The flavor of sweet tea is the flavor of the south -- with the wafting aroma of mint and the tang of lemon, with that tooth-achingly sweet depth. I love to transform those flavors into many forms, from bourbon punches to sorbet to these cookies. They are redolent with those iconic flavors. The texture of these cookies is really that of a classic Southern tea cake, but I just couldn’t bring myself to call them Sweet Tea Tea Cakes. I can imagine nibbling these with a glass of sweet tea punch in my best flowery dress on a country veranda, surrounded by azaleas and magnolias, though I’ll admit it has been awhile since I’ve done anything like that. These cookies also share that amazing Southern trait of adaptability. These fit in anywhere. Serve these cookies on your best silver tray lined with a linen doily or pack them in a brown bag for a tailgate. Perfect for a ladies' luncheon or a backyard barbecue. Just like that string of your grandmother’s pearls. —TheRunawaySpoon
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: TheRunawaySpoon is a food writer who is happiest in the kitchen.
WHAT: A cakey cookie with a tea-infused, Southern twang.
HOW: This is a standard issue batter, plus smart additions and a little tea-brewing along the way.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This recipe takes everything we love about a good old fashioned glass of sweet tea -- the herbal notes, the mint, and of course, the heavy-handed sweetness -- and bakes it into cookie form. Your 3 p.m. sugar cravings will never be the same. —The Editors
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Heat the milk in the microwave for 45 seconds. Drop in the tea bag and leave to steep until completely cool. Remove the tea bag. The milk will turn a pale beige, not dark like regular tea.
Cream the butter, sugar, and mint together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the tea milk and beat until combined, then add the lemon zest and beat. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt slowly until everything is combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. (I use a 2 Tablespoon cookie scoop.) Bake the cookies until puffed up and golden around the edges, about 10 – 12 minutes. Leave to cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then carefully remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. When one baking sheet has cooled, use the last of the dough to make more cookies.
Cool completely and glaze.
For the Glaze:
Put the tea bag and mint leaves in a measuring cup and pour ¾ cup of boiling water over. Leave to steep for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bag and leave to cool completely.
Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and add about 5 Tablespoons of the tea, a bit at a time, whisking until you have a glaze the consistency of heavy cream. Place some foil (or the parchment from the baking sheets) under the cooling racks to catch drips and spoon the glaze over the cookies. I have another trick though – I prefer to dip the top of the cookies in the glaze, swirl them around a bit, very gently, lift them out and let the excess drip off, then return to the cooling rack. I find this gives you a nice even coat of glaze. Leave the cookies until the glaze sets. The cookies can be kept in an airtight container for one day.