Why impromptu? Because I like to fly by the seat of my pants and make my life totally complicated! Just kidding, but seriously, doing what I did this afternoon is not always the best method for having an afternoon tea. But I had one of the best excuses, a visit from a family friend who deserved to have an afternoon tea in her honor.
On the Menu
Cucumber, Crab, and Olive Tea Sandwiches
Sweet Lemon Scones
Mock Clotted Cream
Irish Cream Tea
To discover my recipes, secrets, and certain methods of serving afternoon tea, come on into the full post, my darlings!
Make the Clotted Cream!
Unless you prefer forking over $7 for a 4 ounce jar of the stuff. Me, not so much! So, instead, my family makes our own clotted cream from a lovely little recipe book we purchased at a class my mom, sister, and I attended on The Art of Afternoon Tea. 'Twas a lovely way to spend two hours, let me tell you.
Mock Clotted Cream
1 3-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
- Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in whipping cream until smooth.
- Beat in sugar and vanilla.
- Refrigerate, covered for 3-4 hours (it's perfectly fine to eat within 2 hours)
These were actually the last step today, but that was only because Caitlin was starving for sandwiches. Ordinarily, you would make the scones after you've made the clotted cream, so I'll just stick them here in their proper place.
Oh, and be aware that the cooking time does vary a bit depending on altitude. In Colorado, it actually takes longer than the prescribed time, so just keep an eye on them and if they don't look done, put them in for a few minutes longer. They are supposed to be a very soft scone though, so don't expect something rock hard.
Tip 1: Regarding the lemon yogurt, I can only ever find Lemon Meringue Pie yogurt. That works just fine, but buy two since they're only 6 ounces, and use 2 ounces out of the 2nd one.
Tip 2: One of the most awesome things I discovered in making scones is that, if you don't have a scone cookie cutter the right size, use your biggest pumpkin cookie cutter! Just push in the stem of the pumpkin and it works like a charm!
Tip 3: About the oven temp, play around with it. 425 is too hot for the scones, so a 375 is probably best.
Sweet Lemon Scones
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp butter
2 egg yolks, beaten (save the egg white)
1 8-oz carton lemon yogur
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream)
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder.
- With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it becomes crumbly.
- In a small bowl, mix together the lemon yogurt, egg yolks, and lemon peel.
- Add to the flour mixture and stir gently.
- Add cream 1 tbsp at a time until the dough becomes soft and moistened.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 1 minute, until it holds together.
- Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. use a deep cookie cutter for desired shape.
- Place scones on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg whites. Bake for 10 minutes.
Time for the sandwiches!
I LOVE making tea sandwiches! Except this time I did a little alteration. Usually you use flat white bread for the sandwiches, or even Focaccia bread. This time, my mother had some lovely rosemary loaves she had bought from Costco. So I decided to wing it and use one of these instead! The rosemary was a lovely complement to the olives, so huzzah! I didn't even care that the loaves were a little thick, as you can see in the picture.
Tip 1: About those olives, let me fill you in on a little secret. If you're near a King Soopers or a City Market, they've got an olive bar with a mixture of olives already chopped. Pure delight!
Tip 2: Don't feel obligated to use fresh crab. I just buy canned and it tastes divine. And don't really worry about proportions. If you don't want to use all that crab or cream cheese, then use less. So long as you like the flavor before putting the filling in the sandwiches, then you've done it right.
Cucumber, Crab, and Olive Tea Sandwiches
1 8-oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped olives
1/4 lb. fresh or frozen crabmeat
1 tsp lemon juice
dash of salt
1 cucumber, peeled, grated, and patted dry with paper towels
- Beat Cream cheese until smooth
- Mix in the olives, crabmeat, lemon juice, salt, and grated cucumber
- Spread on bread slices.
- Voila! You're done!
The perfect pot of tea!
Do not be fooled! Tea bags are not as good as loose leaf tea, no matter what anyone says! It is entirely worth the effort and expense to buy all the necessary items to brew a pot of loose leaf tea.
What You'll Need
1 tea strainer (or tea ball)
1 tea pot
1 box (or bag) of loose leaf tea
1 tea measuring spoon
And my adorable tea timer, if you can find a set!
Tea really is an amazing experience. My first time brewing a pot of loose leaf tea, I was absolutely sure I was going to muck it up. But I didn't because, really, the only things you can do wrong are A) brew the tea too long and B) release the leaves into the water unhindered. Very few people like bitter tea or enjoy straining tea leaves through their teeth.
So, if you happen to like the idea of a teacup strainer, then you can buy one of those instead of one for the pot. That way your tea leaves can float around all happy in the pot and get strained out as you pour into the teacups.
The downside to this method is that you have literally no way to get your tea leaves out of the pot before the tea turns bitter.
My recommendation? Use a tea strainer that fits in the teapot. It's a deep, wire mesh contraption that hopefully has a handle to keep it from sinking into your pot. Mine does, as you can tell from the picture.
How to measure your tea leaves? An adjustable tea measuring spoon is perfect! It asks you how many cups you're brewing (fill your teapot beforehand and pour the water out into a measuring cup to tell how many cups your pot holds), and how strong you like your tea. This way you never use too much or too little!
About the tea timer, it came in a package of three: 1 for black tea, 1 for green tea, and 1 for herbal tea. And they are ADORABLE!
Just remember, if you're not sure about the brewing time, green tea generally takes 3 minutes and black tea takes 5. It seems like a lot of time for black tea, I know, but the 5 minutes gives it a full body flavor without being bitter.
Serving the scones!
Out of everything I learned in my The Art of Afternoon Tea class, the one thing that keeps rattling around in my brain is the proper way to serve scones and clotted cream. There really is only one way. Your scones must be round. Cut them in half lengthwise, like you would for biscuits and gravy. Put the jam or, in this case, lime curd on first. Then slather on some of the clotted cream.
Why in this order? Usually you will be using jam that is quite messy. The clotted cream acts as a binding agent of sorts, solidly binding the jam to the scone. No runoff, no risk of dropping jam down your front in a most humiliating fashion. Plus, your first flavor will be that delightful clotted cream!
One last rule is to never, ever put your two halves together like a sandwich! Nope, once you have separated them, separate they must remain until they enter your tummy!
Reaping the Rewards!
Ordinarily, I would show you a place-setting, but like I said, this was a very impromptu afternoon tea. We didn't even have a sweet, which is always expected!
I hope you've enjoyed this walk through my Sunday afternoon as much as I've enjoyed sharing it with you! If you have any questions or if any of the recipes give you trouble, I'm more than happy to respond to any and all comments!
And remember, even if you have a harried, unplanned Afternoon Tea, the moment you sit down with friends and take that first sip, it will have made the hours of preparation all worthwhile.
My next post on the subject of Afternoon Tea will include: table decorations, tips and tricks to make your tea serving life easier, the best brands of loose leaf tea, and, of course, a few more recipes!