Two for tea (or 36)

Two for Tea (or 36)

Looking for an idea for a small gathering of friends and family? Afternoon tea is a civilized, elegant affair that has been appreciated for centuries in countries throughout the world. Afternoon tea can be an all out traditional affair, or as simple as a cup of tea and sandwich.

Despite the noble appeal of the formal afternoon tea, it need not be a stuffy or formal affair. While other meals are generally served in the kitchen or dining room, a traditional English tea is often offered on a small linen covered table in the living room, family room or library. When winter winds are blowing icily, there is nothing like a good cuppa in front of a roaring fireplace!

It is very easy to accommodate extra guests at tea, and it is a wonderful, relaxing way to enjoy the company of visiting friend and relatives.

If you are a true traditionalist, you may want to host a semi formal affair. Usually it goes like this: When tea is placed out on the table, the eldest usually pours and serves the tea. Finger sandwiches are served next, then traditional scones with jam and clotted cream. Finally, delicate pastries complete the tea.

I have included here some recipes and serving suggestions for your next tea, be it a formal gathering or just a casual event with the girls, these recipes are equally as good for either.

Sandwich Suggestions: Afternoon tea is meant to be a light snack between lunch and dinner. Hot heavy food should never be served. Opt for thinly sliced bread rounds or wedges, which are used as a base for a variety of spreads and open or closed sandwiches.

Cucumber sandwiches are very popular, as there is very little preparation involved. Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter to cut out bread slices. Spread with a teaspoon of flavored butter such as dill butter. (Soften a half a cup of butter and beat in two tablespoons fresh dill). Top with a cucumber slice and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill if desired. For another variety, spread bread rounds with shrimp, crab or lobster salad. Any sandwich ingredient can be used. Experiment with different flavors and come up with your own unique specialty. For a fancier take, try slicing quick bread, like banana bread or apricot bread, into HORIZONTaL slices. Spread whipped cream cheese between the layers. Chill until firm. When you slice these vertically, it looks as though they are ribbons.

Apricot Bread Ribbons

2 cups dried apricots

1-cup hot water

? stick butter

1 ? cups sugar

2 eggs lightly beaten

3 cups flour sifted

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup chopped pecans

Cream cheese, softened

Sliced Strawberries

Fresh Mint Springs

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut dried apricots into small dice. Cover with 1-cup hot water and let stand 10-15 minutes. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and the water/apricot mixture. In a small bowl, sift the flour and baking soda. Stir into the apricot mixture along with chopped pecans. Pour into two mini loaf pans, or one large. Bake for 60 minutes.

When the bread has cooled, trim off the side crusts and cut horizontally into thin slices. Spread 3 slices generously with cream cheese. Layer together and top with the last slice. Slice vertically into ?-inch sandwiches. Decorate with a slice of strawberries and a spring of mint, if desired.

Basic Scone Recipe

1 ? cups of flour

Pinch of salt

1-tablespoon sugar

2 ? teaspoons baking powder

5 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions: Preheat oven to 450F. Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a pastry blender. Beat eggs, setting aside one tablespoon beaten egg. Add heavy cream to eggs. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in egg and cream mixture. (Any stir ins such as blueberries, dried cranberries or raisins can be added at this time.) Turn onto a floured surface, gently knead 7 or 8 times and pat into a ? thick circle. Cut into small round with a cookie cutter or cut into wedges. Brush tops with reserved eggs and sprint with a pinch of sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Makes 8 scones.

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