Sunday, October 10, 2021

How to (Virtual) Tea

Tea tray with goodies
by Robin

The Black Hat Tea must go on, even during Pandemic times! Created by my friend Rox and scheduled in mid-October, it’s our annual way of getting together with friends for tea, traditional noshes, and celebration before the holiday commitments start pulling us in separate directions. Previously hosted in tearooms owned by friends Cindy and Danny, with a gap during 2020, in 2021 Rox scheduled a Zoom tea. Of course, this meant guests were responsible for their own tea and goodies. I can do this, if I work methodically, I hope. Challenge accepted!

Mini Scones on Baking Sheet
Scones Baked Just Before Tea
I embraced the idea of making or otherwise acquiring all the traditional components of Afternoon Tea: tea, scones, and a variety of savories and sweets. At Cindy’s tearooms, a cup of soup served as a starter, so I incorporated that, though I failed to remember and serve it. My extensive menu took planning and a week of preparation, but now my freezer is stocked with assorted leftover goodies, so I’m prepared for impromptu visitors during the holidays. And also for when the munchies strike our family. Leftovers also served our friend who came by after the virtual party for a nosh before we ventured out to see the Beyond Van Gogh exhibition together.

So without further ado, the menu:

Three Tiered Tea Tray Filled with Goodies

To simplify my challenge, I relied on making items that freeze well in advance, as well as pre-made and on-hand resources. The tea came from our stash. The almond chicken salad, bread for sandwiches, and ginger cookies were from Gayles Bakery, picked up early on the day of the tea for freshness. The Cadbury chocolate fingers and chocolate covered cherries were impulse grocery items to provide small candy-like options. I froze our soup portions, the chocolate chocolate chip muffins, and the unbaked cranberry orange scones.

Top and Mid Levels of Tea Tray Treats
Top Level: Sweets, Mid Level: Scones
On the day before, I did as much as possible, which wasn’t that much. I thawed the frozen puff pastry for the sausage rolls. I made the pecan cranberry oatmeal mini cookies the night before, since they retain their desired crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside profile for only a day or two (though they still taste delicious and freeze well). I also thawed the soup and the chocolate chocolate chip muffins.

On tea day, my husband Bruce did an early run to Gayle’s for the sandwich stuff and ginger cookies. Meanwhile I loaded up our three tiered tea/cake stand with chocolate muffins, oatmeal mini cookies, Cadbury fingers, and chocolate covered cherries, to be further filled as other foods were completed.

Then I baked the scones and made their orange glaze. As the scones cooked and cooled, we divided our labor for the sausage rolls. Bruce, a proven super sausage maker, handled that part while I concentrated on the pastry. The recipe (to be posted in November) requires numerous rest-and-refrigerate stages. So, in between I made the tea sandwiches (recipes below). I glazed the cooled scones and added those and the sandwiches to our tea cake stand.

Mid and Lower Levels of Tea Tray Treats
Lower Level: Savories
As planned (or maybe not exactly), the sausage rolls were still baking as virtual teatime began. I’d planned to serve these fresh from the oven, suspecting that they’re not as good reheated. With that said, I froze lots of leftover rolls, and will see how they re-bake for brunches throughout the holiday season. Can’t be too terrible! So the sausage rolls were the last to make it to the tea cake stand, but if quantity consumed is the measurement, the most appreciated.

With all that said, a Virtual Tea need not be so complicated. Tea itself is the only necessary component, and of course a black hat if you’re so themed. Make a couple of your favorites, a savory and a sweet for example, and get the rest from local bakeries or online goodie shops. Or go all to-go. Some of our virtual guests even did a Japanese theme, all premade foods and Sencha tea, completely non (British) traditional. The main goal is sharing tea and snacks with a group of the friends we’ve missed so much during the Pandemic.

Turkey Cranberry Sandwich in the Making
Turkey and Cranberry Tea Sandwiches
makes 6 mini sandwiches

  • 2 slices fresh sandwich bread
  • soft butter
  • jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1-2 slices deli turkey
  • romaine leaf
  • toothpicks

Butter the bread. This is the basis for all tea sandwiches. Spread cranberry sauce over one slice. Top with folded turkey slice/s. Break up romaine into flat pieces and press gently into place over turkey. Cover with top slice of bread.

Gently press sandwich together while cutting off crusts. Cut into 6 pieces with two lengthwise cuts and one crosswise. Stabilize each sandwich with a toothpick immediately after cut. If bread loaf is small, make 4 sandwiches.

Turkey Cranberry Tea Sandwiches Completed
Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches
makes 6 mini sandwiches

  • 2 slices sandwich bread
  • soft butter
  • chicken salad
  • romaine lead

Butter both slices of bread. Top with even layer of chicken salad. Break up romaine into sandwich-size pieces and press down on top of salad. Top with second slice of buttered bread.

Gently press sandwich together while cutting off crusts. Cut into 6 pieces with two lengthwise cuts and one crosswise. Stabilize each sandwich with a toothpick while it’s being cut, or immediately afterwards.

NOTE: Because Gayles Bakery makes a delicious chicken almond tarragon salad, I skipped the diy. Whether you make your own or buy it, be sure the chicken chunks aren’t so big that they’ll make a lumpy sandwich that is difficult to cut into small pieces. I needed to cut the chicken smaller in the Gayle’s salad, so the tiny sandwiches weren’t overwhelmed into falling apart.

Egg Salad Sandwiches are traditional and are made like the chicken salad sandwiches.

Cucumber or Watercress Sandwiches are also traditional, and made like the salad sandwiches, using either thinly sliced cucumber or a thin layer of watercress between two buttered bread slices.

Roast Beef and Cheese Sandwiches are made like the turkey and cranberry sandwiches. Substitute deli roast beef for the turkey and a cheese slice for the cranberry sauce.

Cooling Rack of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
Who Likes Chocolate Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins?
Buttered Bread for Tea Sandwiches
Bread and Butter: The Basics for English Tea Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Sandwich in the Makes
Chicken and Other Salads Are Tea Time Traditions

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