OLD-FASHIONED TEA CAKES (approximately 5 dozen)
“To Southerners of a certain age, tea cakes are as madeleines were to Proust. A single bite can magically usher in the faces and events of a time gone by. Though seemingly little more than a simple sugar cookie, tea cakes are beguiling. Easily made, and with ingredients found in most kitchen cupboards, they deserve a place in your pantry. Also, befitting their relationship to memory, they seem to improve in flavor the day after they are made.” Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (homemade preferred)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
granulated sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 400*.
2. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix together in a large mixing bowl the softened butter and sugar. When well blended, add the eggs one at a time, then slowly add the buttermilk and lemon zest.
3. Sift together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir in the salt. Add the flour mixture by cupfuls to the liquid ingredients, mixing well before each addition. If using an electric mixer, you will probably need to mix in the last of the flour by hand because the dough will and should be quite stiff.
4. Divide the dough into four portions. Roll each portion on a lightly floured surface to a thickness on 1/8 inch. Use a biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out 2-1/2 inch rounds. Place ½ inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle the surface of each tea cake lightly with granulated sugar.
5. Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, just until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove immediately to a cooking rack to cool. When completely cooled, store in a tightly sealed tin for up to 1 week.
from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, The Gift of Southern Cooking
SERVE WITH: Mint julep pineapple boats