HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Personal experience with tea sandwiches?

I have saved the recipes I have found on here but have not experimented with them yet - I am hoping that you can advise me if you have or if you have others that you would suggest. The ones I am considering are... Cheddar and Chutney tea sandwiches, Cucumber, hummus and lemon tea sandwiches, Chicken and shallot jam on Pain au Levain. I would like to probably offer three little bites and then one sweet - like either a lemon curd bar or PB+J bars (which I just made this weekend and they were GREAT!). This is for a pre-theater party in the theater - so easy to take, and hopefully easy to make because there are 110 people!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. The cheddar/chutney would be great on apple/walnut bread, but the rest sounds super! Me, I'd do lemon curd bars, but that's because I'm a lemon freak, and they also sound a bit more delicate; a bit more in keeping with the tea theme.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mamachef

        yes - I agree with the lemon being more in theme - I was just thinking that since I know the deliverance of the PB+J quality and thinking that the show is dealing with a teacher teaching manners to students - I am just not sure of the age of the students - so the PB+J might fit! The apple walnut bread sounds like a great suggestion!

      2. What sorta Tea are you planning? Tea are sorta more or less High or low. Low is light and appetizer, the cucumber, egg salad lightly spread , in short very light eating. Please reference articles like :
        So hopefully you can then decide if you you wish to High or low it.

        1. Don't forget pimiento cheese, completely nontraditional but completely delicious. I like to chop toasted pecans into mine. I know I'll hear loud screams about it, but I do. And I like to serve them on good white bread (bakery-type) that you can squish down just a little.

          1. personal experience? yes and I'd rather not talk about it. too painful.

            ok one variety was similar to mamachef's - roasted red bell pepper and cream cheese. another watercress and mild aioli. no tea actually served just a case of champagne. (late afternoon limo ride to the airport for a group to see off a friend moving away for maybe forever)

            3 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              aw, that's sad.

              on the other hand, the food sounds good. ;-).

              1. re: alkapal

                it was actually sort of fun once we took Mozart's Requiem off the cd player.

                1. re: hill food

                  oh gosh, now that made me laugh out loud. really!

            2. ok I guess you mean finger sandwiches. Well you can either cut them into matching oblongs or triangles but you must have the crusts cut off.
              Don't forget butter thinly spread so the bread doesn't go soggy.

              typical british fillings are egg salad (mayonaise) or egg and mustard and cress (not sure you can get it in the US) but keep it thinly spread so it doesn't squish out, cream cheese with finely chopped celery, cucumber with salt and pepper, smoked salmon, tuna salad also thinly spread, fish pate, marmite, mashed sardines. Cheese and pickle would not be served as finger sandwiches neither would hummus but just saying and not that they wouldn't be nice.

              you could make shortbread fingers for the biscuits.

              1. Cheddar and chutney were the big hit at my tea party. The chicken and shallot jam sounds delicious.

                Lemon curd is always good -- for my tea party I made mini tartlet shells and filled them with chocolate mousse, but on another occasion I put the lemon curd into the shells, which was a nice presentation and easier than cutting lemon bars.

                Here's a link to my tea party report and the ensuing discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5947...

                1. my personal experience w tea sandwiches is that you need a bigger crew than usual to put them out-- dainty, fussy little things that perish quickly-- either soggifying or drying out quickly in adverse temperatures and conditions. need large workspace to set up assembly line, one worker cuts off crusts, one spreads, another garnishes, etc. offset spatulas are good for the spreads, piping bags or micro-mini portion scoops for the dollop style spreads. obviously don't try with butter knives and two teaspoons when doing quantity work. use good sturdy bakery bread that you've practiced on, so you know it doesn't disintegrate or crumb all over, ruining the presentation. have extra platters (well-chilled and pre-garnished) on hand.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    ah, yes! soupkitten knows the real deal!

                    dried out sandwiches are the seeming norm when i've had them.

                    for 110 people? gyaaah.....tooo much work!

                    why don't you re-think and do this: big hunks of cheese and bowls of spread with nice loaves of bread? some chutneys... some fruit. olives, cornichons.

                    pretty and practical.

