After weeks turn into months, the government finally told us that it was relatively safe to begin gathering again. Observing all the safety precautions and ensuring plenty of social distancing, we decided to finally proceed with a small senior party for a friend.
Although the original party was schedule for April, we held out hope to reschedule and recently hosted a memorable and fun senior party for her. The guest of honor was Abby Cole, the precious daughter of my pastor. She is not only friendly, kind, creative, and intelligent; but she is also an avid hot tea drinker - a very fine quality.
Of course, we decided to celebrate her graduation by hosting an Afternoon Tea. The party was so much fun. We served traditional foods that were easy and delicious. Each of the young ladies at the party got to take home a tea cup (or mug) as a keepsake. These mugs are darling and are made by a neighbor who donates 100% of the funds from her sales to charity. A double gift, indeed.
I wish Abby and many other young people heading to college the best of luck as they begin the next chapter in their lives. They are our future leaders, and I am happy we are finally able to start celebrating their accomplishments.
First, I needed to do a little research on “tea parties.” Afternoon Tea is traditionally held in the late afternoon and was a time for the royals and upper society to have a light snack and cup of tea. High Tea was developed more by the working class and consisted of hearty foods intended to hold workers over until a late dinner.
At the party, we were sure to offer a variety of teas such as herbal, decaf, and traditional Earl Grey tea. We also offered an odd tea called Lapsang Souchong. It is not for everyone but is fun to try. It is an old variety that has a smoky flavor and a high caffeine level. It is said to have been Winston Churchill’s favorite and was the tea Sherlock Holmes drank in many of the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
A favorite tea drink of the group is called a London Fog.
Steep one Earl Grey tea bag in 8 ounces of very hot or boiling water for about three to five minutes.
Remove teabag and stir in a teaspoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Top with a little milk or cream, frothed if it all possible.
Scones are a classic tea time accompaniment. They are like biscuits, but slightly sweeter and often include dried or fresh fruit. For a savory version, try adding aged cheddar and chives instead of the fruit.
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 tablespoons shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup cream
1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and tossed with about a tablespoon of flour
Put flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse one or two times to mix. Pulse in butter and shortening until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Pour dry mixture into a large bowl and toss in blueberries. Combine cream and egg and carefully fold into dry ingredients. Being careful not to overwork the dough or mash the blueberries.
Divide dough in half and press each half into a flat disk about an inch thick. Cut the circles into eight triangular shapes and chill for an hour or freeze overnight. Scones can be frozen at this point and stored in an airtight container until ready to bake.
When are ready to bake, preheat oven to 400° and place scones on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush scones with a beaten egg and top with a little course sugar, if desired.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon curd and clotted cream.
Faux Clotted Cream
I sometime find clotted cream in an occasional specialty grocery store, but this version is very similar if you cannot find the real thing.
1- 8.8 ounce container mascarpone cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Pinch of salt.
Whip cream until firm peaks form and then fold in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Millionaire Shortbread Bars
These are a family favorite we discovered on a trip to the United Kingdom years ago. They are decadent and rich, consisting of one layer of shortbread topped by caramel and chocolate.
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1 1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Course sea salt for sprinkling
To prepare the shortbread layer, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and stir well. Gradually add flour being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Dough will be crumbly.
Drop dough into a well-greased 9 x 13” baking pan lined with parchment paper. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Allow shortbread to cool while preparing caramel layer.
To prepare caramel layer, combine: sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter in a very large heavy duty sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, cook until temperature reaches the softball stage or about 240° on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour caramel over shortbread layer. Allow to cool for at least one hour before topping with chocolate.
To make chocolate layer, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 second intervals and stir frequently until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread chocolate over prepared caramel layer. Wait several minutes and then sprinkle with sea salt. Allow chocolate to harden.
When millionaire bars are completely cool and firm, remove from the pan using the parchment layer and cut into small squares.
Sausage rolls are an English staple. Mild port sausage in various forms is also popular in Scotland and Ireland. Here is a simple version. You can think of them as the English version of pigs in a blanket.
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
Roll uncooked sausage into links about the size of your index finger. Keep chilled while rolling out the puff pastry dough.
Roll out puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface and cut in to about 15 strips or pieces large enough to wrap around each sausage piece. Roll a piece of puff pastry around raw sausage and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375° oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until puff pastry is nicely browned and sausage is cooked through. Serve with Colman’s traditional English mustard.
Hot Ham and Cheese Party Sandwiches
A tea party would not be complete without little sandwiches. These are a favorite of my family. Occasionally, I will leave out the poppy seeds so I do not have to worry about seeds in my teeth during a party.
You can use any bread you would like, French bread or mini-croissants work but my favorite are the little rolls or biscuits you get in tins on the bread aisle or freezer section. These make a perfect bite-size sandwich.
Melt 1 1\2 sticks butter in a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons season salt, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Mix well.
Spread butter and seasoning mixture on the top of bread and sprinkle with chopped green onions. Add grated or slices of Swiss cheese and shaved ham. Wrap tightly in foil and bake 20 minutes at 350°. Serve warm.
Olive Oil Cake with Raspberry Sauce
Missy Wyatt stole the show at the party when she showed up with this unbelievabley moist and delicious cake. It is best made several days before. It is made with olive oil which remains liquid at room temperature. You can store the cake at room temperature, it gets better with age. Most likely it will not last very long. We served it with raspberry sauce and additional clotted cream.
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups of cake flour
1/3 cup almond flour or fine grind cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400°. Generously grease a 9 inch diameter spring form pan with oil or nonstick spray. Line bottom of the pan with a parchment paper and smooth to remove any air. Generously sprinkle the pan with enough sugar to coat it in an even layer. Tap out any excess.
In a large bowl, combine cake flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to remove any lumps.
In a small bowl mix: Grand Mariner (if using), lemon juice, and vanilla.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat eggs, lemon zest, and one cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl until mixture is very light and pale. With mixer running on high, gradually add in 1 1/4 cups olive oil in a steady stream until mixture is thoroughly incorporated and thick.
Reduce mixer to low and add dry ingredients and wet ingredients, alternating small amounts of each. Ensure batter is well combined.
Pour batter into cake pan and turn oven down to 350°. Bake 40 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cake to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes. After cake has cooled for a few minutes, poke holes over top of cake with a toothpick and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Allow oil to absorb. Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake and remove the spring form pan ring.
Allow cake to cool completely. You may wrap cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for several days before serving.
Fresh Raspberry Sauce
1 pint fresh raspberries or one package of frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (10 oz. jar) red raspberry fruit spread
2 tablespoons Chambord Liqueur (a raspberry liqueur, optional but worth it)
Bring raspberries, sugar, and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan and simmer for five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and purée in blender or use an immersion blender. Remove from heat and strain if you would like to remove seeds. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
Serve at room temperature with olive oil cake and clotted cream or whipped cream.