Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why Serve Afternoon Tea?

There has been a resurgence of interest in the art of serving afternoon tea. The reasons for this renewed interest are multitudinous. The first that springs to mind is that afternoon tea allows people to slow down the hectic pace of modern life. In an age of fast cars, fast computers, and fast food, it is indeed an pleasure of inestimable proportions to savour a fragrant, lovingly-brewed cup of tea accompanied by elegantly presented savouries and sweets. By its very nature, this tradition of civility must be enjoyed by those who are not in a rush. Secondly, tea time engenders an atmosphere of congeniality. It is nearly impossible to be in a room with several others of your friends and acquaintances enjoying a sumptuous repast of scones, clotted cream and jam and not be friendly. What could be more delightful than spending an afternoon in the company of kith and kin over an exquisite "spot of splosh"? It fairly dares you to be in a bad mood! Finally, hosting afternoon tea for your beloved family and valued neighbors is an act of hospitality that will be cherished in the hearts of your guests for years to come. My ten-year old niece Natasha talks about her first experience of tea-taking hosted by her Aunt Rose as though it were a visit to an enchanted world of butter tarts and decorated sugar cubes. How special it was for me to leave such a magical and positive impression upon the mind of this young girl! Organizing an afternoon tea is an art that improves with experience, but its popularity both with those who host and those who are invited makes it worth the effort it takes to orchestrate this memorable occasion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rolling Out The Tea Trolley

I'm rolling out the Tea Trolley, laden with savoury sanwiches, scrumptious scones, tarts a-plenty, chocolate dipped strawberries, and of course, pots of various and sundry aromatic teas. Tea Time! What could be more inviting than sharing a laugh, or perhaps even a few tears (when the occassion calls for it), with our nearest and dearest over a steaming cup of Rosie-Lee. Please know you are cordially invited to join me in this venture as we explore together recipes and ideas to enhance our magnificent obsession with afternoon tea. What fun we are going to have!

In my humble opinion, afternoon tea is not complete without serving a delicious scone accompanied by raspberry jam and sweet thickened cream. So let me share with you my very favorite recipe for these delectable morsels, best served slightly warmed.

Rose's Favorite Tea Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 level teaspoons baking POWDER
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold butter cut into eight pieces
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla
1 egg (room temperature)
1 cup whole milk OR half and half cream OR buttermilk

Optional Add-Ins: Add ONE of the following three options

1/2 cup currants (previously soaked in boiled water and drained)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (previously soaked in orange juice or boiked water and drained)

1/4 cups chopped apricots and 1/4 cup chopped pecans


1. Set your oven at 375 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve 2 tblsps

3. Using a pastry cutter, cut the very cold butter into the larger amount of flour mixture. Combine only until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.

4. Add the reserved flour mixture to one of the optional ingredients, mixing until it is well-coated. Add this to the larger flour mixture along with the 1/4 cup of granualted white sugar. Set aside.

5. In a 2-cup measuring cup slightly beat the room temperature egg. Add the vanilla, and then the milk ( or cream or buttermilk) to make one cup of liquid.

6. Using a fork, combine 1/3 of the liquid mixture with the flour mixture, Mix until incorporated and then do the same iwth the second third, and finally the third, mixing gingerly until the ingredients are just combine.

7. Turn the mixture onto a floured surface, and knead gently three or four times, patting it into a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick round.

8. Using a small, floured biscuit cutter, cut into rounds and place in an ungreased non-coated 9 X 9 baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the scones are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool or serve warm.

There you have it!  Bake and enjoy!

These scones will look like baking soda biscuits, and will need to be seperated when served. You may choose to bake them seperately on a cookie sheet, but if you do so, they will not rise very high.

I do so hope you will try this recipe. Scones, a staple of traditional afternoon tea, are truly a treat anytime! Let me know how yours turn out!