                  2. When my mother and her friends had tea parties they would order, from a local bakery, large flat sheet breads like unrolled jelly rolls. The breads were in different pastel colors: pale pink, blue, green, yellow. The day before the party sheets of bread were spread with various fillings similar to those which smartie mentioned. The bread was then rolled up, wrapped with a damp linen towel, placed on platters and refrigerated till the next day. Some of the breads were rolled but some were cut into long strips and then spread with the filling, stacked in 3 layers and then wrapped in the damp linen towel. Day of party platters were prepared, doilies etc., sandwiches sliced in a dainty size and arranged on the platters and garnished. Altogether a lovely and tasty presentation although a considerable amount of work. As I recall the sandwiches were always savory, however home made gorgeous small sweet pasteries were also served.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: Gio

                      that is some mental vision, gio! boy, the ladies sure went to great lengths. i don't think i'd do that myself. too much time for too little reward. do you think people appreciated the effort? i don't think so today. <wearing cynical hat, singing the "logical song." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnR6yq...

                      1. re: alkapal

                        love the song - thanks - I am loving all these responses and getting to feel bogged down with what is in store for me next week - but your song added some levity!

                        1. re: smilingal

                          Alka mentions it being a lot of effort, but to me it sounds like a heck of a lot less effort than using individual slices. (and no I don't have my hands in my head)

                          1. re: smilingal

                            you know. . . i have this weird sinking feeling. you keep saying "i" and "me." you really should be saying "us" and "we all." please help put my overactive imagination at ease-- who's helping you with this?!?

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              Can you come to help?? I realized this yesterday as I was reading all these replies - and advised my husband that he will be greatly needed. Today I thought that after I call the bakery tomorrow to figure out when and if they can be helpful with the breads, I will seek out a friend also. I KNOW.... I am worried - especially because I would like to prepare it all ahead of time.

                              1. re: smilingal

                                One thing I have done in the past is get the bakery to slice the bread lenghtways - then you get nice big sheets of bread to spread your fillings on, and fewer crusts to cut off. If you have (or can borrow) an electric knife this will make your life MUCH easier (and cut down on squished bread, fillings squishing out etc too). Good luck!

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    why are you alone in this? why can't you call on helpers? get with it, girlfriend. be proactive!

                            2. re: Gio

                              pinwheels look gorgeous but too much work for 110 people.

                              1. re: smartie

                                Alka & smartie:
                                Those Ladies were all about Fancy "silver teas" for important occasions such as christenings, showers, engagements, etc. Mother and 5 of her friends would gather at the home of the person having the tea and everyone would pitch in. They were all accomplished home cooks and each had her own specialty. The preparation was as much fun as the party itself. But yes, you're both right. These days life is very different and a tea such as those are out of the question unless it's catered.

                                P.S.: The effort was definitely very well recieved by everyone. They were all very genteel...

                                1. re: Gio

                                  i wish people did appreciate those things. that era is gone, sadly.

                                  i like the idea of the colored breads!

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    when I were a young lass............ we also had these fancy sandwiches even for our birthdays, I adored pinwheels. I also used to make them for my own kids birthday parties.

                                  2. re: smartie

                                    I was thinking pinwheels too, so I'm bumping this thread. For an "open house" high school grad party. Wanting to use " tea sandwich" fillings, on soft lavash or flavored tortillas. Any thoughts?

                                  3. re: Gio

                                    I love the idea of large sheets of bread. It would make the whole affair so much simpler! Spread, stack, slice, repeat. Love it, Gio.

                                    1. re: bon oeuf

                                      Yeah, I think that's a neat idea, too. I wonder if there are any bakeries that do that these days?


                                  4. You've gotten a lot of good advice already. But I think the most important one is the amount of help needed to assemble them promptly. The sandwiches can get dry on top and/or soggy (sometimes both -- top bread dry, bottom soggy) and it just spoils the experience.

                                    I have done tea sandwiches but for much, much smaller parties and even then it was a lot to time them right.

