Yesterday marked three years since my friend Kay died. I met her when I volunteered/she worked at the courthouse supporting criminalized women. She was so lovely and cheerful, and everyone who walked into our office was greeted with a smile and a sing-song “hello!” My favourite thing was that, no matter the weather, she always matched her shoes to her dress. She was an unwavering support to me through every part of my life when I knew her, and is the reason I went to grad school and studied social work.
Kay was sick for awhile but by the time her cancer was discovered, it had progressed too far to be treated and she went into palliative care. My apartment was very close to the hospital, and in the short time she was there, I went and visited her a few times a week. I’d stay for hours at a time, bringing muffins and soup for her family, and flowers and music for her (she was too weak to read). I grew up listening to the Three Musical Fables in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and she loved John Rutter so I brought her a copy and we listened to it too. I still listen to it at this time of year, and now it reminds me of Kay.
After she died, there was both a funeral and then a celebration of Kay’s life. She delighted in fancy, frilly, beautiful things, and so a hall was rented and decorated for a tea party. Anybody who wanted to could get up and talk about Kay, or share something she liked (like a song or a piece of writing). I learned as much about her at this celebration as I did over the course of our relationship; she did so many things I didn’t know about! She sang in choirs, took line-dancing classes, and had old and new friends all over the world. She lived her life with joy, light, and so much care for both herself and those around her.
I learned a lot from Kay, and although it doesn’t come naturally, she has inspired me to push myself to be joyous and celebrate everything. When she learned she was going to die, she let go of her anger very quickly. “I have very little time left, so I might as well enjoy it!” she told us. And she did. She had visitors around the clock, so many flowers and plants she could have started a green house, a birthday party with her entire family, and even a spa night in her hospital room with her close friends. And the more I learned about Kay, the more I realized that this celebration of life and relationships was not a reaction to the prospect of death, but a continuation of how she had lived for years. Kay died two days before her birthday, and a group of us who worked with her gather every year to celebrate it.
I made these cookies with Kay in mind. They require great care and concentration to make, and are so beautiful and dainty. Enjoy them with loved ones, bring them to a holiday cookie exchange (as I am!), or curl up with one and a cup of tea if you need a moment to just breathe and be still. They’ll help, I promise.
Source: the back of the package of the Wilton Linzer Cut-Outs that I used to make these!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup finely ground almonds (I ground mine in my small food processor)
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup raspberry jam
- Icing sugar (optional)
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, almonds and cinnamon and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix only until incorporated. Divide the dough into two pieces and press into small disks (about 1 inch thick). Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or until firm enough to roll.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the disks of dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut an equal number of rounds with a linzer cutter* with an insert and without one (ie. You need a solid cookie – no shape cut in the centre of it – for the bottom of the cookie sandwich. You then need a cookie with a shape cut in the centre of it to put on top).
- Carefully transfer cookies to parchment paper covered baking sheets (I had to use a knife to slide under them to unstick them from the counter; the lesson here is to flour your surface well enough.) and bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are light golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for a couple minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Once the cookies are completely cooled, flip the “bottom” cookies over and spread about a teaspoon of jam on the centre of each cookie. Dust the “top” cookies with icing sugar (I used a tea sieve) and gently sandwich cookies together.
*I don’t think you actually need a linzer press. You could use a regular cookie cutter and then a smaller cookie cutter to cut small shapes in half of them.