In March of 2015 I traveled to New Orleans, LA with a group of students from Lafayette College. Our purpose was simple, yet important; help rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Believe it or not, Hurricane Katrina was 10 years go (yes you read that correctly) and there are still hundreds of homes that have not been rebuilt, some that even haven’t been touched since then.
The group I was with worked with the St. Bernard Project, and amazing organization formed after Hurricane Katrina. They have helped rebuild more homes than any other relief organization in the area. So I’m sure you’re wondering what all this has to do with Southern Tea Cakes, don’t worry, I’m getting there, I promise!
Our group’s task for the week was to work on painting the exterior of a house and rebuild a deck for a lovely family. They had been victim of contractor fraud, like so many others in New Orleans. A seemingly reputable contractor took their money, did the “work” and then vanished. The “work” they did was terrible, not up to code, and soon began to fall apart. Over the course of the week we got to know the family, especially the patriarch of the family Ronald, who was retired so he was home often. One day he decided to bake us some cookies, and I got to hear a little bit about how he started baking.
His mother had always been the baker of the family, and that is where he learned it from. After Katrina his mother was displaced to Texas, and unfortunately never made it back home before she passed away. He has taken over the role of “family baker” which is something I can definitely identify with, having done the same when my wonderful grandmother passed.
I was truly touched by his story, and honored that he not only made us his mother’s tea cakes recipe, but also gave me a copy so that I could share it with all of you. These wonderful cookies are like a cross between a sugar cookie and a butter cake (ergo the name). No surprise then that you start off by sifting your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) into a bowl.
This is where it gets a little interesting. Roll the dough to 1/2 inch thick. This is a lot thicker than any other cookie I had ever made, so I was hesitant, but it needs to be thick. I even had to double up the guides I have, called Perfection Strips, to make sure I got an even thickness throughout.
Finally cut out circles and place on parchment lined cookie sheets. As for the size of the circle I did a little experimenting with this. I found that a 2.5 to 3 inch cookie cutter was best. I even measured the height of my final cookies to make sure I was getting a good thickness.
Southern Tea Cakes
- 3 cups (12.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (10.8 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 (3.5 ounces) large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a bowl. Whisk to combine then set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment cream the softened butter along with the sugar and vanilla for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the eggs one at a time, then beat well for another 1-2 minutes until well combined.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add half the flour along with the milk. Mix for about 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl again before adding the remaining flour.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a disc. Flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin before rolling out to 1/2 inch thick.
Cut the dough into 2 1/2 to 3 inch circles and place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Gather and re-roll any remaining dough until all of it is used.
Bake the cookies at 350°F for 12-15 minutes until golden yellow. Allow to cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.