Would it shock you if I told you my favorite type for party to throw is an afternoon tea? I'm guessing for those that know me there's some eye rolling going on. Of course I love throwing tea parties! Which is why each year my family throws a holiday tea.
Since it's a family event our guests are a mix of friends of all ages. We coordinate the date based on everyone's availability and then send written invitations. It may seem like overkill but it lends a nice touch and sets the tone. This year we used blank cards from Lilabet Paper.
The party is held at my parents' house, since it has more space than the apartment my sister and I share. We set the food up buffet style in the dining room and use the coffee table in the living room for the tea. Our style is eclectic with lots of color. We use Venetian linens in the dining room and living room and mix in colorful Indian cotton napkins. Tea cups and tea pots are a mix from the collections of my sister and I.
We serve loose leaf tea - this year we served Lover's Leap from Harrod's - and a traditional tea menu. I've linked some recipes below. Scroll down for the recipes for the rest.
Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam (see note below)
Mini Cornish Pasties (see recipe below)
Sugared Berries (see recipe below)
Whipped Cream (see recipe below)
A Note on Scones
There are two keys to amazing scones. The first is getting the butter right. I put a stick of butter in the freezer the night before I plan to make them, about 12 hours. 24 hours in the freezer is even better. When I'm ready to add the butter I cut off 2 tablespoons (since the recipe calls for 6) and return to the fridge. The rest I unwrap and cut lengthwise into thirds, then turn 90 degrees and cut again lengthwise into thirds so I have nine long sticks of butter. Keeping it stacked in a square I then cut the butter in the short direction so I end up with 1/4 -3/8 inch cubes. I use a food processor so when I add the butter it cuts down into bread crumb size pieces with a handful of pulses. The second is to bake the scones the same day you serve them.
If you're not familiar with the food processor method here are the basics. The recipe I use is linked above. Add all the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until in bread crumb size pieces. The best way to check is to run your hands through the flour mixture. Be careful not to slice your fingers on the blade! Once the butter pieces are the right size add the wet ingredients (cream, egg, etc.) and pulse until the mixture starts to clump. Then pour out onto a large piece of wax paper and gently knead it into a ball until it all sticks together. Don't over work it as the butter will melt. Pat out into a circle or rectangle that is 1 inch thick and cut into preferred shape. Transfer to baking sheet, brush top with milk or cream, and put in oven. Bake as directed.
Mini Cornish Pasties recipe
adapted by Larry Hubby
1 filet tail
1 small onion
1 sheet French puff pastry dough
Salt and pepper
Cut the filet into ¼” thick slices across the grain of the meat, then cut each slice into ~3/4” squares (exact shape is not important, the pieces may be irregular as long as they aren’t much bigger than this). Cut the turnip into thin slices, 1/8” thick or less, and then cut further into ~1/2” squares. Cut and pull apart the onion into individual leaves, then cut into ~1/2” or smaller squares. Remove the puff pastry dough from the freezer and thaw just enough to unfold and cut into ~1”x2” rectangles. To assemble the pasties, place a piece of meat on one side of a rectangle of dough, top with slices of turnip and onion, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Moisten the edges of the dough, fold the other side of the rectangle over onto the stack of ingredients, and seal the edges, squeezing the two edges of the layers of dough together with your fingers, which will stretch the top layer somewhat. Place the completed pasty on a prepared baking dish or tray covered with foil and sprayed with PAM. When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 Tb of water to make a glaze and paint the tops of all the pasties. Bake in a hot (450°) oven for 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned.
1-2 pints each fresh Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries
2-3 tablespoons Sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Wash and hull berries. Place in a bowl. Sprinkle sugar over the top. (I say 2-3 tablespoons but proceed with caution. This should be done to taste based on the sweetness of the berries you are using.) Pour on lemon juice. Mix. Taste. If not sweet enough add more sugar.
Note - I tend to use more blueberries and strawberries than raspberries or blackberries. If I can't find one kind of berry I use more of the others. This only works with fresh. Do not use frozen.
Makes enough berries for 10-12 people
Place 1/2 cup cream in a bowl or mixer. Mix/whip until stiff peaks form.
Photos by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby