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Tea party: report and advice

I was inspired to invite several of my chowish "girlfriends" over for tea Sunday. My thought was that it would be fun to have a chance to use my nice china and have a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Of course, me being me, I turned it into a foodie extravaganza! By the time I was done I'd gone through almost three pounds of butter!

The menu:

Tea sandwiches:

Carrot-ginger on white (cut into fingers)
Salmon-dill spread and cucumber on rye (cut into circles)
Extra-sharp white cheddar and onion chutney on brown (cut into triangles)
rabbit hazelnut pate on slices of baguette

Sweet:

Cream scones with homemade meyer lemon curd (and various jams)
Cinnamon tea cake
Mince tartlets
Chocolate "mousse" in mini shortbread tart shells garnished with cocoa nibs
Oatmeal shortbread
Cherry-Almond bread with Amaretto glaze

A selection of teas, from white to black -- I turned this over to my sister and Windy (the tea mavens), who organized them from lightest to heaviest, brewed them appropriately and suggested food pairings!

I was really happy with the way all the sweets turned out. I used a chowhound tip of freezing the butter and using the microplane to grate it into the dough for the scones and it worked well (I've always been intimidated by recipes that call for cutting in the butter!). The oatmeal shortbread is an old standby. I had homemade mincement in the cupboard from last year and made tartlets with pie dough in a minimuffin tin. Same with the shortbread shells that I filled with faux chocolate mousse (actually just whipped cream and dark chocolate). The cinnamon tea cake was rich and cinnamony and the cherry-almond bread was nice and almondy.

I was less happy with the sandwiches, though. I'd had carrot-ginger at tea at the Empress in Victoria, BC and they were delicious, but this recipe was lacking something (perhaps some lemon juice to sharpen the flavors a little). The salmon turned out different than I expected and I didn't actually try it myself, so someone else will have to comment. My favorite was the cheddar-onion chutney (using onion chutney my sister made).

Does anyone have any great finger/tea sandwich recipes? Any other tips for great recipes for a tea party?

I didn't take any pictures, but Melanie did, so hopefully she'll post them.

Recipe links:

Cherry Almond bread:
http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

Cinnamon teacake:
http://buttersugarflour.com/2007/11/0...

Cream scones:
http://www.joyofbaking.com/scones.html

Meyer lemon curd:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

Shortbread tart shells:
http://www.joyofbaking.com/Shortbread... (I used a filling of 1 cup heavy cream, whipped and folded with four ounces of melted medium dark chocolate)

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  1. When my daughter has a playdate after school...instead of a normal snack, I make a tea party. I picked up a flowery teaset at a flee market and I fill the teapot with lemonade (or any other juice I keep in concentrate form in the freezer). I put strawberries or banana slices on an "umbrella" and fill one of the little bowls with goldfish or whatever salty snacks I have on hand. Then I dive into my stash from a Japanese grocery store--they have the cutest packaging and lovely little cookies in the shape of mushrooms, Koahla bears, ice cream cones, etc., plus they're a lot less sugary than their American
    counterparts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cettlinger

      My mother used the throw "tea" parties for me and my friends using my grandmother's tea set, but filling the pot with hot chocolate and replacing the sugar cubes with mini marshmallows. I always thought I was so special.

    2. The scones and lemon curd were perfect, as was the cinnamon teacake (but needs a heartier tea to stand up to the spice).

      I also brought a watermelon radish which we served on a rustic baguette with butter and sea salt. This was a good palate cleanser.

      We started with white and silver teas, then progressed to a jasmine, an oolong, and finally the blacks (Ceylon, breakfast, and Russian Caravan). I was reminded how good a plain Ceylon tea can be--I don't think Lipton is grown in Sri Lanka anymore, but a bright orange pekoe is both familiar and delicious. Sweets were paired with black teas, not that anyone enforced this.

      Fine way to spend a rainy day (and night) although I am glad I went to the gym first.

      1. Sounds fabulous! I am SO sorry I couldn't be there.

        1. That sounds delicious--your friends were lucky! One of my go-to finger sandwiches are Scallop Puffs Que Sara from Sarah Leah Chase's Open House cookbook. They turn out far better than you'd think from the recipe. I bake the bread in a cylindrical bread pan that is shaped like a flower (have hearts, too) so I get floral shaped finger sandwiches but the recipe just calls for good white bread. I use the molds for finger sandwiches, quick breads, molds, etc.

          Scallop Puffs Que Sara
          3 tbsp butter
          1 lb bay scallops
          2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
          3 gloves minced garlic
          3 tbsp fresh dill
          2 c gruyere, grated
          2 1/2 c mayonnaise

          Melt butter and saute scallops, lemon zest and garlic, about 2-3 mins. Add dill for another 30 secs. Cool to room temp. Add cheese, mayo,fresh ground pepper. Can be refrigerated, less than a week.

