Heirloom Recipes

A Recipe Lost in Wartime, Recovered From Memory

January 30, 2017

Growing up, it sometimes seemed as if my sisters and I were the only kids around without a grandma. Grandmothers were everywhere: visiting our friends at holiday time, taking children to movies, baking cookies for them. Not us.

In my only picture of our grandmother, my mother—a wide-eyed little girl, her hair plaited in two neat, thick little braids, wearing her best dress and a hand-crocheted collar—sits beside her. My grandmother's soft brown eyes have a faraway look in them.

My mother was about seven when she and Grampa lost her: They were living in a forced-labor camp under Nazi occupation when she became ill. She was loved and missed by all who knew her.

My grandmother (left) and my mother (right) in a photo as blurry as the memory itself.

I grew up eating these buttery, crumbly bars, never suspecting their origin. When I called my mother for the recipe, and to double-check its source (Betty Crocker? her best friend?), I was surprised and moved to learn that it was my grandmother's.

Shop the Story

But my mother never knew the measurements or amounts. She told me that she watched her mother make them time and again as a very little girl, perhaps helping mix the crumbly dough. The recipe was not written down; all was lost in wartime.

And it wasn't until after she and Grampa finally escaped and came to this country to start a new life, and my mother married and had a family, that she reconstructed the recipe from her childhood memory. This was how she was able to keep the memory of her mother alive and pass it down to us.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Was that your grandmother’s first name, or is it a nickname or pet name of some kind? It’s not common. “Beile” or Bayla or alternate spellings are well known, but I have not seen Sossie before. Do you know anything more about it? Thank you for this delightful and simple treat. A keeper. ”
— Kathy I.

I'm so happy to have just one "handed-down" recipe to share it here. I recently found out that it's not only me who continues to make these cherry bars: My sisters have also continued to bake this treat for their own children. Though spread across the globe, Beile's great-grandchildren continue to enjoy this sweet little cookie.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • Kathy in Wisconsin
    Kathy in Wisconsin
  • healthierkitchen
  • MaMaZu
  • L Baur
    L Baur

Written by: creamtea


Nancy January 4, 2021
Thank you for both the fine article and the recovered cookie recipe. Sour cherries are only in season a short time here (southern Ontario), so I sometimes make jam to have the flavor later on. Will think of you and these cookies when the season comes round.
Kathy I. January 3, 2021
Thank you for the recipe and the touching story. I was looking for a way to use a jar of Trader Joe’s cherry preserves that had been sitting in my pantry too long and I’m glad I found your page. They are delicious and do hold their shape well when cut. I used my stand mixer to cut in the butter and it was fine.

I am curious about the “Sossie” name. Was that your grandmother’s first name, or is it a nickname or pet name of some kind? It’s not common. “Beile” or Bayla or alternate spellings are well known, but I have not seen Sossie before. Do you know anything more about it?

Thank you for this delightful and simple treat. A keeper.
creamtea January 4, 2021
Hi Kathy:
Glad you tried and liked our recipe!
Beile, Bella, Bayla is a common name. Sossie is less so (might be the Polish spelling or a transliteration) but I have seen it. Pronounced Zoshe, or maybe Zoshya. Not sure if it is a nickname for Shoshana and even my mother is not sure. It would be a Yiddish version of her name in any case.
Kathy I. January 4, 2021
Thank you so much for this quick reply. Now I am wondering if someone I know in our congregation, whose given name is Susie (NOT Sue or Susan or any other variant), might have been named for a Sossie. I'll ask her. Be well. We are so enjoying the bars!
healthierkitchen February 13, 2017
thank you for sharing this!
MaMaZu February 6, 2017
My mother made a very similar recipe with whatever preserves were in hand. I remember all of my older brothers friends coming over whenever they heard a batch was in the oven.
L B. February 5, 2017
Thank you for sharing the recipe and the photo, both so very precious. I will love making these cookies and remembering your Grandmother. I can see by her gentle face and eyes why she was loved by all.
creamtea February 5, 2017
Thank you for your note, I hope you enjoy them!
creamtea February 5, 2017
(and thank you, too, for your kind thoughts)
Leslye D. February 5, 2017
Sour cherries and preserves can be found at Greek markets, as well as other Mediterranean ethnic food shops.
creamtea February 5, 2017
Yes! also Eastern European ethnic shops! (note that there is a product of sour cherries in syrup: its a different item, and too fluid)
ShaunaF February 5, 2017
Thank you for sharing the recipe, but especially sharing your story of your dear grandmother.
creamtea February 5, 2017
Smaug January 31, 2017
In my experience, sour cherry preserves are not easy to find; my only source in my immediate area is CVS pharmacy, of all places, which carries "Casa Giulia" brand. They have some other somewhat unusual types, too.

Bevi January 31, 2017
Divina Sour Cherry Preserves through Thrive Market.
creamtea January 31, 2017
That's funny that you can get them at CVS. We get them at Trader Joe's or Fairway but they are seasonal and now they are not available. When I do see them I grab a couple jars. My sister uses raspberry preserves.
Smaug January 31, 2017
Never heard of "Divina" brand, but i haven't really searched around. I do buy jam at TJ's- never saw sour cherry, though. Funny, sour cherries are actually in some ways easier to grow than other types (they don't need a pollinator for one thing), and have some real health advantages- as well as making the best pies- but you almost never see them for sale. I understand they're almost all grown in Wisconsin, maybe you can find them there.
Simone January 30, 2017
These look exactly like Hindbærsnitter! A traditional Danish treat, made with raspberry jam as oppose to cherry. Where was your Grandma from?
creamtea January 30, 2017
Curiously enough my niece mentioned that my sis who lives abroad makes them with raspberry. Though we hail from what was formerly called Galicia in Ukraine.
Bevi January 30, 2017
I have cherry preserves laced with cardamom that I made this past summer. I can't wait to make these! Thanks for a lovely recipe and a touching story.
creamtea January 30, 2017
Wow, Bevi!! Let me know how they come out.