I can just imagine myself sitting down at the head of the table and pouring out the tea," said Anne, shutting her eyes ecstatically. "And asking Diana if she takes sugar! I know she doesn't but of course I'll ask her just as if I didn't know. ~Anne of Green Gables~
Several years ago I was part of the "Women's Christmas Tea" committee at my church. I was put in charge of - surprise - the food. I had a certain amount of money we could spend and knew there were 80 ladies coming to a Victorian themed tea.
I set off looking for recipes that fit well into that era and came up with the most traditional tea recipes. Tea day came and everything went very well except that my scones weren't working. A girl from the church went to a local bakery and between what I made (the ones that turned out all right) and what she was able to purchase, we had enough.
After setting up the buffet-service table I waited there to help others serve themselves if need be and then ran off to refill things before they returned for (hopefully) seconds. After I got back I stayed rooted to my spot behind the table, saying an occasional hello to friends or answering questions about the fare. Suddenly I looked up and saw, with only slight terror, that the Pastor's mother-in-law was on her way to the buffet. Now, normally this wouldn't cause concern for anyone except for the fact that this woman was from England. Now I ask, what country knows more about afternoon tea?
There she was, toddling and tiny and very old and making her way directly towards me. I was quaking in my shiny black oxfords. She looked up at me and asked, in her lilting English accent "Did you make all this food?" as she made a sweeping gesture down the table. I said, "Well, all but____, and ____." (the few things that others had supplied). Then, she looked at me with the sweetest little-old-lady smile and I suspect at that moment that the axe is slowly falling, but instead she says, "I couldn't have hoped for a better English High Tea."
I breathed a thank you and went weak at the knees as the whole room swayed and she toddled back to her table. I don't think I have ever been paid a better compliment on anything I've made.
Even when the event showed up in the local gossip column I was still not as thrilled as I had been at that moment.
These are some of the cards I made to sit by the dishes we served:
Here are the recipes that I decided on for the tea:
Mini Quiche Lorraine
Makes 3 Dozen
3/4c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
2/3c. shortening or butter
1/4c. ice water
Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening or butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add water by tablespoon until dough clings together. Form into a ball.
Roll dough thinly and cut into 36 two-inch rounds. Fit into bottoms and partway up sides of muffin cups.
Combine egg and sour cream and mix until smooth.
Place a teaspoon of cheese in each pastry lined cup. Top with 2 or more teaspoons of the egg mixture.
Place in oven on center rack and bake 375 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling puffs and lightly browns.
Let cool and serve at room temperature.
Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling
Makes about 2 cups
2 whole chicken breasts (4 breasts) cooked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Place all in a food process and pulse until combined and smooth but not paste. The salad should still have some consistency to it.
Spread on your choice of breads (no crust) and cut into shapes.
Serve at once or cover tightly and serve within 1 hour to avoid bread becoming soggy.
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup raspberry preserves (no seeds)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 cup softened butter
Mix all well and chill.
Mound in a pretty dish and let sit at room temperature until soft enough to spread.
Makes 75 small scones
8 c. flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
4 sticks butter, softened, cut into tiny cubes
7 Tablespoons sugar
10 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 egg white, beaten
Preheat oven to 425F
Sift together flour,salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Drop butter cubes over the flour mixture. Blend gently with fingers until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle with sugar and add beaten eggs. Mix gently with hands until well combined. Add enough milk to make pie-dough consistency. Do not overwork. Pat out on a floured table to form a large 1 inch thick square. Cut into small triangles (bases about 2 inches) Bake for 18 minutes or until golden. For browner scones, coat top with beaten egg white.
Mock Devonshire Cream
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
Whip cream until soft peaks form-add sugar and fold in sour cream.
Make sure this is not the consistency of whipped cream, but instead a very thick molasses type consistency slightly whipped but less so than traditional whipped cream.
Makes about 4 cups
2 cups sugar
12 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup lemon juice
2 sticks butter
2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest
In medium saucepan, blend sugar and egg yolks. Add lemon juice gradually. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Stir in butter and lemon peel. Cool completely and serve in tart shells or with scones.