Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring Tea

With all the rain that we have been enjoying this winter I for one am really looking forward to welcoming spring. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate the season than with an afternoon tea. High tea as it is some times referred to can be an amazing way to share time with friends in the mid afternoon. It is a great way to try new things and not be locked into a meal. An outdoor tea is lovely if you have a blooming garden. You can be formal and bring out all of your fun china or do a more casual buffet style where everyone gets cozy in the living room. Traditionally, well at least for me, there are three courses. The scones, the sandwich and the dessert or sweet bread. You can scale it down a bit and only do one. I like an assortment of tea both herbal and hearty. I like my tea with cream, but some prefer lemon and sugar. So I invite you to look at all of the beauty that surrounds us and celebrate and create a wonderful and cozy afternoon for those that you love.

Ginger Scones
By far my most requested scone. At the end of the recipe I’ll give you variations, but be creative! I also like to do a basket of assorted minis so that the guests can experience many flavors.

2 1/4 cups flour
1/3-cup sugar
1-tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into fine pieces and frozen*
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1-cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder and mix on low. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inches thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (or smaller if doing minis) cut out rounds. Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream. Bake in a pre heated 400-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes, until they are pale browned. Let cool on a rack

Note* If you take your butter and grate it with the large wholes of a cheese grater before freezing, you will get the butter more evenly distributed. This works really well with pies as well

Replace the ginger and the lemon zest with:
Cranberry orange scones- juice of one small orange, 2 teaspoons orange zest and one cup dried cranberries.
Rosemary garlic scones- 5 cloves garlic chopped fine and sauté until golden. Add with the flour with 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary.
Chocolate chip scones-add with the flour one and a half cups mini chocolate chips.

Welsh Teacakes
Cut together-
3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoon Baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-cup butter
3/4-cup sugar
Then add-
3 beaten eggs
Mix well. Place on parchment paper and lightly need and flatten to one inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter or glass top. Add a little milk if dry. Pan Fry at 375 on an electric skillet. (Or medium heat on a traditional griddle. When raised and golden brown on the bottom turn over. Serve with butter and jam.

Clotted Cream
Once when we were doing a tea I spoke to a chef friend and asked if he knew how to make the real thing. He said you add a splash of vinegar and let the cream sit out for three days. Even though I love to do everything from scratch and I was dying to impress my girlfriends, this process scared me. This is a very nice “mock version.” You can also serve with real whipped cream. Serve with tea breads or scones.

2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
2/3-cup sour cream
1-tablespoon powder sugar
Bring whipping cream and sour cream to room tempture. Whip cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream and sugar to bowl and beat until mixture is very thick.

Fruit Butter
2 sticks Butter
(At room temperature )
1/2 cup preserves
(Strawberry, raspberry or orange marmalade)
Beat until light and fluffy.

Tea Sandwiches
These are some of the favorites, but again I say be creative.
And you can be simple. Ham with Coleman’s mustard on raisin bread. Tuna on rye. Even Peanut butter and jelly especially if you are including the kids.

Curried Chicken Sandwiches
Makes 24 tea sandwiches
I use raisin bread with the crusts cut. When quartered on the diagonal it makes wonderful tea sandwiches.

3 pounds chicken breasts
Poached, cooled to room temperature, cut into 1/4-inch chunks*
2 granny smith apples, finely chopped
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
24 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of one lime
16 slices raisin bread

In a small bowl whisk together curry, ginger, limejuice and mayonnaise. In a large bowl mix the chicken, celery and apples. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the chicken mixture and coat evenly. Divide 8 ways and place on raisin bread and quarter each on the diagonal.

Weather it is for chicken salads or pasta or green salads, this is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add what ever you have and like. Garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. It will be the most tender, amazing chicken ever.

Cucumber tea sandwich
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped watercress
16 slices white bread
Salt to taste

In a small bowl combine cream cheese and watercress. Spread on one side of each side of bread. Lay cucumbers onto the cream cheese on 8 slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Top the remaining slice of bread cream cheese side down. Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then in half again.

Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
8 hard-boiled eggs
1/2-cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
20 slices white bread
Peel eggs and place into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and dill. Mix until well blended. On 10 slices of bread spread on 2 tablespoons of egg mixture and top with remaining sides of bread. Carefully cut off crusts and cut diagonally then cut in half again.

Lemon Rosemary Pound cake
I have the biggest rosemary bush at my house. I am constantly creating dishes to take advantage of this. I love lemon pound cake with poppy seeds and once when I was out I added rosemary. People are always requesting it.
1-cup butter
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
3 teaspoons lemon zest
4 eggs
1-cup sugar
1-teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-teaspoon baking powder
1/4-teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter, zest, and rosemary and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then add vanilla. On low speed add flour baking powder and salt until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely.

Strawberry Bread
4 cups flour
2-teaspoon baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
1/2-teaspoon salt
2-teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
3 eggs
3 cups fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
3/4-cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 loaf pans with Baker’s Joy. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Gently stir in the strawberries using a wooden spoon. Stir in one third of flour. Add 1/4-cup sour cream. Repeat twice mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter into the two loaf pans. Smooth the top. Bake for one hour until a toothpick inserted in to the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool for 1/2 hour in pan and then remove and complete cooling on racks.

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