Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tea Dainties, aka Tea Don'ts

Baking. I love to do it, but WOW things do not always turn out! Especially with old recipes, because anything called for that is packaged might be quite different in formulation or quantity now. Also, things can just be off, as in humidity, oven temp, relative size of eggs… I can think of plenty of excuses why cookies burn, cakes fall, or custard doesn’t set up properly. And sometimes, simply not paying attention is the culprit, as in loosing count of cups of flour, or half-teaspoons-full of salt! In the case of these tea cookies, I’m not quite sure what wasn’t right. Each batch did get better, though none was perfect. I am tempted to re-name them Tea Don’ts!

For this recipe, I took the Way, Way Back Machine to WELL beyond my normal 60s and 70s comfort zone, to a cookbook from 1939 (albeit the 1947 printing!) with the delightful title of “The Prudence Penny Regional Cookbook”, published by The San Francisco Examiner. (Note: I am still on my local kick.) This cook book is fascinating because it is divided into regions of the US (New England, Southern, Pennsylvania Dutch, Creole, Mississippi Valley, Minnesota Scandinavian, Western, Cosmopolitain, and so on) and so it is actually a great resource for virtually any type of traditional recipe. Also, it features color photos of many elaborate, and now gross-seeming things like gelatin-and-meat-salad-creations, or vegetables carved into shapes of animals but NOT meant to be served to children. Delights like this, that nobody has time, nor inclination for these days, are what got me into this whole vintage cookery thing in the first place. And look at the photo of all the pretty cookies! Note: these are CLEARLY not in the photo!

About the cookies: I thought, from the name and ingredients, that these would be something on the order of lace cookies, but they were not nearly as crispy. Also, good heavens, when they said “greased cookie sheet”, I don’t think they meant a light spray of Pam – I think they mean, SMEAR THAT SUCKER with Crisco! Because Lordy, these cookies STUCK something fierce. That said, and after burning the first batch, they did get better and better as I made them smaller and baked them for only 10 minutes rather than 12. Still, they were not sweet enough and the texture was weird, so for my next batch of cookies, I’m moving on. To you out there I say: Do NOT try this at home!

Tea Dainties

2 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup sifted flour
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cup chopped walnuts

Beat eggs and brown sugar. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and add to egg mixture. Blend thoroughly. Add walnuts. Drop from teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet, ½ inch apart, and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 12 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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