                                    But with that warning, I suggest that you vary the breads -- white, wheat, perhaps a dark wheat, and a date or apple for a sweet sandwich. Also, consider using the bread and the cut shape to identify them -- it helps a lot with people being able to pick what they like. In other words, all of the wheat cut in rectangles are cheddar and chutney, while the white cut in triangles is the smoked salmon, etc.

                                    Think about your time, your guests, and the serving/eating area. I wouldn't think you have to limit yourself to traditional English combinations if others would work better. At one of my daughter's birthday parties, I made separate platters of tea sandwiches for the adults (traditional items) but for the girls I made some in varieties like plain turkey, ham and cheddar, PB&J, and strawberry cream cheese. They loved it and didn't care a whit that these were no "respectable" tea sandwiches! They were cute, cut in shapes, and served on a tiered tray.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: eamcd

                                      Oh yes... vary the types of breads... and use cookie cutters for the shapes.

                                    2. THANK YOU ALLLLLL so very much. Wow - some great ideas! To make this clear - I have no choice in this matter - this is a small spread to be set out and enjoyed prior to theater patrons going into the show. The "tea party sandwiches" are to "play" off the subject matter of the show which is about a teacher attempting to teach manners to her students. So I am thinking the three choices of sandwiches with an additional sweet ending is good. We have a local large commercial bakery in our area - thanks to your suggestions I will approach them to ask if they can prepare three different breads in a large sheet form - I am thinking this will assist in less trimming of the crusts. Someone (RUTH?) had suggested buttering both sides of the sandwich - do you think you would do that regardless of the fillings to seal the bread surface?

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: smilingal

                                        >>> Someone (RUTH?) had suggested buttering both sides of the sandwich - do you think you would do that regardless of the fillings to seal the bread surface?<<

                                        probably best....

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          BTW, I meant both the top and bottom slices, not both sides of each slice (which would be messy).

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            Sometimes I butter the edges and then roll it in something. For instance, when I eat Vidalia sandwiches I cut into quarters, butter or mayo the edges, and roll in chopped parsley. I would not try to do it for loads of people, though! :)

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Perhaps saying the Inside of the slices of the bread are buttered while the outsides of the bread is not will help undrstand the process.


                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                but then again since the play is about manners, it would be amusing to butter inside and out, NOT provide napkins (serviettes) and observe what people do with their messy fingers.

                                          2. If you live in a metropolitan area ask around to see if anybody Argentine is making "sandwiches de miga"---ham or cheese sandwiches on VERY thin bread that is big in area so you can either cut them into smaller pieces of sandwich or roll them up and toothpick them or (although not good for your theater venue) toast them. A big work saver if you are serving a group, and easy to handle if you are serving in a theater.

                                            1. No on the PB&J, because of the allergy potential.

                                              You can get packages of "party rye" in the cheese/deli sections of most supermarkets. The slices are firm, 1/4" thick, about 2" squares which can easily be cut in half if you want triangles or finger rectangles. If you are using moist fillings I recommend looking for small sizes (size 60 or higher number) spring-release scoops. These make melon-ball or smaller size scoops which instantly release onto the bread. http://www.nfsmi.org/documentLibraryF...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                Here's a little bit of off-the-wall idea..
                                                Google "Ribbon Sandwich Loaf" and you get a gazillion hits.
                                                My mom did this when she hosted her bridge club.
                                                You get a pullman loaf from the bakery and have then slice it horizontally into 4 slices (or do it yourself with an electric knife).
                                                Spread the layers with your choice of all the ideas you have... Mom always did pimento cheese, chicken salad and egg/olive salad. If in summer, when we had tomatoes in the garden, a layer of thin sliced tomatoes would replace one of the above. But, you can do whatever you like.
                                                "Frost" the loaf with cream cheese, thinned with a little water or mixed with some mayo, whatever to make it the consistency you can spread.

                                                It will hold well overnight or maybe even 2 nights. Day of, just slice and serve. You can cut it into finger size pieces or serve one whole slice per plate.

                                              2. not a finger sandwich by strict definition, spread a sheet of lavosh with whatever, just enough to roll into about sushi size and slice into 1 inch sections. may need to secure with toothpicks before slicing.

