The cookie jar caught my attention first whenever I entered Aunt Berniece’s kitchen. Whatever it contained would be good, but I said a little prayer before lifting the lid. “Please, God, make it be tea biscuits.”
I loved Aunt Berniece’s Cornish tea biscuits.
My mother’s family had four girls. My mother, Laura, and her sister, my Aunt Alice, were the tomboys. Their two older sisters, Aunt Anne and Aunt Berniece, were the homebodies. And it showed throughout life. I don’t know if professional nurse Aunt Alice ever cooked a full meal in her life. My mother was a fairly good cook, but she never had fine ingredients. Her meals were mediocre, but I liked them well enough. But Anne and Berniece! They served meals fit for a king—maybe, in part, because they had lots of experience cooking for hungry farmers.
The food I liked most from Aunt Berniece’s oven was her Cornish tea biscuits. They’re hard to describe to a person who’s never eaten one. And I’ll admit I didn’t pay much attention to its appearance when biting into a delicious biscuit, but as best I remember, each one looked like a pregnant sugar cookie. You’d guess that each one was about six or seven months along before drop time. But when I got hold of one, I never considered letting it go to full term. They aren’t quite as sweet as a sugar cookie, but I have a major sweet tooth and thought they tasted just fine. They contained a few raisins. Some of my friends didn’t like raisins, but I thought they tasted mighty good in those cookies. I told my friends, “If you don’t like the raisins, just spit them out. There aren’t but a few.”
I suppose by now that your mouth is watering for one of these biscuits; I know that mine is. So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you a Cornish tea biscuit recipe. It’s not Aunt Berniece’s recipe, but I swear to you, they taste as good as hers.
Judy Vivian, from Dodgeville, Wisconsin, provided this recipe, and you can’t get much more Cornish than Judy. She’s a nice lady who tends a beautiful garden outside Dodgeville, but most important, she makes delicious Cornish tea biscuits.
Judy Vivian’s Cornish Tea Biscuits (as given to her by her Grandma Rule)
1 quart flour
1 big cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder—rounded
2 tsp. nutmeg
1 heaping cup shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco)
1 cup raisins
1 cup milk
Sift all dry ingredients together and cut in shortening with a pastry blender. Beat eggs and milk together and add to dry ingredients. Mix and turn out on floured surface. Roll about one-half inch thick and cut with 3-inch cookie cutter. Sugar tops.
Bake for 20 minutes. Double batch makes three dozen and one. If using doughnut cutter, bake for 15 minutes.