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Finger foods for tea...40 people

I've been deemed responsible for the buffet table at an afternoon tea. Its potluck for 35 or 40 people so I don't have to prepare everything but curious if anyone had great ideas on dished to share? Thanks!

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  1. For our tea (but for a lot fewer people: 8), we made a variety of sandwiches cut into triangles and rectangles like egg salad, watercress; apricot scones (which I think I've posted or mentioned in the past?), lemon squares, banana bread, fruit, salad, and a guest brought an onion tart.

    If you want to make some things, I suggest bars and breads which you can prepare and then cut into individual servings, while buying the more labor intensive type things such as individual quiches or tartlets. And a mix of both sweets and savories. And to make sure there are non meat options in case of vegetarians.

    3 Replies
    1. re: content

      A good starting point might be those frozen pastry puff "cups" that you can fill with any combination of things. I like to fill mine with chicken strips and pesto, but I'm not sure how that would work for a tea. Both sweet and savory fillings for the cups would work.

      1. re: danikm

        Fill cups with feta mixed with a little mascarapone; top w/ caramelized onions and bake.

      2. re: content

        I agree with the sandwiches -- people love finger food at parties, and fancy little sandwiches are perfect for a tea. However, I prefer slightly less traditional fillings -- I really love fig and gorgonzola on grainy or date nut bread, smoked salmon on black bread (traditional Irish, but not as a tea sandwich), tiny paninis which can easily be made with meat or all roasted veggies... and as content said, it's helpful if you make things that are big and you can cut up, so if you can find large sliced bread (perhaps if you go to an actual bakery they can slice the bread longways) you can save yourself some grief.

      3. My only thing with tea sandwiches -- and I am a big fan when served right -- is when they sit around for any amount of time the bread dries out. Sliced baguette holds up a bit more -- options are limitless here obviously but goat cheese, basil and grilled red pepper or Proscutto and good butter are two easy and tasty ones. Asparagus works well -- can be served room temp and easy to eat in the hand. Little potatoes topped with creme-fraiche and lumpfish caviar. Deviled eggs are delicious and, in my experience tend to go fast, but will dry out if left sitting around too long. Scones served with cream and cut up strawberries on the side. Mini-quiches (as suggested above) are tastey and not really that bad to make in terms of taking up time. Like the puff-pasty suggestion as well -- did some smore-variety with peanut butter, marshmallows and chocolate which were tasty.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bite bite

          you have to butter the bread - no matter what you are putting on it. that's the trick to it not drying out. and cover with damp paper towels until serving.

          i buy pepperidge farm extra thin sandwich bread in white and wheat (and sometimes find the loaves of baby pumpernickel slices) and cut off the crusts, butter, and then top with many different things.

          i LOVE tea sandwiches and have thrown many teas in my lifetime. my mom & i had a mother daughter one every year starting when i was 18 or so... they are so fun if done right - but i agree with pikawicca below. if it's really an afternoon tea you should only serve certain foods.

        2. Flaky biscuits (split into thirds) make a great canape base. Pizza sauce & mozzarella, etc. Enjoy!

          1. The traditional approach would be very small sandwiches (watercress, cucumber, smoked salmon, egg) with several sliced English-style cakes. Scones with clotted cream (or whipped cream) and jam would be nice. Keep in mind that the beverage is black tea, so strongly ethnic flavors might not work. Can't imagine eating gorgonzola/prosciutto bruschetta with tea, for example.

            1. Just a bunch of ideas off the top of my head:
              mini quiche (Nancy's brand at Costco is very good)
              date-nut bread sandwiches with cream cheese/mango chutney spread
              Strawberry bread with strawberry cream cheese
              Salmon mousse-type spread on endive leaves
              Cheese and meat board
              Fruit skewers
              Mushroom caps stuffed with Italian sausage, provolone cheese, parmesan and bread crumbs with a Dijon aioli dipping sauce
              Buffalo mozzerrella balls and currant tomatoes in a basil pesto viniagrette
              Angel bisquets with ham salad or egg salad
              Lemon squares
              Mint chip brownies

              1. All of these are great ideas but maybe try mini cream puffs - filled with smoked salmon or crab spread or with traditional cream puff filling.

                1. One thing you could buy thats different is Poppies Mini Cream Puffs. I got mine at Walmart, they also have them at Sam's. They were delicious, filled with whipped dairy cream. Sausage and cheese balls made with bisquick is easy. Danish type cookies made with flour/butter/pecans, formed into balls then rolled in powdered sugar while still hot are delicious. I have a recipe for delcious spinach dip which is served in a hollowed out round load of bread. Let me know if you are interested in any of these recipes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bellewinter

                    Hi there bellewinter- I would be interested in your spinach dip recipe if it is any different than the one on the Knorr's soup mix. I like that one, but I am just looking for something different. I am having a clothing party next week and would like something different. Thanks!~ Randi

                  2. A friend of mine is an expert at throwing wonderful teas. At her last one, she had home-baked scones with lemon curd and clotted cream, mini bagels with dilled cream cheese and smoked salmon, and these to-die-for chicken salad sandwiches crusted with sesame seeds out of Martha Stewart's Hors D'oeuvres cookbook, among other things. Here's a link to the recipe:


                    1. After reading some posts here, I feel a need to point out that there is a tremendous difference between food that's appropriate for afternoon tea, and food that's suitable for a cocktail party.

