Tea Cookies: an Old Family Recipe

I might have a pretty big sweet tooth, but that doesn’t mean I’m running to the kitchen to bake up dessert. I’d rather drizzle honey over a wedge of cheese, or doctor up a pint of ice cream I bought from the store.  I might be fearless when it comes to cooking up a side dish, but I run scared every time I even think about baking. I’m too afraid I’ll ruin everything to even try.

Blame it on the number of pastry chef friends I have (I’ll let them make the hard stuff), or the proximity of my home to a handful of amazing bakeries and dessert shops (Susina Bakery and Milk), but  I have had little to no interest in cooking desserts at home.

All that changed a few weeks ago, when I unexpectedly received a cookbook in the mail.

This was no glossy, food-porn cookbook. Rather, it was a culinary guidebook to my past: a plastic-covered, three ring binder with hundreds of recipes collected from the members of Gloucester, Massachusetts’ St. Paul Lutheran church. The cookbook (originally printed over 20 years ago), was a piece of culinary history from the home town of my paternal grandmother’s past.

Past the hand drawn cover of the church’s pulpit, I found the recipes of my grandmother, my Finnish cousins, and Greek and Finnish neighbors of the tiny fishing village I grew up in. This surprise cookbook was from my ever-caring step-mother: a woman that knows the power of food.

Inside, I found a recipe my Grandmother contributed (Greek Bread) and traditional family dishes like Nisu (a Finnish sweet bread), American “Chop Suey” and Haddock baked with mayonnaise. These were recipes I grew up eating whenever we visited.

One recipe that caught my eye was for a recipe my grandmother never got around to making for us.

Finnish Teaspoon cookies recipe was so straightforward, I decided to get over my fear and start baking. I’m so glad I did. The recipe suggest waiting a few days (THREE!) before eating, because flavor improves with time.

What kind of crazy people make a cookie recipe that you can’t eat until half a week goes by?

The Finns. My people.

After tasting the cookies from the moment they came out of the oven and a series of long, long days, would agree that the cookie requires some aging time. But boy, is hard to wait.

Allie Enos’ Finnish Teaspoon Cookie

from the St. Paul Lutheran Church Cookbook

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Strawberry Jam

Brown butter to a pale tan color in a small, heavy saucepan. Let cool. Pour cooled butter into a mixing bowl; Stir in sugar and vanilla. Combine flour and soda; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir until mixture is uniformly crumbly.

To shape cookie, press dough firmly into a teaspoon; level the top with the center of your hand. Tap side of spoon on cookie sheet to gently remove cookies or slide off spoon with the gentle push of a finger. Spread jam on flat side of half of all the formed cookies. Press second cookie to jellied cookies, to create a single, almond shaped “cookie sandwich.” Bake at 325 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Let cool. Put in airtight container and let sit for a few days before eating. Flavor improves with time. Makes several dozen cookies.

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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