Old Fashioned Southern Tea Ring

tea ringAs a young girl growing up in the south, going to church socials and covered dish luncheons was nothing unusual.  Whether it was the monthly, after-Sunday-service lunch or a holiday social, the ladies of the church always put their best dishes forward.  As a foodie from birth, I have always associated food with people and events—Mrs. Arrant’s cheese straws, Aunt Karla’s fruit dressing, Mrs. Weishaupt’s tea rings. 

Oh, those tea rings…  I can’t imagine anyone not remembering those with special fondness.  Mrs. Weishaupt made them every holiday.  Yeasty, bready, cinnamon goodness, covered in vanilla icing…oh my!

Sadly, after Mrs. Weishaupt passed away, the tradition of holiday tea rings sort of faded away.  The young girls of my generation grew up and went away to college and life.  The older ladies kept making their specialties, and Mrs. Weishaupt’s tea ring was lost—sort of.

Years ago, my family published a hometown cookbook, featuring my late aunt’s recipes.  Just before the holidays, while looking through that book, I found a recipe for the long forgotten tea rind and set out to learn to make it.  As usual, I set out with the “I got this” attitude and quickly realized that “I didn’t have anything.”  The recipe had some of the ingredients, but not all.  The recipe had instructions, but they were vague and strangely worded.  So my quick plan to learn to make the tea ring quickly became a lesson in experimenting and asking for tea ring memories.

The first attempt was…interesting.  It wasn’t perfect.  In fact, it wasn’t even pretty.  However, it tasted…AMAZING!  At least, I had that part right.  The second attempt was even better.  By the third, fourth, and fifth attempt, I didn’t even need the “recipe.”  By the sixth attempt, with my confidence up, I decided to experiment some more.  Instead of just filling it with the standard cinnamon, sugar, and butter, I added some left over cranberry filling that I’d made for an almond cake.  The results…OMG!  That was probably the best dessert/breakfast/brunch/bread thing I’d ever put in my mouth.  For a diabetic, it was dangerously good.

Ingredients

1 c. scalded milk

¼ c. shortening

¼ c. sugar

1 tsp salt

4 c. all purpose flour + extra for kneading

1 egg, beaten

1 pkt quick rise yeast, dissolved into ½ c. warm water

½ c. margarine (1 stick softened)

½ c. sugar

4 TBSP ground cinnamon

Directions

Place shortening, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Pour hot milk over and allow shortening to melt.  Add beaten egg and yeast-water mixture.  Stir to combine.  Add flour. Stir vigorously to combine.  Cover and allow to rise for 2 hours.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Knead for 10 minutes.  Allow to rest/relax for 10 minutes.  Roll dough out into a rectangle of about ¼ – ½ inch thickness.  Spread margarine over the entire surface.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll up as you would a jelly roll.  Place on a pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Form into a circle/wreath and tuck ends together.  Using kitchen shears, snip 1” cuts around the entire ring.  Using your fingers, turn each dough cut under to expose the cinnamon layer.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.  Allow to cool before frosting.

Icing

2 c. powdered sugar

1 TBSP meringue powder

4-6 TBSP milk

Mix ingredients in a bowl.  Pour icing into a piping or Ziploc bag.  Snip the end and drizzle over the entire tea ring.

Serve warm.

Variations

Cranberry Filling:

1 bag cranberries, ½ c. sugar, zest of one orange, ¼ c orange juice, 2 TBSP cornstarch

Cook over medium heat until thick.  Use a whisk to stir and mash cranberries.  Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.  Spread over cinnamon-sugar-butter coating.  Roll up tea ring and bake as ususal.

Mixed Berry Filling:

1 bag frozen mixed berries, ½ c. sugar, 2 TBSP cornstarch

Cook over medium heat until thick.  Use a whisk to stir and mash berries.  Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.  Spread over cinnamon-sugar-butter coating.  Roll up tea ring and bake as ususal.

Guava Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz cream cheese, ¼ c. powdered sugar, 6 oz. guava paste

Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Spread over dough.  Heat guava paste in the microwave until smooth.  Do not melt.  Drop guava paste by the spoonful over cream cheese layer.  Spread melted guava paste.  Roll up tea ring and bake as usual.

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