          Preheat broiler. Toast bread. Top w/ scallop mix, sprinkle w/ paprika. Broil 5" from top 2-3 mins. Serve hot.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            I know it may sound like a corny title, but TeaTime magazine (on many newsstands, just often hiding!) has a lot of really great tea recipes. They're very forward-thinking and the ingredients are top-notch. Sometimes you wouldn't know it by the whole "look" of the mag, but the recipes are fantastic. They also do a lot of tea-infused recipes. Really, a great mag if you ever see one on a newsstand!

            1. re: kbrandon7

              Wow, they have some very interesting-looking recipes! Thanks for the link.

              1. re: jlafler

                Yeah, that looks like a great magazine!

            2. re: chowser

              Another one I thought of that people have liked, and is pretty, is pear chicken pecan salad on endive leaves. Bite sized and light.

              1. Ruth was a lovely menu. I enjoy tea parties and a tea break on weekends myself; with friends all the better.

                Some tea sandwiches we've tried include the traditional cucumber and a turkey and cranberry relish. I make fresh bread every Wed so I usually provide the loaves which have included marble rye, honey wheat, croissants and popovers.

                Popover shells sliced vertically make for interesting tea sandwiches.

                Thanks for sharing!

                1. I should have gotten some of the lemon curd to take home!

                  As I said to Ruth in email, last night I gave my daughter Alice a chocolate mousse tart for dessert, and she was in heaven. She got that "oh wow, I had no idea there was anything this delicious in the world" expression on her face. Of course, she would not stop at one, but after the second one I lied and told her they were all gone. I asked her if she had a message for Auntie Ruthie, and she said "Yum!"

                  1. I am not usually a fan of tea parties but I did go to an enjoyable one at a local tea house a while ago and the sandwiches were really good. The main difference I think from other places I have been is that there was alot of flavor in the fillings, they were moist and held together with the bread well without being soggy (probably because the place is busy and they are freshly done) . The filling I recall were chicken with sun-dried tomato, turkey with cranberry chutney (had some fine bits of nut in there), curried egg salad (very light curry flavor and some fresh parsley in there to brighten it) The breads were not so much for flavor as dense but moist texture to hold up to the fillings.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: torty

                      Tea sandwich recipes all instruct you to thinly butter both pieces of bread, which seals the bread surface and keeps it from getting soggy. I was surprised at how well this worked, even with a very wet filling like the carrot-ginger.

                    2. I helped with a tea party for a niece and had so much fun making those little sandwiches, altho it was very time consuming for something so small

                      one of the things i found while google-imaging was these - they are so pretty and lovely - i think i made them non-vegan tho, using real cream cheese

                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/teenytin...

                      1. Your tea sound great. The biggest hit when I've had tea parties is a sandwich with blue cheese and pear. I don't have the recipe handy, but you take softened butter and mix with softened blue cheese. Add in a handful in FINELY chopped walnuts and some chopped parsley. Spread on wheat bread and top with a thin slice of apple or pear. It's delicious. I also usually do egg salad with arugala and that goes quickly too. Also, lamb sausage wrapped in puff pastry is another easy, savory option.

                        1. Lovely party, and hard to pick a favorite. I loved the cheddar and onion chutney sandwiches and also the rabbit pate' of the savories. You outdid yourself on the sweets, loved the cherry and almond bread and especially the oatmeal shortbread. Here are some photos of the spread, http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Thanks for the pictures!

                            The oatmeal shortbread is embarrassingly easy to make, but it is delicious, and you can delude yourself that the oatmeal counteracts the cholesterol in the butter!

                            Oatmeal Shortbread

                            1.5 cups all-purpose flour
                            2/3 cup QUICK COOKING oats (do not use regular oats or it will be tough)
                            1 cup salted butter (it needs the salt), at room temperature
                            2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

                            Lightly butter 9x13 pan and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers until thoroughly combined (may be slightly crumbly). Press into pan and bake about 45 minutes (should be starting to brown around the edges). Cool until it starts to firm, then cut into pieces while still warm.

                            The cherry almond bread just got better in the following days; it's always good to know when a recipe can be made several days in advance. The recipe for the cinnamon teacake said it was best the day it was made, but I thought it held up nicely for several days as well.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              To give credit where credit is due, I just stumbled upon the oatmeal shortbread recipe in an old Sunset cookbook -- either my mother or grandmother undoubtedly got it from there.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Just jotted it down, but will use some salt with unsalted butter, the only kind I buy.
                                By the way, descriptions of the technique of grating frozen butter that I have read have called for large holes of a box grater, not a microplane - perhaps because using the large enables you to grate fast so the butter remains colder than with a finer shredding.