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Tea Time
Author: Candie Yoder

Afternoon Tea Teatime has always been a respite from the day and a time with family and friends. There are several different types of teas. These different teas were developed to either replace a meal or be a between meal snack. The most common and well-known tea is the Afternoon tea. That is said to have been invented by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. During that time it was fashionable to serve dinner at the late hour of 8:30. With such an extended time between lunch and dinner the duchess would experience a sinking feeling every afternoon. One afternoon she instructed her servants to serve her tea and little cakes in her boudoir. Soon her secret slipped out and other ladies joined her for afternoon tea. In just a few decades, it was fashionable and proper to take tea in afternoon. This custom eventually spread from the upper class to the general public.

An Afternoon Tea is served at approximately four o'clock and can consist of whatever the hostess chooses. Usual fare for an afternoon tea consists of finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and other dessert items such as small cakes and individual sized tarts. Afternoon teas were mostly a formal affair in the Victorian era but today is often informal. Informal teas can be enjoyed in the kitchen, garden, or anywhere that helps you to relax.

A High Tea is most often served in replacement of dinner. It often consisted of one or two hot dishes, several cold items such as sandwiches and desserts. It was not uncommon to serve all cold items in the summer. High Tea was often treated as a buffet so that busy family member could eat at their leisure.

A Full Tea is a complete four-course Afternoon Tea with sandwiches, scones, sweets and dessert.

A Royal Tea is a Full Tea with a glass of champagne, sherry or other liquor added.

A Cream Tea is an Afternoon tea that features scones, jam and clotted cream. Devonshire clotted cream is the original and cannot be purchased here in America but you can make a reasonable facsimile.

A Light Tea is lighter version of an Afternoon Tea with a scone and a sweet.

Today with the hectic schedules, that most of us keep a tea of any type is luxurious thing. It is no wonder that there has been a resurgence of tea drinking and tearooms are opening all around the country. Teas are even becoming the stylish way to entertain again after many years of being out of style. Preparing a tea is actually quite simple since most items can be made ahead. You can even freeze some items like sandwiches and cookies and pull them out when you are ready. I will walk you through the preparation of some simple tea food items in hopes of encouraging you to have a tea of your own.

Lets start with something that is served at almost every tea, Scones. Scones are light, tender biscuits that are served hot from the oven with jam, butter or clotted cream. Scones come in many variations these days but I will start you out with a basic scone recipe and then one variation. Some recipes call for all-purpose flour and some call for pastry flour. The pastry flour will give a more tender and crumbly scone. You may want to experiment with either all pastry flour or half pastry flour and half all-purpose to find your perfect scone.

Basic Scones
Yields: 12-14 Scones

3 cups King Arthur Pie & Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter-cinnamon flavor or ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt (low-fat is fine)
3/4 cup water

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients, then cut in the butter, using a pastry blender, fork, your fingers or a mixer. Stir in the sour cream or yogurt, then enough water to make the dough cohesive. Pat or roll the dough into two 3/4-inch-thick circles, or a 3/4-inch-thick square. Cut each circle into six pie-shaped wedges; or cut the square into 1 1/2- to 2-inch squares or circles. Place the scones on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets (the circles should be left intact, with the wedges separated just a bit), and bake them in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they're a light, golden brown.

Lemon Cream Scones
Yields: 12 Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Stir in apricots and 1 tablespoon lemon peel. Add whipping cream and stir just until dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together. Form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges.

Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon peel in small bowl. Brush scones with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool completely. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.) Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

You must always have different spreads for your scones and sandwiches. Butters are an important part of teas. Butters can be either sweet or savory and are used in sandwiches and on scones. Lemon Curd is also a must have for an Afternoon tea to accompany your scones. Clotted Cream is uncommon here in the US but the following recipe will provide you with scone spread heaven. These items can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for weeks.

Lemon and Parsley Butter

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
Finely grated rind and juice if 1 lemon
1 cup finely chopped parsley

Make a paste of all the ingredients in a blender. Rub through a fine-meshed sieve. Add one cup very finely chopped parsley. Put into wax or plastic containers and chill until needed in either the freezer or the refrigerator. Before using, allow the butter to come to room temperature.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

2 Sticks (quarter lb) butter
3 tb Butter (at room temperature)
3/4 c Margarine
1/3 c Honey
2 ts Cinnamon
1 ts Vanilla
1/2 c Soft-type Brown Sugar

Mix all ingredients until blended, using a mixer. Makes 3 half-pound units of spread which can be frozen if necessary.

Clotted Cream

2 cups pasteurized heavy cream

Preheat oven to warm. Pour cream into a shallow pan such as a 9-inch pie plate. Cover with foil, then place in the oven and leave untouched for at least 8 hours. You can leave it overnight. Carefully remove pan from oven and let cool. Take care not to shake the pan of move it while the cream is cooling. When the cream is cool use a slotted spoon or spatula to skim the thick cream from the surface of the left over liquid. The cream will have a yellow skin and a slightly lumpy clotted texture. You can smooth it by stirring it with a spoon. The clotted cream can be store in a covered container in the refrigerator for one week.

Lemon Curd

Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
2 lg or 3 small eggs
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar

Wash lemons, remove zest, and chop finely. Place the lemon juice, zest, butter and sugar in a metal bowl. Set bowl over pan of hot water. Stir until the butter has melted and sugar dissolves.

Beat the eggs in a separate basin and add slowly to the lemon mixture, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the curd thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Pour in to warm jars and cover. Lemon curd can be refrigerated for several weeks.

Sandwiches are an important part of an Afternoon and High Teas because they are a meal replacement. Sandwiches help to add substance to meal so you are not just filling up on sweets and scones. Of course tea sandwiches are small and dainty and are meant for ladies and would hardly satisfy a manly appetite. Tea sandwiches always have their crusts removed and are often cut into decorative shapes with cookie cutters. It is easier to cut the sandwiches after they have been chilled. To chill the sandwiches, first wrap them in wax paper and then a damp towel and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Cucumber Sandwiches

Thin sliced white bread
Whipped cream cheese or Lemon and Parsley Butter

Peel cucumbers and slice very thin. Sprinkle the slices with a little salt and lay on paper towels to drain. For each sandwich spread a little cream cheese for butter on two slices of bread. Layer the cucumber slices on one slice of bread (no thicker than 1/4 inch). Cut crust off sandwiches and then cut into squares, triangles or other fun shapes using cookie cutters.

Herbed Cream Cheese Sandwiches
Yield: 16 sandwiches

8 oz. Cream cheese, softened
cup lightly packed finely chopped fresh herb leaves (parsley, watercress, basil, chervil, chives or any combination)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dash hot pepper sauce
8 slices firm textured wheat bread with crusts removed

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, herbs, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Mix well Spread 2 tablespoons on each piece of bread. Sprinkle with paprika. Put the slices together to make 4 sandwiches. Cut off crusts then cut them diagonally into quarters.

These recipes are all you need to have your own Afternoon tea. Make these items up ahead of time and take a restful, renewing tea with your friends or loved ones. The one thing that I have left out is the most important thing, the actual tea. You can either pick food to compliment your favorite tea or tea to compliment your food items. Flavored teas are very versatile and go with any item but the classic teas are also perfect for any tea.

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61 Cudworth Lane
Sudbury, MA 01776

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