The Parent Trap: Gam's Tea Cookies

Every Christmas my family throws a party, sort of a welcome home for me, my brother, and our friends. And one of the things my, my brother, and our friends look forward to (besides the good company) are the bazillion cookies my mom whips up. While I feel like most of these cookies will eventually work their way into the blog in some shape or form (oh just wait until I unleash the wonder that is my mom's English toffee), the first post goes to my grandmother's delicate little tea cookies.

I don't think my grandma cooked much, but every Christmas we would get a little tin in the mail filled to the brim with cookies. When I was younger I was more partial to her sugar cookies, cut out into Santas, angels, and Christmas trees and decorated with multicolored sugar crystals and those little edible metal balls. The tea cookies, tucked underneath, generally went to my parents, but now that I'm older (wiser?), I've come to appreciate their wafer-thin layers stacked between powdery sugar. Sweet without being overbearing, they are delicious enough to eat 5 at a time, and perfect to nibble on with a cup of tea (shockingly, I skew more towards the former).

The cookies are exceptionally easy to make, being essentially sugar cookies covered in powdered sugar. When my mom and grandma make them, they chill the batter overnight. Although this is more because of the convenience of prepping batter before you bake, it also produces a more uniform and smoother cookie. To cut them out, use a glass, not a cookie cutter. The wider lip of the glass will give the cookie a rounder edge, rather than the sharper and more distinct edge you'd get from using a cookie cutter. It's a small detail, but makes a difference (at least, to me). Also, if you brush it with beaten egg, it will give the surface of the cookie a shinier finish. I like my cookies matte and so I usually leave the egg out (it also picks up more sugar that way).

A note about butter: butter is very, very important to good cookies. It must be soft, but not liquidy (tried to make cookies one time with completely melted butter. No good. Repeat: nooo gooood). The best thing to do is take the butter out of the fridge either the day before or in the morning and just let it sit on the countertop, covered (it won't go bad, promise). If you forget and your butter is icy solid from sitting in a freezer, stick it into the microwave for 5-7 seconds 2-3 times (check between each time). The butter should feel soft, but if you see any yellow liquid, remove it from the microwave immediately. Drain the liquid and mash the butter (it will still likely be pretty hard).

2 1/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons vanilla
finely chopped nuts (optional, almonds work well)

Sift together flour, salt, and sugar
Mix in butter until smooth
Beat the egg and add vanilla, and nuts, if using
Pour in liquid ingredients, blend well
Form into a ball and chill overnight, wrapped in plastic
Heat oven to 400 degrees
Roll out 1/3 dough to 1/8 inch thick
Cut into small disks using a glass
Place on ungreased baking sheets
Brush with egg (optional)
Bake for 5-7 minutes
While still hot, roll both sides in confectioners' sugar

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