For Mother's Day, Michael and I decided to have an afternoon tea. It was a half English/ half Swiss tea. We invited a couple friends to join us and we left empty place settings in remembrance of our mothers.
We started the tea with a champagne toast.
I served Fortnum and Mason's Royal Blend tea.
Royal Blend is Fortnum and Mason's most-famous blend. "In this classic Royal Blend notes of low grown Flowery Pekoe from Ceylon uplift the maltier Assam to create a very traditional cup of tea. First blended for King Edward in the summer of 1902, Fortnum’s Royal Blend has been popular ever since for its smooth, honey-like flavor."
Guidelines for Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea
Your tea will only be as good as your water. It is best to use filtered or spring water only. If you must use tap water, take water during the day time from a tap and leave it out overnight. Once the water has come to the boil, take off the lid of the pot, turn fire down to low and continue to heat for 5 minutes. This gets rid of any unpleasant smells the water may have.
Wait until the water is near boiling, then pour a little into the teapot and swirl it around. This warms the pot so that it is at an optimum temperature for holding the tea. Empty the pot.
To the warmed teapot, add one slightly rounded teaspoon of a tea per cup plus one teaspoon for the pot. Or use one tea bag in the pot for each cup.
When the water in the kettle has reached a rolling boil, pour it in the pot and allow the tea to steep for three to five minutes. When brewing the tea, it is best to cover the pot or cup to keep in the steam and allow the leaves to unfurl more fully.
In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o’clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance.
Teacups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance. Pinkie up does mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.
Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o’clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o’clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup. When not in use, place your tea spoon on the right side of the tea saucer. Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer. If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the teacup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.
Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount.
When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or have the tea server neatly place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk since the lemon’s citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.
When you are having an afternoon tea, you also need to include a selection of jams, a rich European butter (I used Kerrygold pure Irish Butter), honey, and clotted cream.
We served three different types of English tea sandwiches: Cucumber Dill Sandwich, Egg Sandwich and Cranberry Chicken Sandwich.
All of these sandwiches will keep for a few hours as long as you cover them so the bread doesn’t dry out. Buttering the insides prevents the filling’s moisture from making the bread soggy.
Tea sandwiches have many different fillings. The most common tea sandwiches are cucumber, egg, smoked salmon, shrimp, chicken, crab salad and ham with brie. What differentiates them from normal sandwiches is their small size and the fine nature of the filling. Most fillings are chopped into small pieces so that dainty bites can be taken without having to worry about a giant piece of tomato or chicken sliding out.
Cucumber Dill Sandwich
½ large English cucumber
4 oz softened cream cheese
zest from one lemon
a pinch salt
fresh dill chopped
6 slices potato or white bread
Combine with softened cream cheese, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
Cut paper thin slices of cucumber.
Spread cream cheese mixture onto white bread and add cucumbers slices. Cut off crusts, then cut rectangles.
4 eggs hard boiled
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 pinch paprika
sprigs of watercress
6 slices white or potato bread
In a bowl, mash hard boiled eggs.
Add butter, mayonnaise, paprika and watercress to a bowl. Mix until combined.
Butter bread slices. Add egg mixture.
Cut off crusts. Cut rectangles.
Cranberry Chicken Sandwich
3 boneless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz cranberries
sprigs of watercress
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 slices white or potato bread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and thyme. Bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool, rip cooked chicken into roughly 1 ½ inch pieces. To save time you can definitely use a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken breasts at home.
Halve the cranberries and smash in a bowl. We could not find fresh cranberries so we used frozen ones. This step is messy!
In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.
Combine cranberries, chicken, mayonnaise mixture until incorporated.
Butter sliced white bread bread. Add chicken mixture and a layer of watercress. Cut off the crusts and slice into rectangles.
Two types of scones were served: blueberry scones and cranberry orange scones.
Scones are one of those recipes that some people tend to think are bland or dry. When made correctly, scones are actually super soft, light, and can melt in your mouth.
When measuring your flour, make sure to spoon it into your measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife.
Cold ingredients are best for this recipe! Make sure your dough is as cold as possible before you place the scones in the oven. A suggestion is to place the baking sheet with the scones in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before baking them.
Brush the top of each scone with a little heavy whipping cream before placing them in the oven. This will create a slightly crispy exterior and help them brown too.
For the scones:
2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour spooned and leveled 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter cubed into pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream plus more for brushing the tops
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Glaze We served our scones without a glaze, though.
Vanilla glaze: 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) milk Whole, 2%, 1%, skim, or almond milk all work fine for the glaze.
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions To make the scones:
Preheat oven too 400°F (204°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cold cubed butter and use a pastry cutter or fork to cut it into the dry ingredients until you have small pea-sized crumbs.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream, egg, and vanilla extract until fully combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The mixture may be a little crumbly at this point. That is fine.
