With fall's cooler temps, my palate shifts to warmer, cozier and more comforting foods. I realize that I can once again turn on my oven without causing myself or my two dogs to suffer from heat exhaustion. I vowed not to use the oven for the remainder of the summer when the air conditioning went kaput after I baked a vegetable lasagna one hot summer night. There's nothing like sweating over a savory plate of lasagna.
Now that I allow myself baking privileges, one of my fall favorites are my grandmother's tea cakes. Full of sugary, buttery goodness, these crispy cookies are perfectly paired with a warm mug of spiced tea, coffee or cocoa. I once thought all tea cakes were the same but have discovered that's not the case.
I've never gotten the recipe for my grandmother's tea cakes. In fact, I'm certain she doesn't go by a recipe—she certainly has never written one down. As I watch her make them, I am always amazed to see her grab a handful of ingredients, never using a measuring cup. I thought I watched her enough times that I could figure out how to make these tasty treats.
When I looked up tea cakes on the Web, I was surprised to discover that a number of countries have their own versions—Russia, Mexico and Spain were the most popular. Known as wedding cakes in Mexico, the cookies are small rounds rolled in powdered sugar.
Spain's version, called polvorones, are flavored with ground anise seeds. The name "polvorones" comes from the word polvo, or dust, because of their delicate and crumbly nature.
Then there are the Russian tea cakes. When I finally stumbled on this recipe I knew my detective work was done. Butter, sugar, flour and a pinch of salt—the list of ingredients sounded about right. Since these simple little gems are made without eggs, they seem to last awhile.
Whenever I visit my grandmother, I usually get sent home with a bag of her tea cakes. When I left Mississippi for Washington, D.C., seven years ago, I not only walked off the plane with two suitcases but a bag of her cookies. And in a city that was as unfamiliar to me as a politician at a truth-telling convention, these little cookies, along with a few of my favorite books, gave me a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Of course this recipe isn't quite like what you'd get down a dirt road outside of Lafayette Springs in Mrs. Frances's kitchen, but they'll do just fine.
Well d**n- where's the recipe? You made me kind of hungry here!
I was just talking with a friend about her grandma's teacakes...I, too, would love the recipe! Thanks for the column...