I don’t really have any evidence, I can’t really prove it but I think there is a slight chance I might be little Southern. Far too many Southern-style recipes pop up at family gatherings for me not to be wondering…what is this love of food from the sweet South all about? One such love is Southern Tea Cakes – thin, crisp old-fashioned little jewels – a perfect summer Bijouxs.
First, to clear any confusion, tea cakes from the South are cookies. Buttery, thin crisps that just get better with time. On Fridays, which was baking day at Grandma’s, cookies and pies were prepared for the weekend. Simple glass jars, the kind with screw top lids, housed the cookies, and a crisp simple cookie like southern tea cakes was always waiting; ready to be served to guests, or snatched as a quick little bite.
There is no written record of the recipe my Grandmother used to make her thin, buttery crisps, but many years later I discovered Lee Bailey’s tea cake recipe in Country Weekends, and think this recipe is as close as it can get. He describes tea cakes as “unassuming” and I agree; however when served with fruit, ice cream or a strong cup of coffee they really do come into their own. (Lee Bailey is Southern and I have all his cookbooks, curious)
The beauty of these little tea cake jewels is that they are made from pantry basics. You know you are working with a very old recipe when no additional flavorings, such as vanilla etc. are used – the flavors are driven by the simple core ingredients – so for these use the best sweet butter and freshest eggs possible. The dough is very easy to work with the cookies roll out easily. A set of fluted cookie cutters is a great Bijouxs Basic, the 2 1/2” size yielded 30 cookies. The flavor improves if you bake the cookies a few days ahead – even better.
Southern Tea Cakes are very versatile. Some ideas to start; serve along side fresh summer berries, delicious with a scoop of vanilla cream, layer gelato between two cookies to create your own handmade cookie sandwiches, or tea cakes are just plain great with a good cup of strong coffee or tea.
Sweet little southern jewels, Southern Tea Cakes – the simple essence of Bijouxs.
As always, enjoy. B