of running the kitchen. You don’t have to hand the tray to the bereaved; they have enough to deal with. Just make sure it makes it to the kitchen or dining room. I suggest using a disposable tray so that the family doesn’t have to worry about washing or returning anything and attaching a card to the tray as a way of letting them know who gave the tray.
The following recipes are all appropriate to take to a shiva call and can be placed on a platter or left in a disposal pan (and frozen) until needed. The common ingredient is lemon. It’s a soothing flavor and one that most people don’t have an allergy to. You can always make the cookies with margarine to keep them pareve so that there won’t be any problem serving them with any meal. Just make sure you make a note of that on the card you attach to the tray.
CLASSIC LEMON BARS (dairy or pareve)
For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (only use fresh)
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9X13 pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flour and salt to the butter and mix until just mixed (do not over mix).
Place the dough onto a floured board and gather the dough into a ball. With floured hands break the dough into 4 pieces and then press it into the greased baking pan, making sure to have a 1/2-inch edge on each side. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Remove and cool on a rack.
While the crust is baking, in a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.
Remove and cool to room temperature. Cut into rectangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serves 10 to 12.
Modified from an Ina Garten recipe.
SOUR CREAM LEMON CAKE (dairy)
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set it aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter, lemon zest and sugar; beat mixture for 5 minutes until it’s light and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down side of bowl frequently. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating it with the sour cream (flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream). Make sure to scrape the sides of bowl to combine all the butter mixture.
Pour batter into the greased pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted near the center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes before trying to remove the cake from the pan.
While the cake is cooling, in a bowl combine the melted butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Turn cake out onto a serving platter then poke the cake with a tooth pick all over. Drizzle the glaze evenly over the top of the cake.
Submitted by Angie Baronta of Indianapolis, IN.
PECAN LEMON COOKIES (pareve)
2 cups ground pecans
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups sugar
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
In a bowl combine the ground pecans, eggs, lemon extract, sugar, flour, and salt. Shape the dough into 2 rolls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap rolls in waxed paper and chill for several hours.
Preheat oven to 325. Cut the rolls into slices about 1/8-inch thick and place them on greased cookie sheets. Bake for about 8 minutes.
For the icing, place the powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the grated lemon rind and lemon juice and mix to combine.
Brush lemon cookies with lemon icing while still hot. Makes about 4 to 5 dozen lemon cookies.
My files, source unknown.
SNOW-CAPPED LEMON COOKIES (dairy)
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
In a bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and cream cheese together until light; add sugar, lemon juice and zest, and beat until combined. Add flour and baking powder and until mixed. Chill the dough for 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and then place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes just until lightly golden. Remove immediately and cool slightly.
Place the powdered sugar in a paper lunch bag. Place the still-warm cookies, a few at a time, into the bag and shake gently to coat them with the powdered sugar. Place them on a cooling rack until room temperature. You may need to shake a little more powdered sugar over them to coat.
Makes 32 to 36 cookies, depending on the size of the cookies. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.
My files, source unknown.
LEMON PISTACHIO SHORTBREAD COOKIES (dairy or pareve)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (with the paddle attachment) combine the butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. With the mixer on low gradually mix in the flour mixture until just combined and it holds together when squeezed (it will be slightly crumbly). Stir in the pistachios by hand.
Gather the dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into rounds or whatever shapes you prefer with a cookie cutter and place the cookies 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Combine the scraps, reroll and cut until all the dough is used.
Preheat the oven to 350. Refrigerate the cut cookies for about 30 minutes.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
In a bowl combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Place the cookies on the cooling rack over wax paper and then drizzle the icing over the top (you can also dip the top of the cookies into the glaze if you prefer that way of frosting the cookie). Let the frosting set for 15 to 20 minutes.
Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen depending on the size of the cookie.
One of my favorite easy-to-make recipes, modified from The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry/Suzanne Schlosberg.
Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher food writer. She graduated from Indiana University and the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris. She lectures on various food-related topics across the U.S. and Canada and writes weekly columns for the Chicago Jewish News, kosher.com and OU Life. She is the author of the Perfectly Pareve Cookbook (Feldheim) and is a contributing writer for several publications. You can visit Eileen’s blog by clicking Cuisine by Eileen.