Scoop the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and work it together in a ball, then flatten into a 7-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and place them on the prepared baking sheet, making sure to leave a little room between each one.
Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until the scones are chilled.
(We made the dough 12 hours ahead and put it in the refrigerator)
Brush the tops of each scone with a little heavy whipping cream. If you're not adding a glaze, you can top them with coarse sugar if desired.
Bake at 400°F (204°C) for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the scones are lightly browned and cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To make the vanilla glaze: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until well combined. If the glaze is too thick add more milk to thin it out and if the glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar to thicken it.
Top the scones with the glaze and allow to harden for 10-15 minutes, then serve, and enjoy.
Scone Variations: Here are a few ways that you can change up the basic scone recipe. Mix in these ingredients right after you cut in the butter and before you add the wet ingredients.
Blueberry: Add 1 cup (150 grams) of fresh blueberries
Cranberry Orange: Add 2 teaspoons of fresh orange zest plus 2/3 cup (105 grams) sweetened dried cranberries (or 1 cup of chopped fresh cranberries) We used the dried cranberries.
Cinnamon Raisin: Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon plus 2/3 cup (105 grams) raisins
Glaze Variations: You can replace the milk in this recipe to create different glazes too.
Orange Glaze: Omit the vanilla extract and use fresh orange juice in place of the milk
Lemon Glaze: Omit the vanilla extract and use fresh lemon juice in place of the milk
Cinnamon Glaze: Add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Swiss Traditional Cheese Pies "Chäse-Chüechli"
Decided to do these instead of mini quiches. These are so simple to make and are so delicious! This time we used Gruyère and a hard cow's milk Alpin Swiss cheese.
Cheese pies are a wonderful dish to make when you have left over cheese from a party. Just grate whatever cheese you may want.
150 grams flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 grams butter (cold, chopped into small cubes)
5 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon flour
200 milliliters cream
250 grams grated cheese of your choice
salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika to taste
Optional: chopped parsley, caramelized onion, halved cherry tomatoes
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees C (480 degrees F). In case of convection oven with fan: 220degrees C
2. Prepare dough
Massage in the cold butter cubes into the flour and salt mixture. When the butter is well integrated into the flour, add in the water and massage the dough until it forms a ball. Add more tablespoons of water gradually if the dough is too dry (usually the humidity of the flour changes according to the season). Put the dough in a plastic bag and cool for 15 minutes in the refrigerator, then roll out into a small pie form. Use little pie forms made of metal or paper.
3. Make filling
Mix all filling ingredients. Pour into the pie shell
Bake approximately 15 minutes
Baking time depends on the oven.
Take out from the oven when the pie is puffed up and the top is brown.
We served three types of desserts: a Swiss roulade (jelly roll), a Kambly caprice biscuit (cookie) stuffed with chocolate mousse and a moist rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
Chocolate Cake tips and tricks
Oil works best in chocolate cakes. Adding oil to a chocolate cake batter creates a moist texture. We used vegetable oil. You can also use canola or coconut oil.
Cake flour does make a difference in the tender crumb of the cake but you can substitute all-purpose flour.
A high-quality cocoa powder can change the depth of chocolate flavor. We used Cailler cocoa powder from Switzerland.
If you don't have a quality Swiss cocoa, use Ghirardelli or Droste. Don't skimp on the quality of the cocoa as it makes a huge difference!!!!
Using both baking soda and baking powder as it gives it the best rise. Homemade cakes don’t puff up as much in the middle as boxed cake mixes do so don’t be surprised when they are a little flatter. It makes them so much easier to stack and frost.
Buttermilk is a must because it gives it the melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Don’t over bake your cake. You want that moist, tender crumb so watch it carefully.
After baking, let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes before removing from pans. If you want to make them extra easy to frost, stick them in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from freezer when ready to frost.
Take the time and spread a thin layer of frosting called a “crumb coat” all over the cake. This helps to smooth out the crumbs to prepare for the final coating of frosting. It is like a primer for a cake.
1 3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup high quality cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola,coconut oil)
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 cup high quality cocoa
5 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk or cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. If you have a flour sifter, sift all dry ingredients.
In mixing bowl, beat oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla for 1 minute. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined. Pour in hot water and mix together. The batter will be liquidy but that's a good thing as it will create a moist cake.
Butter two 9-inch cake pans and add parchment paper. The butter holds the parchment paper in place so it is easier to pour in the batter. You can also use three 8-inch cake pans for this recipe. Pour batter evenly into each pan. Bake at 22-27 minutes. Place toothpick or cake tester in the center of the cake to check if it comes out clean.
Let cool before frosting.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, and milk (or cream) until light and fluffy. You may want to add more milk or cream depending on consistency. Once the cake has cooled and has been removed from pans, frost each layer with frosting.