Did I mention they’re perfect with ice cream?
Woman eating cookie
Credit: Getty / Westend61 - Mareen Fischinger

My favorite summer baking is the baking I can do with minimal fuss, and without having to plan too far ahead. Which often makes cookies complicated, because most cookie recipes require softened butter, which needs at least a couple hours advanced notice if your butter is refrigerated, and more if it is frozen. Some of my favorite desserts in summer are enhanced by a cookie on the side: From a fluffy fool to an elegant parfait, that little extra crunch of a cookie on the side just takes it to the next level. And I have just the recipe: a brilliant little summer tea cookie.

Why these summer tea cookies are the best

These little tea cookies are just the thing to have around in the summer. They turn a bowl of fruit into a dessert and are ideal next to a bowl of ice cream, sorbet, or mousse. They are a perfect companion to tea or coffee, either iced or hot, or even lemonade. Because they are not too sweet, they are eminently snackable, and most importantly, because they are oil-based instead of butter-based, you can make the batter in literally minutes. No mixer or hand mixer needed, just a bowl and a spoon or spatula (perfect for making at a vacation house where you're not sure what's in the cabinets).

How to make summer tea cookies

There are lots of variations depending on your preference. You can make them plain, for a delicate vanilla cookie with a subtle citrus undertone, or you can add a mix-in. My favorites are poppyseeds and sesame seeds, which provide little pops of crunch and subtle flavor. If you prefer them a bit sweeter or for some sparkle, you can sprinkle the tops with some coarse raw sugar before baking. And you can adjust the size to your preference. Make them extra small (the size of a quarter) for cookies you can snack on by the handful, or slightly larger, and fill them like little sandwiches with melted chocolate, Nutella, or jam. 

Tea Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup orange juice

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla paste

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

¼ cup mix-in (poppyseeds, sesame seeds, ground nuts, cacao nibs, finely grated chocolate, or multi-colored nonpareils) (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  

2. Beat the eggs until foamy, then add sugar, oil, juice, salt, and vanilla.  Add the mix-ins of your choice if using, and the flour and mix until well blended.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoons 1" apart on ungreased sheet pans lined with parchment or silicone or use a pastry bag or a zip top bag with the corner cut off to pipe dollops on the pans.

4. Bake 15-18 minutes, until just golden around edges, but still pale in the center, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let sit on the pan on a rack for 2 minutes to set up. Remove immediately from sheet to rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

By Stacey Ballis and Stacey Ballis