                      1. smoked salmon pinwheels

                        you need proper bakery bread - is that possible in the US? a tin loaf or sandwhich loaf which is about a foot long and square shaped . Cut off all crusts, then cut into the bread as thinly as possible so that you flatten it out into a sheet (you are cutting it round the square if that makes sense) about a quarter of an inch thick.

                        Once flat you can probably cut some of the sheet into parts, say 1 foot by 8 inches. Spread with butter and top with smoked salmon (or other fillings like cream cheese, egg salad (finely chopped) tuna salad etc. Roll up like a swiss roll, then slice into wheels. Looks pretty.

                        1. I like the idea someone else had of the Phyllo Cups, which can be purchased in the freezer section of most grocery stores. They are bite sized and won't get as soggy as bread, particularly if you fill them with dry items such as smoked salmon and capers with a squeeze of fresh lemon or ham and chutney. The nice thing about these ideas is you don't have to do any cooking, just assembling.

                          Tomatoes are still in season, how about cherry tomatoes hollowed out and filled with mint couscous? Tortellini kabobs would also be nice and appropriate for a tea. Marinate cheese or spinach tortellini in an Italian dressing overnight, then place on bamboo skewers with any of the following; cherry tomato, piece of cheese, fresh basil leaf, piece of bell pepper, marinated mushroom, pepperdew, etc.

                          With the fall season here how about mini caramel apples? You can cut apples into wedges, place each wedge on a bamboo skewer and dip it in carmel, nuts, etc. If you did some candied apples as well it would look very pretty. Another sweet idea would be to make shortbread cookies containing Earl Gray Tea or Chai. Lavender shortbread would also be lovely and appropriate.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: LisaRene

                            It just depends on how traditional a tea they are having. Because while the tomatoes and tortellini sound lovely for another party (I may use them because I really like the idea), they wouldn't be at all appropriate for a british high tea. The lavender shortbread would be nice if you are going the sweet route.

                            1. re: AMFM

                              It sounds more like a pot luck luncheon consisting of finger food then a proper tea. I am a big fan of a "tea time" and enjoy fresh made scones or muffins along with fresh fruit and green tea for lunch a few times a week.

                              Scones really need to be made right before being served and I feel are best hot out of the oven or at least eaten within a few hours. Muffins on the other hand would be great. How about a few different flavors baked in "mini" munffin pans? That way every guest could have a few instead of just one. Pumpkin spice - zucchini muffins - Almond poppyseed - Lemon - Apple cinnamon... How adorable would that look? Muffins go great with tea!

                              As a time saver, the dry ingredients could be mixed up the night before and in the morning you can add the wet ingredients and bake them.

                          2. Ribbon tea sandwiches.
                            Take an entire loaf of very good white bread, remove all crust. Horizontally slice loaf into at least three long slices. Butter each slice and spread with different fillings (ham salad, egg salad, watercress-cucumber, etc). Stack slices to reassemble loaf. Cover well and refrigerate. Just before the tea, slice loaf lengthwise (so you have two equal long pieces), then slice for thin ribbon sandwiches.

                            1. Scones are a must-have with tea. I've posted this delicious but easy recipe before, but here it is again. You could just cut them smaller---adjust cooking time.
                              Cream Scones
                              Makes 8

                              2 cups flour
                              1/4 cup sugar
                              1 TBSP. baking powder
                              1/2 tsp. salt
                              2/3 cup dried fruit (currants are classic)
                              1-1/4 cups heavy (or "whipping") cream---DO NOT SUBSTITUTE!
                              1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
                              Coarse sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw

                              Preheat oven to 425F. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, stirring well with a fork. Add dried fruit. Stir together the cream and vanilla extract; stir in to the dry ingredients, using the fork. Still using the fork, mix to a rough mass, then turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead BRIEFLY (about 1 min.) until it all holds together. Pat into a 7" circle. Brush the top with cream (there's probably enough left in the cup you used earlier---just scoop it out with your finger and run them over the top of the scone circle!), then sprinkle with the coase sugar. Cut into 8 wedges. Separate wedges and place on a parchment-coated baking sheet. Bake approx. 15-20 mins. until golden brown.
                              Be sure to offer butter, whipped cream and jam to go with them!

                              1. Besides some of the usual tea fare (scones, finger sandwiches), you can also do a couple of salads served in edible cups...I did a sort of Asian themed tea for a wedding shower a few years ago and baked wonton skins in mini-muffin pans then filled them with a chopped Chinese chicken salad...You could do a curried chicken in puff pastry cups, or a chopped Greek in phyllo cups...