                                                1. I did a tea party with a friend from England. He made southern tomato sandwiches. White bread, butter on one side, mayo and the other and salt and pepper. They were the best. He also did smoked salmon. I don't think tea sandwiches should be too heavy. That's just a personal choice.

                                                  1. sounds interesting ,thanks for sharing .

                                                    1. too busy right this second to read all of these but am confident they'd be wonderful, anyone's suggestions on here are always spot on.

                                                      my suggies:

                                                      1. chix salad with dried cranberries and walnuts on little home made sourdough rounds
                                                      2. green and black sliced/chopped olives mixed with mayo and cream cheese on Deli Rye
                                                      3. red radishes sliced thin on buttered Brea Artisan bread with one cilantro leaf on top of radish slice just as an "umph" < "what was that" taste
                                                      4. standard egg salad with a thin slice of Black Forest Ham or capacola or mortadella on dark pumpernickle

                                                      ^^ never said I could spell^^ *)))

                                                      1. Tea party was a great hit. Thank you EVERYONE for your input and suggestions. I was very pleased with my results and have attached some pics. I hope they come out. I served the updated version of the old cucumber sandwich - Hummos, cucumber and lemon on white, sharp cheddar and mango chutney on pumpernickle, Chicken and shallot jam on 9 grain bread - and mini lemon tarts for a sweet ending. The only thing I would change is that I realized I was better off with the back-up platters for all the sandwhiches as opposed to the chicken sandwich platter which I had layer three tiers. I can be my worst critic! I enjoyed the compliments! HURRAY! It's over!!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: smilingal

                                                          Wow. Amazing. I was just reading all the comments for the first time and thinking, "how is she possibly going to pull this off?"

                                                          Sounds like you did it.


                                                          1. re: smilingal

                                                            Glad the lemon tarts finally came out for you!

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              Karykat and Ruth - thanks so much! It was a blast. I have done smaller parties (dinners, showers, and birthdays) but this was probably my first "coming out" for 100 people all of whom were strangers!

                                                          2. i know that you aspire to cater professionally. i note that my comments on business card and display were deleted. i hope that you got to read my post before it was pffft!

                                                            if you aspire to being a professional, i would (hopefully gently) offer you some unsolicited advice regarding presentation, in a true spirit of *constructive* criticism.

                                                            in my humble opinion, your sandwiches looked sloppy, with ingredients coming out the sides, crusts on simply cut pumpernickel bread (tough to eat, rather ugly), no green (or any) garnish to brighten the monotony of one bread color, and an overcrowded tray of lemon tarts. in short, these sandwiches looked home-made by a hurried person without much sense of visual style.

                                                            in my opinion, you should have trimmed the crusts. the square sandwiches looked amateurish; you needed a better shape. there was also torn bread on that tray. you needed lace paper doilies underneath the sandwiches and tarts, so people weren't just eating from the plastic tray. the white color helps set off what color there is in the sandwich.

                                                            and i'm curious, was there any way the people knew what were the components of each sandwich?

                                                            please, i hope you take this commentary as i mean it: to help you improve and succeed. my comments go to aesthetics, obviously. your flavor combinations sounded very nice (although i wasn't crazy about the hummos). i wish you many more catering jobs.

                                                            best wishes.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              NO - ALKAPAL - by all means thank you!! - in fact, while I stood behind the table describing the sandwiches when asked, especially at the beginning of the day when there were only a few people trickling in to the lobby of the theater, I even expressed to them that I would appreciate all feedback - good and especially the bad! I was in my chef's uniform (that is fun for me in and of itself!). I did notice the one edge of that sandwich that was ragged - my assistant had made up that tray and I hadn't closely look but it bothered me when I noticed it in the picture! I debated about the doilies - having purchased them during the week but for some reason decided against them thinking I'd rather have the contrast of the black tray - guess the use of the doilies would have been more professional. The crusts were all cut off except for the pumpernickel - and in fact, the order to the bakery for that bread had been submitted to have been cut on the thinnest slicer and wasn't. I am not meaning to wiggle out of your criticisms - I greatly appreciate them - that is how I can learn and grow - I think I must have read your note about advertising because I think that was what prompted me to make up fliers and create a new e-mail address so that I was able to place them on the table with the food. I know that I took pains to make sure the sandwiches were compact without having food outside of the bread but honestly if you didn't hear me yelling while I was cutting and making the cheddar sandwiches I am surprised. The cheddar was extremely difficult to work with. Also the chicken - because I had poached breasts and then tried to slice them very thinly, that too was difficult to have uniform pieces. This was not a paid job - I donated the time and goods - and loved every minute of it - despite the franticness!

