Cousin Lena was my grandmother's cousin -- born in 1895, she was older than my Grandmother. And we always called her "Cousin" Lena. I'm not sure why. She was the first of our family to graduate from college -- Park College and then went on to get her masters from KU. She was a teacher. A science teacher and all things nature were beloved to her. She was also the "spinster" cousin -- for I think she was married to her work and her students were her children.
She was an interesting person and I remember visiting her when I was young. Tea was always served. Real china cups. You didn't misbehave for she would give you that "teacher look" and you knew that you needed all of your manners and did remember your please and thank yous. With tea there were always cookies. Always the same cookies. A raisin cookie that was not a drop cookie but a cut out cookie that reminded me a lot of the pie crust mother always made for us whenever she baked a pie -- with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Flavors of childhood are often elusive. And recipes don't always get handed down. Mother nor Grandmother never made these cookies so I'm sure that Cousin Lena never shared the recipe with them. It wasn't, at any rate, in the recipe boxes of either of them when I finally inherited them.
So the wonderful raisin cookie was lost forever! But the memories of that cookie and Cousin Lena lingered on!
It's hot on the prairie -- 100 plus -- that is hot. We still take afternoon tea -- but inside and we've been taking it in the living room -- it's on the east side of the house and by afternoon it is shady and cooler than the breakfast room. Besides, it is no fun to sit at the breakfast room table and watch the plants screaming "water, water" for besides the 100 plus we've had, there has been no rain to go with it.
It is hot and it is dry!
|Every house should have a comfortable chair and ottoman -- perfect for afternoon tea!|
But it is cool in the living room and "chair" is the perfect place for afternoon tea. We still stop at half past three for a refreshing reviving cup of tea. A book is always nearby and I love to read while I sip and munch!
|This wicker tray is the perfect "tea for one" size!|
A tea towel makes a great tray cloth -- blue and white to go with the china. My wee Burleigh Asiatic Pheasants teapot -- perfect for two cups. And who needs more in the afternoon? Spode Blue Italian cup and saucer and plate for the cookies.
|A view of the living room and dining room from my perch in the parlor!|
The ottoman makes a good "tea table" for my afternoon pick me up.
And why the story about Cousin Lena and her cookies? Because in thumbing through a cookbook, Damon Lee Fowler's New Southern Baking, I found a recipe that I thought might just be those cookies. They call for currants and not raisins but as a child I couldn't tell the difference I'm sure or perhaps Cousin Lena did use raisins!
|Cousin Lena's cookies -- the lost is found!|
I made them and that first taste transported me back to my childhood, Cousin Lena's parlor, and her pot of tea and plate of cookies. They were her cookies!
I don't care what Mr. Fowler called them -- to me, they will always be Cousin Lena's cookies -- Cousin Lena's Currant Shortbread Cookies.
I found them in a book on Southern cookery and Cousin Lena's mother was from the south. In fact, her family had a plantation before "the war". Her mother came west, met Cousin Lena's father . . . and stayed in the wilds of Kansas!
These are good cookies and great for afternoon tea. If you just can't find the currants, raisins, I suppose will work. But I think currants are really better suited for the cooky. They're easy and not overly sweet. Two things I really like in a cookie!
COUSIN LENA'S CURRANT SHORTBREAD COOKIES
1 cup sugar (plus more for dusting the top of the cookies)
3 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup currants
1 large egg, separated
1/2 c. whole milk
1 T. water
Whisk together 1 cup sugar, the flour, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into it with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the currants and toss until evenly mixed. In a separate bowl, light beat the egg yolk and add the milk, beating until it is evenly mixed.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg and milk. Mix together into a smooth, moderately stiff dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator a half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 325. Flour a work surface and roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies with a 2 inch round cutter or small decorative cutter (Cousin Lena always made hers round) and transfer them to ungreased baking sheet about an inch apart.
Lightly beat the egg white with the water until smooth. Brush the egg wash over the cookies, dust them with sugar and bake until lightly colored, about 16 to 20 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheets and then store them in an airtight tin.
It's Thursday and I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.