                                                              OH - and surprisingly - the hummos was the most favorite of the sandwiches! I really liked that I thinly grated the lemon peel and put a few shards over each layer of hummos (which also had some lemon juice mixed in as well). It was a nice texture in your mouth that popped.

                                                              1. re: smilingal

                                                                smilingal, you truly live up to your screen name!

                                                                every job has its own peculiarities, and you learn different things from each one -- in every walk of life.

                                                                you are very gracious, and i'm so happy that you know that my criticism was done with good intent; it was done with some trepidation, though, i may add. your response proves that you are a trouper, indeed -- with class to take some constructive criticism. i can tell you that even here on chowhound, many many folks would not have responded as you did.

                                                                as to the hummos, it's great that your instinct for the flavor combination turned out fabulously. cheddar is hard to work with, as it gets crumblier as it ages.

                                                                i haven't done it yet, but am tempted to buy the little card holders to identify dishes on a buffet or brunch table. i've seen some neat ones, some just this weekend on the "french buffet" at the national gallery of art.

                                                                tell us how did your order go with the bread bakery? they did or didn't fulfill your order properly?

                                                                what would you change about your bread order the next time?
                                                                what would you change about your sandwich fillings next time (e.g., you mentioned the poached chicken was a problem)?
                                                                how did you keep them from drying out as you made so many?

                                                                like i said on another thread, i like to learn from everyone's cooking experiences. i know that i would not have the patience to do so many tea sandwiches.

                                                                again, best wishes for your catering career!

                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                  The pumpernickel cocktail bread was to have been sliced thin - when we picked it up at 6:30 in the morning it was already sliced - thicker than we tested with earlier in the week. Also - the 9 grain bread - delicious as it was, I wouldn't change unless I could get them to bake it into a rectangle loaf which would have given easier more uniform crusts to slice - the same with the white - and also perhaps if those could have been sliced to order on a thinner side rather than already sliced routinely.
                                                                  The fillings I was very happy with the flavor profiles but as I expressed - I had poached the chicken breasts two days prior and hand sliced them which did not produce uniform slices - since the chicken was held in place with the shallot jam it wasn't too much of an issue of them falling apart.
                                                                  I covered all the sandwiches (except thehummos - and those were the last to be prepared) with slightly damp paper towels and then loosely wrapped with saran.
                                                                  I will keep my eyes open for the little card holders - I have seen them in the past but never thought to buy them. Thanks for the suggestion!

                                                                  1. re: smilingal

                                                                    boy that alkapatsy sure knows how to "flame" and rip someone a new one...

                                                                    (you know I'm kidding)

                                                                    as long as it tasted good and wasn't a complete mess,, ehhh, you'll tighten up the presentation next time. personally I hate trying to decode ambivalent comments and so I continue to make some simple mistake.

                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                oh - and Alkapal - now that I just read your bio - my mouth is watering - I happen to have a couple of grapefruits in the fridge on their way out - going to squeeze some juice to mix into some vodka right now!

                                                              3. Terrific posting/party report. I am SO not a tea sandwich/finger sandwich person but yours sounded so fun that I'm going to try a few for lunch at home this week and weekend. Ruth Lafler's party report also gave me some terrific ideas. I grow my own sprout/microgreen varieties and I think this will be a great way to use them. Thank you both! :)

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                  wow- micro greens plentiful - I am jealous! and yes - I am not - or I guess I should say - WAS not at all a tea sandwich person - more the drink and hors dourves person - but the situation called for this - and so I did a lot of research and relying on the good kind foodies here for all their help and support!